Dry dog food in bowl

Can rabbits eat dog food?

All the facts about why you should not feed dog food to your rabbit.

Do you have a household full of pets? And does that include both dogs and rabbits? And do the bunnies try to steal food from your hounds?

Both need feeding regularly. But can rabbits eat dog food? You need to know whether you need to keep the bunnies away from the hound’s feeding bowl. Tl;dr: No, bunnies can’t eat dog food, and you need to keep them away from the dog’s bowl.

Can rabbits eat dog food?

Rabbits should not eat dog food. Do not feed dog food to bunnies, because it contains nutrients that are not suited to rabbit digestive systems. Eating dog food could lead to serious intestinal problems, such as GI stasis, because the combination of fats and animal proteins in dog food can cause harmful bacteria to release gases and toxins. Rabbits need hay, fresh greens and water.

Dog food, nutrition and rabbits

IngredientDog food per 100gRabbit nutritional requirements per 100gComments
Energy362 kcal
Protein25 g12-17 gDog food is too rich in protein for a healthy rabbit diet. Additionally, these proteins are likely to have the wrong balance of amino acids for rabbits.
Fat15 g2.5-5 gDog food is much too high in fat for rabbits. This can create short term problems in the gut, and longer term issues over rabbits becoming overweight.
Fibre3 g14-25 gDog food has comparatively little fibre. Rabbits need a lot of fibre in their diets to keep food moving through their digestive system. Without fibre, it all blocks up and creates problems.
Calcium1 g500 mgDog food is relatively high in calcium. Rabbits need a low calcium diet, as they are prone to developing extremely painful kidney stones.
Phosphorus0.7 g0.4 gDog food is slightly higher in phosphorus for a healthy rabbit diet.
Vitamin A1,500 IU1,000-1,200 IUDog food is high in vitamin A. Although rabbits do need this vitamin, if you give too much to your rabbits it makes them unwell.
Vitamin E15 IU5-16 mgThe dog food only provides a little of what the rabbit needs.
Vitamin D144 IU80-100 IUAlthough dog food is high in vitamin D, too much is bad for bunnies.
Zinc15 mg5-15 mgDog food is OK on the amount of zinc.
Selenium0.04 mg0.005-0.032 mgDog food is much higher in selenium than rabbits need.
Dog food nutrition based on Pedigree, Taste of the Wild, and Blue dry dog food

Dog food is designed for dogs (surprise!) – and dogs are omnivores who need a lot of meat in their diets. Rabbits are herbivores – they only eat plant based food. So it’s no surprise that their dietary needs are so different.

For the table, I looked at some of the best selling dog food brands in the USA and in Britain – the values vary slightly from one brand to another, but not by much.

The table is based on:

You can find a complete list of rabbits’ nutritional requirements on this article I researched.

Why is eating dog food bad for rabbits?

Eating dog food is bad for bunnies because the food is entirely wrong for rabbit digestive systems. Rabbits need a diet with lots of fibre, and dog food is much too low in fibre. Without this fibre, the intestines of rabbits will have a hard time moving the food along. If it stops moving, then rabbits can develop GI stasis, which is a serious problem for bunnies.

Dog food is also much too high in fat and protein for rabbits. These high levels of fat and protein will cause further problems as rabbits try to digest the food, and can lead to gastro-intestinal stasis (GI stasis). Inside the intestines, bacteria feed on the fat and then release gases, causing stomach pains for the rabbit. The bacteria can also start releasing toxins.

The stomach pains mean that the rabbit may stop eating. This then changes the pH level (acidity level) in the intestines, leading to more bacteria producing gas and toxins. Additionally, the toxins may poison the rabbit’s organs.

If you suspect GI stasis, consult a vet immediately.

How to stop your rabbit eating dog food

Prevention is better than cure. People who own both dogs and rabbits may try to keep the bunny away when the dog is eating. This can be difficult if you have a free-roam bunny, but you need to work out a way to keep your rabbit safe.

This might mean not leaving dog food out in a bowl for your dog to graze, as your rabbit can also nip in and steal some of the food.

There are no straightforward answers except keeping the rabbit away during feed times and keeping the food out of reach at all other times.

Help! My bunny ate some dog food – what should I do?

If your rabbit just nibbled a little bit of dog food, then keep an eye on your bunny for the next day. Check that they are pooing normally, and that they are continuing to eat and behave normally. Make sure they have plenty of access to hay and water (these are always the best things for a bunny’s diet).

There is no immediate need to panic – if you check out some rabbit forums, you’ll find that a number of owners have discovered their bunnies stealing a little of the dog food with no harmful effects. But it is better to be safe than sorry.

If your bunny changes their behaviour (for example, stops eating, or seems much more lethargic than usual) then consult a vet immediately.

What diets should rabbits have?

The best diet for rabbits should be mainly based on hay – preferably Timothy hay. This provides them not only with nearly all their nutritional requirements, but also has the right amount of fibre to enable their teeth to remain healthy (the fibre wears down rabbits’ teeth, which never stop growing) and food to keep moving through their digestive system.

Also give your rabbits a handful of greens every day – mix this up a little to provide variety and to ensure that rabbits get all the nutrients they need.

You can also give your rabbits about an eggcup’s worth of rabbit nuggets.

Rabbits also need lots of fresh water.

But they don’t need dog food. Ever.

Conclusion

Never feed dog food to your rabbit. It is bad for them, and could lead to serious problems in both the short and long term. Stick to hay, water, greens and the occasional treat for your bunny, and they’ll be healthier and happier for it.

Check out these other posts

You can find out more about what vitamins and minerals rabbits need in this post.

And check out the best herbs for your rabbit here.

Fruit can be a nice treat for your rabbit – check out which fruit are OK, and how much to give.

Worried about how much a vet might cost? Get peace of mind, and insure your rabbit. I compare providers in the UK here.

Posted by Jonathan