Rabbit diet and health

Articles about rabbit diet, nutrition and health, including what foods rabbits can eat safely.

Can rabbits eat bread?

Can rabbits eat bread?

I love bread. All types of bread.

Farmhouse loaves, french baguettes, ciabatta, focaccia, granary, sourdough – you name it, I eat it.

And it’s good for us! Bread is full of vitamins and fibre that help to keep us healthy.

But if it’s good for us, you may be wondering whether it’s good for your bunny. Perhaps you’ve got some of a loaf left going a bit stale, and are wondering whether it could feed your rabbit.

I’ve researched this thoroughly, to get a comprehensive answer.

Read on to find out the full details, but here’s the summary:

Can rabbits eat bread?

Rabbits should not eat bread. You should not feed bread to bunnies because it has the wrong balance of starch, fibre and other nutrients for their guts. Giving rabbits too much bread could lead to serious, even fatal gut problems like GI stasis. Bread isn’t toxic (poisonous) to rabbits, but it does not suit their digestive needs at all. You should mainly feed rabbits hay and fresh water.

Bread, nutrition and rabbits

IngredientsBread
(per 100 g)
Rabbit requirements
(per 100 g)
Comments
Energy258 kcalHigh in calories for rabbit food
Protein9.68 g12-17 gToo low in protein
Fat6.45 g2.5-5 gToo high in fat
Carbohydrate45.16 gLess than 20 gMuch too high in carbohydrates (like starch)
Fibre6.5 g14-25 gToo low in fibre
Iron2.32 mg3-40 mgA good source of iron
Based on whole wheat bread. Values of bread from USDA

Rabbits have delicate digestive systems. The wrong food in their guts can have awful consequences. And bread, in large amounts, is the wrong food.

You can see why in the chart. Rabbits in the wild eat grass and other vegetation. This is high in fibre and low in starch and other carbohydrates. But bread is high in carbohydrates, and, compared to what rabbits need, low in fibre.

This is why hay is the best food for rabbits, and should make up the bulk of their diet. Hay is high in fibre and low in starches, and is the healthiest food a bunny can eat. You can find out more about Timothy hay here, and about rabbit nutrition in general in our post here.

Why is eating bread bad for rabbits?

Eating bread has two effects on rabbits. Long term, it means that the bunny will be getting too many calories. And, just as if we eat too much we get fatter, so do rabbits. And a fat rabbit is an unhealthy rabbit.

But in the short term, too much carbohydrate and not enough fibre can mess with the digestive system. It can lead to a condition called gastrointestinal stasis (also called GI stasis) – basically food starts moving too slowly or stops altogether in the gut.

Bacteria then start growing, releasing gas, and causing the poor bunny stomach pains. The rabbit may stop moving around, and stop eating or only eat a little. The rabbit may also have some diarrhoea, or runnier than usual or smaller than usual stools.

The technical term for this is enterotoxaemia. Anaerobic bacteria in the rabbit’s caecum grow too much, releasing enterotoxins. These in turn cause the diarrhoea and other problems.

If you suspect your bunny may have GI stasis, contact a vet immediately for advice.

But you thought bread was good because it had fibre?!

Bread is good for humans – and gives us the fibre we need to keep things healthy in our intestines.

But rabbits are designed to eat grass and other plants full of tough cellulose. Bread just doesn’t have enough fibre for bunnies.

Help – my bunny ate some bread – what should I do?

It happens. Some food drops to the floor, and a nippy bunny zooms in and takes off with a chunk. What if it’s a roll, or part of a load? What should you do if your rabbit eats some bread?

If it’s a small piece of bread, then don’t worry too much. Your furry friend has just had an unhealthy snack.

While bread isn’t good for bunnies, it’s not toxic either. A small amount of bread is unlikely to harm an adult rabbit.

But if your rabbit has eaten a substantial amount of bread, then make sure to keep an eye on them for the next day. Make sure they’re moving around normally, eating as usual, and their poos look normal.

As always, if you have any concerns, contact a vet.

What diet should rabbits have?

The best diet for a rabbit is plenty of fresh hay (unlimited amounts) and fresh water.

Alongside this, you can add a handful of fresh greens every day, and up to an eggcup-full of rabbit nuggets.

Every now and again you can add a small treat, like some fruit (bits of apple are one of our rabbits’ favourites).

Conclusion

Bread is great for humans (just as well, given how much I like it), but not so great for rabbits. The high starch, low fibre mix is bad for their digestive systems and too high in calories. While bread won’t poison your bunny, it’s no good for them either. The best advice is don’t feed bread to rabbits.

Other posts you might enjoy…

If you’re interested in the right food to feed your bunny, you might also like these other posts on similar topics.

You can find out more about Timothy hay here.

We also have a comprehensive guide to the vitamins and minerals that rabbits need.

You can check which fruit are safe to give to your rabbit here (along with portion size).

And we also have a post on which herbs are safe for bunnies.

And we have posts on whether rabbits can eat swede, rocket (arugula), iceberg lettuce, radishes, apple cores, and mange-tout.

Posted by Jonathan in General, Rabbit diet and health
Can rabbits eat iceberg lettuce?

Can rabbits eat iceberg lettuce?

Do you have a friend like mine, who turns up their nose if offered a salad to eat? “I don’t eat rabbit food” is their response.

But is everything in a salad good for rabbits?

Many salads contain iceberg lettuce. It adds a bit of crunch to the dish.

But should you feed iceberg lettuce to your bunnies? Is iceberg lettuce rabbit food?

There are a lot of myths on the internet about feeding iceberg lettuce to rabbits – I set out to discover the truth, using scientific journal articles, the experience of owners, and what veterinary experts say.

Here’s what I discovered.

Can rabbits eat iceberg lettuce?

You should not feed iceberg lettuce to rabbits. While rabbits can eat iceberg lettuce in small amounts, the lettuce provides little of nutritional value to bunnies, with low levels of minerals, vitamins and fibre (iceberg lettuce is mostly water). Iceberg lettuce, like many other lettuces, also contains lactucarium, a milky fluid that in large quantities acts on the nervous system, causing sleepiness and reducing pain sensations. In extreme doses, this could lead to diarrhoea or other gut problems, but a few leaves won’t affect your bunny, despite internet myths.

What is the nutritional value of iceberg lettuce?

IngredientAmount per 100g of iceberg lettuce
Calories12 kcal
Fat0 g
Carbohydrate2.35 g
Fibre1.2 g
Sugars1.18 g
Protein1.18 g
Sodium12 mg
Calcium24 mg
Iron0.35 mg
Potassium141 mg
Vitamin D0 mg
Water93.9 g
Sourced from USDA

Iceberg lettuce is mostly water, and is low in minerals, and without significant quantities of any vitamins that rabbits needs.

Iceberg lettuce is also low in fibre, which bunnies need as part of their diet both to keep their teeth in good condition, and also to keep their guts healthy.

In other words, iceberg lettuce provides almost nothing that bunnies need except water.

Iceberg lettuces are not going to keep your rabbit healthy.

Find out more about what rabbits do need in their food in our post here.

What is lactucarium?

Lactucarium is a milky fluid produced by some lettuces, mainly from the stem. It’s a chemical agent that causes both sleepiness and some pain relief (analgesia).

Because it looks a bit like opium, and because of its effects, lactucarium is sometimes called ‘lettuce opium’.

In the past, doctors would prescribe lactucarium as a treatment for insomnia. It was also used as a cough medicine.

What is the effect of lactucarium?

Lactutcarium can cause sleepiness, hallucinations, and pain relief. In wild lettuce (not cultivated iceberg lettuce), you can find relatively large amounts.

As an example, eight people in Iran found some wild lettuce and ate loads of it. All of them needed to be admitted to hospital (one to intensive care). Their symptoms included agitation, nausea, dizziness, hallucinations, and blurred vision. All of them recovered fully within 48 hours with no lasting effects. You can read the medical write up here.

This sounds pretty worrying – but wild lettuce and cultivated lettuces like iceberg lettuce are different. Cultivated lettuces don’t have the same levels of lactucarium. And iceberg lettuce isn’t any different from other lettuces you can buy.

You can find many rabbit websites that suggest that romaine lettuce is good for rabbits, but iceberg lettuce is bad because of lactucarium. But romaine lettuce also contains lactucarium. In fact, scientists in Korea used romaine lettuce to extract lactucin and lacucuopricin (compounds found in lactucarium) to see if the chemicals made mice fall asleep more quickly (they did). You can find the study here.

Romaine lettuce is better than iceberg lettuce for rabbits – but it’s nothing to do with lactucarium. Both types of lettuce contain it. Romaine lettuce just has more nutrients – and that’s why it’s a better choice for bunnies.

Peter Rabbit, the Flopsy Bunnies and the effects of lettuce

A hundred years ago, lettuce (not just iceberg – all lettuce) had a reputation for being good for sleep. You can see this in Beatrix Potter’s famous tales.

Here’s an extract from the beginning to the Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies:

It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is “soporific.”
I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit.
They certainly had a very soporific effect upon the Flopsy Bunnies!

Illustration of flopsy bunnies eating lettuce leaves.
Image from The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, 1909 edition

The flopsy bunnies did stuff flowering lettuces down themselves – which is not a good idea with any food for bunnies except hay.

Should I worry if my rabbit eats some iceberg lettuce?

You do not need to worry if your rabbit eats a few leaves of iceberg lettuce. It will do your rabbit no harm.

If you feed your rabbit large quantities of iceberg lettuce and nothing else, then your bunny may have problems – but not because of lactucarium. It will be because the rabbit has eaten lots of a food that is low in fibre and nutrients and high in water. Not surprisingly, this could cause diarrhoea.

Still worried? One of the foremost vets specialising in rabbits includes lettuce in a list of foods that are safe to buy for your bunny, saying lettuce ‘is not harmful although lettuce is mostly water.’ This vet literally wrote the book about rabbits (US version here).

Conclusion

Rabbits can eat a few leaves of iceberg lettuce safely. However, iceberg lettuce contains so few vitamins, minerals and fibre that it is a poor choice. It won’t do any harm, but neither will it do your bunny much good.

Other posts

If you’re concerned about your rabbit’s diet, check out our post on what nutrients rabbits need.

We also have posts covering what fruit bunnies can eat, and which herbs you can safely give your rabbit.

Want to give your furry friend a treat? Check out our post about cheap toys for bunnies.

Posted by Jonathan in General, Rabbit diet and health
What vitamins and minerals do rabbits need?

What vitamins and minerals do rabbits need?

When you go to the supermarket and pick up a tin of soup (or a sandwich, or a pizza…) you can check what the ingredients are. And (at least in the UK), you’ll also usually be told how much this food provides of your recommended daily allowance, also called your reference intake.

It’s handy – you can check if you’re likely to be eating too much salt, or if this will help towards enough vitamin C.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get some of that information for rabbits?

So I did some research to find out what the recommended daily allowance is for pet rabbits – how much vitamins, minerals, calories and other nutrients bunnies need, and why they need them. Here’s what I found – I hope you find it helpful.

What nutrients do rabbits need?

Rabbits need the following nutrients: fibre, protein, small amounts of fat, a variety of minerals (but not too much, especially of calcium), and vitamins A, D and E. Bunnies don’t need any of the vitamin B complex, and rabbits also don’t need any extra vitamin C. A 2kg (4.4lb) adult bunny needs about 168kcal a day. A diet of hay, fresh greens and water supplies all these nutrients. Read on for more detailed information on each nutrient.

NutrientRecommended daily allowance per kg of feed for adult rabbitRecommended daily allowance per kg of feed for growing rabbitSafe upper limit of nutrient per kg of feed
Crude fibre140-250g140-160g
Fat25-50g30-50g
Starch<200g<135g
Protein120-170g150-180g
Macro-minerals
Calcium5g5g10g
Phosphorus4g4g9g
Sodium1g1-2g8g
Magnesium0.3-3g0.4-0.7g3.5g
Potassium6g2-6g16g
Chloride1.7g1-5g4.8g
Micro-minerals
Copper5-20mg3-6mg25mg
Zinc50-150mg40mg
Manganese8-15mg20-40mg75mg
Iron30-400mg100mg
Iodine0.4-0.5mg2mg
Selenium0.05-0.32mg0.1mg
Cobalt0.25mg0.1-1mg
Vitamins – fat soluble
Vitamin A10,000-12,000 IU6,000-10,000 IU
Vitamin D800-1,000 IU500 IU2,000 IU
Vitamin E50-160mg50mg
Vitamin K1-2mg
Vitamins – water soluble
Vitamin B complex (Thiamin/B1,Riboflavin, Niacin, Biotin, Pantothenic Acid, Pyridoxine/B6, Folic Acid, B12, Choline)Not required (rabbit’s body manufactures these)Not required (rabbit’s body manufactures these)
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)Not required (rabbit’s body manufactures these)Not required (rabbit’s body manufactures these)2,000mg
Nutritional requirements for adult and growing pet rabbits

How many calories does a rabbit need?

An adult pet rabbit of about 2kg (4.4lb) needs 168kcal daily to maintain their weight. Growing rabbits need roughly double the calorie intake of mature rabbits. The following table gives values for different weights.

Weight of rabbit (kg)Weight of rabbit (lb)Daily energy requirement for adult rabbit (kcal)Daily energy requirement for growing rabbit (kcal)
0.51.159118
12.2100200
1.53.3136272
24.4168336
2.55.5199398
36.6228456
3.57.7256512
48.8283566
Daily energy requirement for adult rabbit to maintain weight (based on metabolisable energy)

Some of you may prefer this in graph form (this also goes to higher weights, if you have a large rabbit breed like a Flemish Giant, which can reach 10kg).

Chart showing calorie intake for adult pet rabbit plotted against weight of rabbit.

These figures are all for the metabolisable energy. That’s the energy in feed that the rabbit actually uses. It’s the energy in the feed minus the energy that gets pooped out and minus the energy that’s in urine.

Why do rabbits need protein?

Rabbits need protein to build their muscles, other parts of the body, and enzymes which their bodies use. Rabbits (like other mammals) use chemicals called amino acids to make the proteins they need. They get these amino acids from breaking down proteins in food they eat. If a rabbit can’t make enough of the right proteins, it will struggle to grow and be healthy.

Rabbits need ten amino acids (so called ‘essential’) that their bodies can’t make themselves:

  • arginine
  • histidine
  • leucine
  • methionine
  • lysine
  • isoleucine
  • phenylalanine
  • tryptophan
  • threonine
  • valine

Rabbits also need these in the right balance. Their bodies can’t store proteins (they are broken down quickly and the excess turned into glucose or fat), so getting both the balance and enough amino acids is important.

Ever wondered why a pure cereal diet isn’t good for rabbits? Besides not being good for their teeth (important for all sorts of health reasons), cereals don’t have much lysine or methionine. Without these two amino acids, your bunny will struggle to grow or stay healthy.

Diets intended for other animals (especially dogs or cats) are unsuitable for rabbits partly because carnivores need a different balance of amino acids from rabbits in their diet.

The need for these amino acids also explains why mixing up the diet with some fresh greens (and an occasional treat) is a good idea for feeding rabbits.

Providing a variety of greens increases the variety of amino acids in the diet, ensuring your bunny can make all the muscles, tissue cells and enzymes that they need to be healthy and happy.

Why do rabbits need fibre?

Just like humans, rabbits need fibre in their diet to help food move down the intestines before it is pooed out. But bunnies need a lot more fibre (for their size) than we do.

The digestive system of rabbits is sensitive – without enough fibre, it clogs up. The fibre helps keep everything moving through.

While in a human constipation might be uncomfortable, for a rabbit it can be fatal. The condition is called ‘gastrointestinal stasis’. If you suspect your bunny may have this, contact a vet immediately.

Fibre is also good for your bunny’s teeth. Rabbit teeth never stop growing. Every week, another 3mm long. But eating high fibre diets like hay helps wear the teeth down, so they stay the same size.

Without enough fibre, the teeth grow faster than the rabbit can grind them down.

And long teeth is really bad for your rabbit. It can lead to breathing difficulties, as the teeth affect the nasal cavities. And the teeth can develop sharp points (spurs) that aren’t smoothed down, leading to pain for your rabbit.

This then leads to more problems, as the rabbit starts using the other side of their mouth, which then affects the muscles and ligaments around the mouth.

In other words, make sure your rabbit has enough fibre (for example by using Timothy hay – find out more here). It’s good for their gut and good for their teeth.

Why do rabbits need fat?

Rabbits need energy for their bodies – and fats are high in energy (there’s over twice as much energy in fat compared to the same weight of carbohydrates).

Bunnies also need fats to help absorb some of the vitamins they need. Vitamins A, D, E & K are all soluble (they dissolve) in fats, so having a little fat in the diet helps the body to get these essential vitamins.

People who show bunnies also like a little fat in the diet as it is said to make the coats shinier.

While having some fat is good, too much fat leads to problems (just as it does in humans!). If bunnies eat too much, and can’t use all the energy, they store it in their bodies (as fat). So just like us, too much fatty food can lead to obesity.

Why is too much starch bad for rabbits?

Too much starch is bad for rabbits because it can be bad for their intestines which can lead to serious problems. It can also lead to your bunny becoming too fat, which can cause longer term health problems.

Starch is a form of carbohydrate – one of the energy sources for rabbits. However, it needs to be kept in balance with the amount of fibre in the diet of rabbits.

Too much starch leads to a ‘starch overload’. This is when there is too much starch in the intestines.

Rabbits can then develop enteritis. Symptoms of enteritis include constipation and the rabbit going off their food. This is followed by watery diarrhoea, and then further diarrhoea and dehydration.

Enteritis can be extremely dangerous for rabbits – even fatal. So if you suspect your rabbit is suffering from this, get in touch with a vet as soon as possible.

Rabbits are most likely to get a starch overload if fed a high grain diet without enough fibre. The easiest way to avoid this is to make sure that the main component of your bunny’s diet is fresh hay (with plenty of drinking water, and some greens).

Why do rabbits need macro-minerals (calcium, sodium and others)?

Rabbits need some minerals in relatively large quantities (grams per day instead of milligrams per day). These include calcium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Because they are needed in larger quantities than others, they are called macro-minerals.

Rabbits need macro-minerals for bones, energy metabolism, muscle metabolism, blood regulation and a host of other needs.

Why do rabbits need calcium? And can rabbits have too much calcium?

Rabbits need calcium to create bones. Bones are a mixture of collagen (a protein) and calcium phosphate (which helps make bones hard). Growing bunnies need more calcium than mature rabbits, as their bodies and bones are still growing.

If female rabbits are pregnant or feeding their young, then they will also need more calcium (rabbit milk is particularly rich in calcium).

Rabbits also need calcium for a range of other purposes. Calcium is involved in how muscles contract, in how blood clots, and in making sure that the balance of electrolytes in the body is right.

But rabbits can easily have too much calcium. The more you give rabbits calcium in the diet, the more their bodies absorb it, whether they need it or not.

That means that if they have too much, they need to pee it out. If you see white, chalky stuff, it might be because your bunny has too much calcium.

And long term this can lead to health problems. Anyone who has ever had kidney stones will tell you how painful they are (these are little lumps of calcium oxalate that get trapped in the urinary system). Rabbits can get the equivalent of kidney stones too (urolithiasis), and it is just as painful for them.

That’s why you need to be careful and make sure your bunny does not have too much calcium (for instance, alfalfa hay is too high in calcium for a mature rabbit – timothy hay is much better, having only a third as much calcium as alfalfa).

Why do rabbits need phosphorus?

Rabbits need phosphorus in their diet to help build bones – a major part of bones is calcium phosphate. Generally, bunnies need about two-thirds to half the amount of phosphorus compared to calcium.

Why do rabbits need sodium and potassium?

Rabbits need sodium and potassium to help ensure that there’s the right amount of fluids in the bunny’s body. They balance out the fluids in the cells with the fluid around them. Sodium and potassium work together as electrolytes.

Bunnies also need potassium and sodium for passing nerve signals along the bodies. Molecular pumps in our cells move potassium onto one side of a cell wall, and sodium on the other.

Sodium potassium pump
Created by Clod94. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence.

The imbalance creates the effect of a chemical battery – enabling electrical nerve impulses to pass through the body from and to the brain, and telling muscles to contract or relax.

Why do rabbits need magnesium?

Rabbits need magnesium because their parathyroid glands need magnesium – and the the parathyroid glands help make bones, and control how much calcium is in the body through creating hormones.

The more calcium in the diet, the more magnesium a bunny needs. So make sure that your rabbit is not getting too much calcium.

One sign that your bunny might not have enough magnesium in their diet is fur chewing (though this can also be caused by not enough fibre in the diet, or by other non-diet related reasons, like stress).

Make sure that you are giving a balanced diet to your rabbit if you see this happening, and if you are worried check it out with a vet.

Why do rabbits need micro-minerals (copper, iron, and others)?

Rabbits need micro-minerals like copper, iron, manganese, zinc, selenium, cobalt and iodine for a whole range of different purposes, including blood production, growth, hair formation, enzyme production, and energy metabolism. Let’s take each in turn.

Why do rabbits need copper?

Rabbits need copper to help make hair, collagen and to regulate how the body uses iron and creates energy. If bunnies don’t get enough they may suffer from anaemia, dermatitis and bone marrow problems.

Why do rabbits need iron?

Rabbits need iron to help make blood. Red blood cells are made up of haemoglobin, a complex protein connected to an iron complex.

When rabbits breathe in, oxygen goes into their lungs, then sticks to the iron ion in the haemoglobin. The blood then takes the oxygen all around the body so it can be used.

If bunnies don’t get enough iron, they can suffer from anaemia. The rabbit may be lethargic, or weak and dizzy.

Other illnesses and conditions can also cause anaemia, so if you suspect your rabbit is anaemic, speak to a vet.

The normal amount of iron in rabbit’s blood is 33-40 mmol/litre.

Why do rabbits need manganese, zinc, iodine, cobalt and selenium?

Rabbits need the minerals manganese, zinc, iodine and selenium for a whole variety of reasons.

Many enzymes use zinc, and it is also involved in cell division. Amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) need manganese.

The thyroid gland (that looks after energy production) needs iodine. Without it, the thyroid gland gets bigger to try to compensate – goiter.

Rabbits need selenium in very small amounts. Most mammals use selenium to mop op peroxides (free radical compounds which are by-products of your body working) which could otherwise damage cells. But bunnies mostly use Vitamin E to do this.

Finally, bunnies need cobalt to enable them to make Vitamin B12.

Why do rabbits need vitamin A?

Rabbits need vitamin A (a fat-soluble vitamin, also called retinol) to keep their bodies healthy. It is important for their skin and immune system. Bunnies also use vitamin A to keep their eyes healthy and able to see in poor light (find out more about how rabbits see the world). Bunnies can’t make vitamin A themselves, so they need it in their food.

Foods that contain vitamin A include dark, green, leafy vegetables. Grass and hay also contain vitamin A (though the drier the hay, the more likely it is to have lost some). This is why it’s a good idea to give your bunnies some greens every now and then along with hay and fresh water.

Why do rabbits need vitamin D?

Rabbits need vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, because it controls how they absorb calcium and phosphorus, both of which bunnies use for bone growth. However, rabbits differ from other mammals in how they use vitamin D because they are unique in how they process calcium. Rabbits can get vitamin D both from hay and from daylight.

Most mammals need a special protein that latches onto calcium in the diet, and vitamin D helps make this protein. But rabbits are different. They don’t need this protein, but extract highly efficiently all the calcium in the diet.

This is why you need to be careful that your bunny doesn’t have too much calcium – the extra that isn’t needed can form a sludge in their kidneys, and lead to painful kidney stones and chalky urine.

But if the diet doesn’t have enough calcium, then the vitamin D kicks in and helps to increase how much calcium your bunny can get from the food.

Vitamin D still helps make sure that rabbits have the right amount of calcium in the blood stream, and whether there is too much that needs to be excreted.

Vitamin D also controls phosphorus uptake. A major component of bones is calcium phosphate, so vitamin D is vital for proper bone growth.

You can make sure that your bunny has enough vitamin D in two ways.

First, some foods contain vitamin D. This includes hay, which should always be the main part of any rabbit’s diet. Grass contains ergosterol, and when this dries to hay in the sun, the ergosterol is converted to vitamin D.

Rabbit outside
Peach outside getting her vitamin D fix

Secondly, just like humans, rabbits can get vitamin D from being out in the sun. In particular, it is UVB rays that help bunnies manufacture vitamin D from the action of the UV rays on their skin.

Some bunnies spend most of their time inside. If that’s true of your rabbit, just make sure that they have a varied diet including hay that will provide vitamin D.

However, you also need to make sure you don’t give too much vitamin D to your rabbit – too much is toxic to bunnies.

If rabbits overdose on vitamin D, it can lead to them losing their appetite, kidneys and arteries hardening, and poorer movement.

Because of this, it is usually best not to use a vitamin D supplement, but to rely on vitamin D naturally occurring in a balance diet (unless you have been specifically told otherwise by a vet).

As always, if you have any concerns, check with a vet.

Why do rabbits need vitamin E?

Rabbits need vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin, to keep their muscles and immune system healthy. Their bodies (and ours) produce dangerous types of molecules called free radicals when they make energy (eg to move muscles). left alone, these free radicals react with cells in the body, damaging them. Vitamin E, an antioxidant, helps mop up these free radicals and keep bunnies healthy.

If rabbits don’t get enough vitamin E, it affects their muscles (muscular dystrophy). This can include their heart muscles.

why do rabbits need vitamin K?

Rabbits need vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin, to keep their blood clotting. Without vitamin K, a cut could continue to bleed. Bunnies produce most of the vitamin K they need themselves, but occasionally (for example if a bunny is pregnant) they may benefit from additional vitamin K.

If rabbits have too much vitamin K, it can affect their kidneys (nephritis).

Do rabbits need vitamin B?

Rabbits do not need any of the vitamin B complex in their feed. Bunnies can produce all the different types of vitamin B themselves. When they eat their food, the processes in their intestines create vitamin B. Bunnies then create a special type of poo (caecotrophs, which are shiny, soft, smelly small poos joined together). They eat this straight away (which is why you rarely see this type of poo), and so can absorb the vitamins they need.

Do rabbits need vitamin C?

Rabbits do not usually need any vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in their feed. Bunnies can make vitamin C in their livers.

Rabbits only benefit from additional vitamin C when they are in stressful situations – for example, if it is extremely hot.

What is a healthy diet for a rabbit?

A healthy diet for a rabbit consists mainly of good quality hay (like Timothy hay) and fresh water. You can give rabbits as much hay as they want. Fresh water is important – if rabbits don’t have enough water, they won’t eat enough hay.

Additionally, bunnies benefit from a handful of fresh greens each day. Our bunnies love coriander, but it is good to mix it up.

You can also give your rabbits a small amount of rabbit pellets each day – typically about an eggcup-full.

Occasional treats are also fine, such as cut up apples, bananas, and small amounts of carrots.

A varied diet like this should supply all the fibre, protein, energy, vitamins and minerals that your bunny needs for a healthy life.

Should I give vitamin supplements to my rabbit?

You should not need to give vitamin supplements to your rabbit unless you have been told to by a vet for a specific reason. A healthy diet should provide all the vitamins and minerals that your bunny needs.

Giving vitamin supplements unnecessarily may be bad for your rabbit. Having too much of certain vitamins (eg vitamin A and vitamin D) can be toxic for your bunny, leading to a variety of health problems.

And rabbits do not normally need vitamins B or C at all.

How can I tell if my rabbit is overweight or underweight?

The easiest way to tell if your rabbit is overweight or underweight is looking at their body shape from above. The Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association have produced a handy visual guide to download.

Check out these other posts…

As you’re interested in your bunny’s nutrition, have a look at these other posts:

References

The information in the nutritional table comes directly from the FEDIAF, which is the European pet food manufacturers’ association. The guidelines were drawn up by a range of veterinary professors working in a range of European universities and other experts. It is the most authoritative list in Europe.

The calorie requirements are based upon a formula within their guidelines. The intake refers to metabolisable energy.

Daily calorie intake (kcal) = 100 x (rabbit weight in kg)0.75

This energy intake is doubled for growing rabbits.

The guidelines are specifically for pet rabbits (you may come across some tables which are for people breeding rabbits for meat).

Other information comes from a range of sources, including:

Amy E. Halls (2010) Nutritional Requirements for Rabbits. Shur-Gain.

Lebas, F. (2000) “Vitamins in Rabbit Nutrition: Literature Review and Recommendations.” World Rabbit Science 8 (4): 185-192.

Pellet, S & Thompson, L. Hypovitaminosis D in rabbits.

Claire Speight (2017) “The nutritional needs of rabbits”. Veterinary Nursing Journal 32:144-46. DOI: 10.1080/17415349.2017.1284578

Posted by Jonathan in General, Rabbit diet and health
Can rabbits eat swede (rutabaga)?

Can rabbits eat swede (rutabaga)?

I quite like shopping in supermarkets (my partner is the opposite). I find it relaxing (assuming I’m not in a hurry) wandering up and down the aisles. 

In our local supermarket, the first one you come to is the vegetable aisle. And as I stroll along, eyeing up the variety of goods, I often ask myself – ‘would that be a good treat for my bunnies?’.

One of the vegetables on display is swede (also called rutabaga if you’re in the States), a large root vegetable that’s a bit like a large, sweet turnip. 

So, if you too wander the aisles with your fluffy friends in mind, here is the answer to whether rabbits can eat swede safely as a treat.

Can rabbits eat swede?

Rabbits can eat swede, or rutabaga, safely. It is not toxic (poisonous) to rabbits. However, swede should only be fed in small portions occasionally to bunnies, as part of a varied diet mainly based on hay. The peel, stem and leaves of swede are also safe for rabbits to eat. Swede is high in carbohydrates, so should only be an occasional treat for rabbits. The main diet for a rabbit should be hay, with a handful of greens each day, and water. A daily portion of swede for a rabbit is about a tablespoon for a 6lb adult rabbit. 

How much swede should I give my rabbit?

You should only give swede as a treat to your rabbit – it should not be their main food (see below for some of the reasons why). 

Hay should always be the main part of your bunny’s diet.

You can give up to about a tablespoon of swede to your bunny daily. 

If you have younger rabbits, it’s best to introduce foods one at a time to ensure that their developing digestive systems can adjust to the new food.

It’s best to wait until rabbits are at least twelve weeks old before introducing any foods like swedes. 

It’s also a good idea to rotate which vegetables and greens you feed your rabbit. The variety is good for their diet and health, ensuring your rabbits get all the minerals and vitamins they need.

It also makes sure that they don’t get too much if a particular vegetable is high in one mineral or vitamin.

Is swede good for rabbits?

IngredientAmount per 100g of swede / rutabaga
Calories155kJ; 37 kcal
Fat0.16g
Carbohydrate8.62g
Fibre2.3g
Sugars4.46g
Protein1.08g
Thiamine (B1)0.09mg
Riboflavin (B2)0.04mg
Niacin (B3)0.7mg
Vitamin B60.1mg
Folate (B9)21µg
Vitamin C25mg
Calcium43mg
Iron0.44mg
Magnesium20mg
Manganese0.131mg
Phosphorus53mg
Potassium305mg
Zinc0.24mg
Water89.4g
Sourced from USDA

Swedes do contain some helpful nutrients to rabbits. But the main contribution is carbohydrates (with a high sugar content).

You might think that the high levels of vitamin C would be good. But bunnies are able to manufacture vitamin C themselves.

Swedes aren’t poisonous (toxic) to rabbits – it’s just that they’re not very healthy for them. 

What are the risks in feeding swede (rutabaga) to rabbits?

Feeding swedes to rabbits is risky if you give them too much.

Swedes should only be a small-sized treat, not a major part of their diet.

If you give bunnies too much swede or rutabaga, you risk two dangers:

In the short term, your rabbit may have trouble digesting the swede (their digestive systems are delicate). This can lead to bloating, and GI stasis (a bit like constipation). 

This can be extremely dangerous to rabbits – if you think your rabbit has GI stasis, contact a vet straightaway.

In the longer term, swedes are high in calories, and with the wrong mix of nutrients for rabbits. If rabbits eat mainly swedes, they may become fat and unhealthy, and not live as long.

Also, rabbits need plenty of fibre found in hay to keep wearing down their teeth (rabbits’ teeth never stop growing).

If bunnies are fed mainly on food like swedes, their teeth get too long. This can lead to all sorts of problems, including with their ears and their balance.

So you should think of swedes as being a little like sweets for toddlers – a small amount every now and then is fine as a treat, but it shouldn’t be the main part of their diet.

What if my rabbit doesn’t like swede?

If your rabbit doesn’t like swede – no problem. Just don’t give them any!

Just like humans, rabbits have likes and dislikes. Not all people like swedes, and neither do all bunnies.

Where swede comes from, and a few other fun facts about swedes

Swedes come from a cross between turnips and cabbages. The earliest reference we have (from the early seventeenth century) comes from a botanist finding the vegetables growing wild in Sweden.

The king of Sweden (Gustav III) sent some seeds to a Scottish banker called Patrick Miller around 1791-2 – and that’s why these vegetables earned the name ‘swedes’ in Britain.

Why was the king giving presents to a Scottish banker? 

Because Miller created plans for a super-warship. Other countries didn’t show any interest, but Sweden did. Miller sent them the prototype – the Experiment of Leith.

The ship arrived too late to be used in war, but Sweden was still grateful, and so the king sent his gift.

The swede seeds came in an illustrated snuff-box, now owned by the Victoria and Albert museum in London. You can see more about it here.

The name rutabaga comes from the Swedish word ‘rottebagge’, which literally means ‘thick root’.  

Have you tried swede and found it too bitter? 

You may be a ‘supertaster’ – genetically more sensitive than the rest of us. 

Some people have a specific gene (a variant of TAS2R38), which makes them more sensitive to certain foods. (This also applies to horseradish, broccoli and some other foods).

People with the gene find swedes twice as bitter as the rest of us – so may find it difficult to eat. [Source]

You’re not fussy – you’re sensitive.

Conclusion

You can safely give swede to your pet bunny, but only as an occasional treat. This hybrid cabbage/turnip is too high in starchy carbohydrates to be a significant part of a rabbit’s diet.

Other posts

If you’re thinking about what you can feed safely to bunnies, check out these other posts:

And if you want to keep your bunny entertained, check out the cheap rabbit toys we like (and so did our fluffy friends).

Posted by Jonathan in General, Rabbit diet and health
Can rabbits eat radishes?

Can rabbits eat radishes?

I have mixed feelings about radishes. I always think I don’t like them much, then they crop up in a salad and I find myself enjoying the crunchy texture and the peppery taste. 

But if you’re like me, you also start eyeing up your plate, and wondering, ‘could I feed these radishes to my bunnies?’. 

I did lots of digging around, and here are the results (including a guest appearance by Peter Rabbit). Hope you find it helpful. 

Can rabbits eat radishes?

Rabbits can eat radishes safely – they are not toxic to bunnies. But you should not feed radishes to your bunny in large amounts, as radishes are high in starch which can cause stomach upsets, gas and bloating to rabbits. Radish tops (the leaves) are healthier for rabbits, and you can feed radish tops to rabbits as part of their fresh greens every day. A rabbit’s main food should always be hay.

Can rabbits eat radish tops and leaves?

Bunnies can eat radish tops safely. The leaves are good for rabbits so you can feed radish tops to them. 

A healthy daily diet for a medium-sized rabbit includes mainly hay and water, maybe an egg-cup full of rabbit nuggets, and a handful of greens. The radish tops can be included as part of the handful of greens.

How much radish should I give my rabbit?

You should only feed a small amount of radish to your rabbit – a couple of small radishes (about 25g or 1oz).

In larger quantities, the starchy composition of radishes can cause problems (see below). 

What are the nutritional benefits of radishes for rabbits?

Radishes
IngredientAmount per 100g of radishes
Calories66kJ; 16 kcal
Fat0.1g
Carbohydrate3.4g
Fibre1.6g
Protein0.68g
Thiamine (B1)0.012mg
Riboflavin (B2)0.039mg
Niacin (B3)0.254mg
Vitamin B50.165mg
Vitamin B625µg
Vitamin C14.8mg
Calcium25mg
Iron0.34mg
Magnesium10mg
Manganese0.069mg
Phosphorus20mg
Potassium233mg
Zinc0.28mg
Water95.3g
Nutrients in radishes

Radishes do contain some helpful nutrients to rabbits. But the main contribution is water (radishes are over 95% water) and carbohydrates. 

Radishes are also relatively high in vitamin C, but rabbits don’t need that vitamin in their diets (their bodies can manufacture vitamin C themselves).

So nothing in radishes is toxic – it’s just not that useful for rabbits’ health.

And in large quantities, the high amount of starch could lead to GI stasis (see below). 

What are the risk factors for rabbits eating radishes?

Eating too much radish can be dangerous for rabbits In two ways. 

The high calories can help lead to fat bunnies – and obesity is not healthy for rabbits. 

More urgently, too much radish could lead to gut problems. 

Rabbits’ digestive systems are quite delicate, and require high amounts of fibre to keep them moving and pooing healthily. 

Lots of starchy food can interfere with this, causing gas (which is painful for rabbits) and in extreme may lead to gut stasis. This is a type of constipation for bunnies, and it is potentially fatal. 

If you suspect your rabbit may be suffering from this, contact a vet immediately. 

So the main risk in rabbits eating radishes is if you feed too much to your bunnies.

Do rabbits eat radishes in gardens? Peter Rabbit did…

Rabbits certainly do eat radishes in the garden, so you if you have a vegetable patch try to protect it. 

Beatrix Potter knew what rabbits were like. 

In her classic tale, she recounts the adventures of a naughty little rabbit.

Here’s what Peter Rabbit got up to…

Peter Rabbit eating radishes
Peter Rabbit overdoing it with radishes

But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor’s garden, and squeezed under the gate!

First he ate some lettuces and some French beans; and then he ate some radishes;

And then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley.

Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, retrieved from Project Gutenberg public domain

Clearly, Peter Rabbit overdid it on the radishes, and suffered for it. Make sure your bunny doesn’t make the same mistake!

What if my bunny doesn’t eat radish?

I always think of our bunnies as being a bit like toddlers. Little children sometimes like new foods, and sometimes (for any or no reason) will turn up their noses, turn their heads to the side, and refuse to open their mouths.

Rabbits have their own food preferences too. Some buns will gobble up radishes and look at you wondering if there might be seconds (don’t give in – only give radishes in small quantities). Other buns will sniff at a radish, then turn away and ignore it.

Our bunnies aren’t fans.

They looked, they sniffed, they turned away.

Fussy little creatures…

So if your bunny doesn’t like radishes, don’t be surprised or worry. Just find them food they do like (so long as you ensure that most of their diet is hay – you can read more about why this is important here.

Conclusion

Rabbits can eat radishes, but only as a small treat from time to time. Radishes are not particularly healthy for rabbits, and too much can cause problems for bunnies. 

You can also safely feed radish tops to rabbits – these leaves are healthier than the radishes themselves, and can make up part of the greens that rabbits get in their diet every day.

Other posts

If you’re thinking about what you can feed safely to bunnies, check out these other posts:

Posted by Jonathan in General, Rabbit diet and health
Can rabbits eat rocket (arugula)?

Can rabbits eat rocket (arugula)?

In the summer, I love having salad to accompany a barbeque. There’s something refreshing about the mix of salad leaves and other food. 

But not all salad… let’s face it, iceberg lettuce is a bit dull. I prefer rocket (also known as arugula). The peppery taste from the dark green leaves is just more interesting, livening up a dish. And not just in salads – I also love it on pizzas.

But will your rabbit also love rocket? And even if your bunny does, is it good or safe for them?

Can rabbits eat arugula? Can rabbits eat rocket?

Rabbits can eat arugula, also called rocket. Rocket, or arugula, is safe to feed to bunnies as part of a varied diet mainly based on hay. Rocket provides a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, and with other vegetables and hay is part of a healthy diet for a rabbit. A daily portion is about a handful of rocket for a medium sized rabbit.

How much rocket should I give my rabbit?

As with most leafy greens and vegetables, about a handful of rocket (or two cups) is enough for a mature rabbit of about 6lb, as part of a daily diet based mainly on hay.

Younger rabbits will need less. And if your bunny is under one year old, you can start introducing them to the delights of arugula from about 12 weeks. It’s a good idea to introduce greens one at a time to ensure that their developing digestive systems can adjust to the new food. 

It’s also a good idea to rotate which vegetables and greens you feed your rabbit. The variety is good for their diet and health, ensuring your rabbits get all the minerals and vitamins they need.

It also makes sure that they don’t get too much if a particular vegetable is high in one mineral or vitamin.

Why is rocket good for rabbits?

Rocket (or arugula) is good for rabbits because it contains a variety of minerals and vitamins. For example, it contains vitamins A, E and K, which rabbits need from their diet (though vitamin A is also found in hay, which should always be the main part of the diet).

Rocket is also high is vitamin C, but this is less useful for rabbits, as their bodies can produce this by themselves.

Minerals are also vital for rabbit health. For example, phosphorus is involved in energy metabolism (how the body converts food into energy for muscles), and magnesium is needed for bone structure. 

And the moisture content is also helpful – rabbits require a lot of water, either through drinking it or it naturally occurring in their food.  

Rocket as part of the diet helps ensure your rabbit has all the right vitamins and minerals they need.

IngredientAmount per 100g of rocket
Calories122 kJ; 29 kcal
Fat< 0.5g
Carbohydrate1.5g
Fibre2.5g
Protein3.6g
Folic Acid170µg
Vitamin A119µg; 2373 IU
Vitamin C15mg
Vitamin E0.43mg
Vitamin K108.6µg
Calcium160mg
Copper0.076mg
Iron1.46mg
Magnesium47mg
Phosphorus52mg
Potassium369mg
Sodium27mg
Zinc0.47mg
Water91.7mg
Ingredients in Rocket (arugula)

Are there any concerns about feeding rocket to rabbits?

You may find warnings on the internet about the calcium content of rocket. If a rabbit has too much calcium this can cause urinary stones, which are painful and dangerous.

Some suggest you have to be careful with rocket because it has relatively high levels of calcium (160mg/100g), as the chart above shows.

But you can relax – this level is still much lower than the hay which should be the main diet for a rabbit. 

Timothy hay has a calcium level of 400mg/g, which is over twice as high, and is good for your rabbit.

Bottom line – you don’t need to worry about your furry friend getting too much calcium from rocket. 

What if my rabbit doesn’t like rocket?

If your bunny sniffs and turns their nose up at rocket, don’t be surprised or upset. 

Just like humans, rabbits have their own preferences. Just as some of my friends find rocket too strong and peppery a taste, perhaps so will your bunny. 

Just give your bunny a different salad or vegetable instead.

Where rocket comes from, and a few other facts

Rocket is salad leaf native to the Mediterranean, and popular throughout this region. One common use is as a pizza topping (added just after the pizza comes out of the oven. (I like it with goats cheese as a topping).

It is an annual plant, known to the ancient romans, who thought rocket was an aphrodisiac (thank Virgil for that). They also thought that lettuce calmed you down, so you should mix the two. So those mixed salad bags with rocket and lettuce are balanced in every way.

The name ‘rocket’ comes from the Italian ‘ruchetta’ or ‘rucola’.

In the USA and Canada, it is known as arugula, which probably also comes from ‘rucola’. Same root, different words. 

A little coincidence – the poem by Virgil which references rocket (also known as colewort in the poem’s translation I linked to) also has the phrase ‘e pluribus unus’ (out of the many, one) which ended up being the motto of the USA. In the poem, it refers more to the herby paste (pesto) being cooked up.

Conclusion

You can safely give rocket to your pet bunny. The dark, peppery leaves will provide your bunny with water, vitamins and minerals, and also provide some variety in the taste and smell of their food. As part of a varied diet based mainly on hay and water, rocket (arugula) is fine for your rabbit.

Here are some of the sites I consulted, to make sure that the advice above is OK:

RSPCA advice about diet for rabbits

House Rabbit Society (a non-profit rabbit rescue and education organisation) advice about vegetables and fruit

The PDSA (a leading veterinary charity) advice about safe vegetables for rabbits

The PDSA also have this download about feeding rabbits (opens pdf file)

The Rabbit Welfare Association has a page on recommended vegetables and herbs

If you’re concerned about what food to give your bunny, you might also want to check out our post on what herbs are safe for rabbits, and what fruit you can give your bunnies.

We also have posts on rabbits and apples, and bunnies and mangetout.

And if you want to keep your bunnies’ minds healthy, check out what toys we found kept ours entertained and interested.

Posted by Jonathan in General, Rabbit diet and health
Can rabbits eat apples safely?

Can rabbits eat apples safely?

Imagine a big pile of apples. Really big. Not just five, ten or twenty.

Imagine having over a hundred apples stacked up in front of you. 

Would you give all of that in one go to your bunny?

Neither would I, or anyone. It’s far too much – the pile of apples would be much larger than the bunny.

Unless you are crazy enough to give over a hundred apples all at once to your bunny, giving apple to your rabbit friend is safe.

Rabbits can eat apples safely, including the core, pips (apple seeds) and stem. Apple is a great treat to feed rabbits. As with all fruit, the portion size should be small as too much of the sugar found in fruits is unhealthy. A portion size for a rabbit of 6lb (3kg) is about half of a small apple.

You might have come across a myth that apple cores and stems are dangerous for your bunnies. 

Sites on the internet warn of all sorts of potential nasty symptoms and even death. 

These sites are well-meaning, but not based on any science (and often just repeat the same warnings found on other sites).

Why is there a myth that apple seeds are dangerous to rabbits?

apple core and seeds (also known as pips)

The myth that apple seeds are dangerous to bunnies has come about because they contain a substance that breaks down into cyanide.

Cyanide?! But that’s a deadly poison, isn’t it??

We react strongly and emotionally to this chemical, because it makes us think of James Bond, and spies, and deadly poison.

Bond and M face up to nasty effects of cyanide in Skyfall

But quantities matter, and you need 144 apples to have seeds for the quantity of cyanide to be dangerous to a rabbit.

The Science – how dangerous are apple seeds to rabbits?

If you’ve ever bitten into an apple seed, you’ll know how sour and bitter it tastes.

That bitter taste is cyanide. (Yes – you’ve tasted cyanide and lived). 

It comes from a chemical inside the seeds called amygdalin.

More formally, amygdalin is a cyanogenic glycoside. That’s a posh term for a chemical that breaks down, forming hydrogen cyanide as a result.

And hydrogen cyanide, in enough quantity, is dangerous. It can cause nausea, convulsions, heart problems and in extreme cases death.

To find out how many apples might be dangerous to a rabbit, we now need to find out three things:

  • How many apple seeds in an apple
  • How much amygdalin in an apple seed
  • How much amygdalin is dangerous to a rabbit.

How many apple seeds in an apple

I’m going to use 8 apple seeds in an apple as a reasonable average. 

Of course, each apple may vary (and each type of apple), but 8 is reasonable.

Each apple contains on average 8 apple seeds

How much amygdalin in an apple seed

Apple seeds contain, on average, 2.96 mg/g of amygdalin (research paper here). But apple seeds weigh less than a gram. On average, a typical apple seed weighs about 0.7g.

So each apple seed contains about 2.072mg of amygdalin.

How much amygdalin is dangerous to a rabbit

No-one (to my knowledge) has actually fed amygdalin to rabbits to find out what the lethal dose might be (thank goodness).

But scientists have done this with rats, who are similar enough to give us a good idea of what a lethal dose would be. (I’m glad I’m not this kind of scientist, but you can find the research paper here.)

For rats, the lethal dose of amygdalin is 880mg/kg. Let’s assume that it’s about the same for rabbits.

Now, bunnies come in all sorts of sizes, from Netherland Dwarfs through to Flemish Giants. Our bunnies, minilops, fall somewhere in the middle.

So I’m going to assume that the rabbit is about 4lb, or 2kg in weight.

This means that the lethal dose of amygdalin would be 1,760mg.

The maths

Maths of how many apples would be needed to be dangerous to a rabbit

Number of apples to be dangerous = lethal dose / (apple seeds in apple x amygdalin in seed)

Number = 1,760/(8×2.072)

Number = 106.2

So you need to eat all the apple seeds from over a hundred apples to reach a lethal dose for an average bunny.

Can cyanide build up over time in a rabbit?

The short answer is, no. Cyanide is extremely reactive. While that makes it dangerous (in enough quantity), it also means that it breaks down quickly. Cyanide can’t build up inside the body.

But I heard that far fewer seeds were dangerous?

You may come across calculations that imply that far fewer seeds are dangerous for rabbits. These are based on the theoretical amount of cyanide that amygdalin could, in absolutely ideal lab conditions, produce. (A gram of amygdalin can theoretically produce 59mg of hydrogen cyanide).

And you can then carry out calculations based on lethal doses of hydrogen cyanide for rabbits (sadly, these experiments have been carried out – it’s 0.66mg/kg of bodyweight).

But this is much less useful or applicable than experiments carried out directly with amygdalin, which is the chemical actually found in the apple seeds.

Could an even higher number of apples be safe?

Short answer – yes.

I’ve taken an extremely conservative approach, by assuming that all the amygdalin in the apple seeds gets extracted by a rabbit.

But how often have you swallowed an apple seed by accident?

Apple seeds have evolved to be eaten. The hard, shiny, smooth shell is there so that it can pass intact through animals’ intestines to be left elsewhere. That’s how the seeds spread. And if it was dangerous to animals, it wouldn’t have succeeded. 

In real life, very little amygdalin is likely to be released from the apple seeds. You would need to extract the apple seeds and grind them into fine powder to get anywhere close to the result I gave above (clearly – I don’t recommend you do this).

Are there any cases of rabbits being poisoned by apple seeds?

To the best of my knowledge, there are no known cases of rabbits being poisoned by apple seeds (not surprising, given the above). 

And that’s not just me – it’s also the opinion of a vet who specialised in dealing with rabbits.

There are no reported cases of a rabbit dying from eating apple pips. In the autumn, wild rabbits feast on windfalls, including the pips, with no ill effects.

Frances Harcourt-Brown FRCVS, author of Textbook of Rabbit Medicine, European and RCVS Recognised Specialist in Rabbit Medicine and Surgery

How do apples fit into a rabbit’s diet?

IngredientNutrional value per 100gComments
Water85.6gApples have a lot of water in them. This is helpful on hot days for bunnies.
Energy52 kcalThis is mostly from the fruit sugars, which are types of carbohydrates. Like most sweet things, too much is bad for you.
Fibre2.4gRabbits need a lot of fibre – hay, which is best for them, is nearly 20% fibre. So apples on their own don’t provide enough. Much of the fibre is in the skin, so don’t peel the apple to give to your bunny,.
Carboydrates13.8gMuch of this are sugars – see the next entry.
Sugars10.4gHalf of the sugar is fructose, the rest sucrose and glucose. The sugar content is why apples taste sweet to us (and to our furry friends).
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)4.6mgRabbits don’t need vitamin C – their bodies can make it themselves.
Vitamin B complexSmall amountsRabbits don’t need vitamin B – their bodies can make it themselves.
Vitamin A54 IUApples provide a little vitamin A for rabbits, but they need far more (6-10,000 IU daily).
Vitamin E, D & KSmall amountsThe amounts of these vitamins is not significant for bunnies.
Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper, Potassium, Sodium, Manganese, SeleniumLowApples don’t provide significant amounts of any of these minerals for rabbits
Information on apples (skin on) from USDA

Apples make a great treat for rabbits. But the bulk of their diet should always be hay (see our post on Timothy hay for more information on why this is the best food).

Check out the nutritional table above. Apples on their own don’t provide enough fibre, minerals or vitamins for rabbits. That’s why rabbits need lots of hay, and to have apple as a treat.

It’s best if bunnies have unlimited access to hay.

You can also give rabbits a handful of greens a day, and a small amount of nuggets a day (about an eggcup). 

Always make sure that your bunny has plenty of water to drink.

Don’t give too much apple to your pet bunny – not because of any worries about the seeds, but because apples, like most fruit, contain fruit sugars.

This is why apples taste sweet. They contain fructose, and in lesser amounts glucose and sucrose.

Just as too much sugar is bad for us humans, too much sugar is bad for rabbits.

That’s why apples should be a treat, and portion size controlled for your bunny.

A suitable portion size is about half a small apple for a medium sized rabbit.

You can find more about rabbit nutrition here, and more about how rabbits digest food here.

Can rabbits eat apple skin? 

Rabbits can eat the skin on apples (and it’s good for them – extra fibre). 

Can rabbits eat apple leaves or twigs?

Rabbits can safely gnaw away at apple leaves and twigs. This will also help their teeth – rabbits’ teeth never stop growing, so bunnies need to chew away on rough food to keep their teeth to a healthy length.

Conclusion – can rabbits eat apples?

Rabbit eating slice of apple
Peach enjoying a slice of apple as a treat

Rabbits can eat all parts of an apple safely. Don’t believe myths about apple seeds that are not based on science.

You can check out what other fruit are safe for rabbits to eat at our comprehensive post covering this.

We also have an article checking out which herbs are OK to give your bunny.

If you’re worried about your rabbit’s health, make sure that you have insurance so you can cover any vet bills. For UK readers, I did a comparison of the pet rabbit insurance providers.

And if you want to keep your bunnies entertained, check out our favourite toys for rabbits.

Posted by Jonathan in General, Rabbit diet and health
Can rabbits eat mangetout?

Can rabbits eat mangetout?

We all love to give our bunnies food that they both enjoy and is good for them. And you probably already know that green vegetables can be a healthy part of a rabbit’s diet. But are all vegetables OK?

In particular, what about mangetout? 

Mangetout (sometimes called snow peas) are types of garden peas that are picked for eating whilst still young. The small peas are left in the flat pod, and the whole pod can be eaten (mangetout is the French for ‘eat all’).

Sugar snap peas are similar to mangetout (you eat the whole pod) but have a rounder shape and are crunchier than mangetout (they have a ‘snap’ to them).

Rabbits can eat mangetout safely, and also sugar snap peas. These green vegetables provide both vitamins such as vitamin K, minerals such as iron and manganese, and fibre, which is good for your rabbit’s teeth and gut. Rabbits can have up to about a couple of tablespoons a day as part of a mixed diet that is mainly hay based.

How much mangetout should I give my rabbit?

You should give a mature rabbit (over 1 year old) about 2 cups of vegetables a day. For mangetout, this means about 200g, or 8oz. You should mix up which vegetables you give your bunny, so don’t give your furry friend mangetout every day. They need the variety.

If you have a younger bunny, this may need adjusting.

Very young rabbits (kittens) won’t need any vegetables until they are 12 weeks (3 months) old. Introduce them one at a time. So no mangetout for the youngest.

From 3 months to 6 months old, you should be slowly increasing the amount and variety of vegetables in your bun’s diet. And this then continues over the rest of the year.

If you introduce mangetout into your rabbit’s diet this way, and keep it as part of a varied diet of some vegetables but mainly based on hay, then you can know that you are doing your best to keep your rabbit healthy.

Interested in normal garden peas? Check out our post here on whether peas are a safe food for rabbits.

If you want to see further advice about rabbit diet, check out the advice from the House Rabbit Society, or from a vet who specialised in rabbits, Francis Harcourt-Brown.

Why is mangetout good for rabbits?

Mangetout, like most green vegetables, is a good choice as part of your bunny’s diet. 

This is because it contains a variety of fibre, protein, and minerals that rabbits need to be healthy.

ComponentAmount per 100g
Fibre2.6g
Protein3.6g
Vitamin C54mg
Thiamine (B1)0.15mg
Vitamin K25μg
Iron2mg
Magnesium24mg
Manganese0.244mg
Phosphorus54mg
Zinc0.27mg
Mangetout nutritional information (sources: Wikipedia, Sainsbury’s, Tesco)

These different components all help your rabbits to grow and keep their bodies healthy. 

Fibre is critical in a rabbit’s diet (which is why hay should always be the main part of the diet). Fibre helps keep the gut moving – rabbits can suffer badly if food starts piling up inside (gut stasis). If your rabbit ever stops eating and pooing, contact a vet straight away.

Protein enables the rabbit to make its own protein (which is used, for example, to build and repair muscles and skin).

Minerals are needed in small quantities too – hay and vegetables ensure that the bunny gets enough for a healthy body.

Rabbits also need some vitamins – in particular A, D and E (see more here).

However, mangetout are not high in these vitamins, but in vitamin C, B1 and K.

Rabbits don’t need these in their diet because they can produce them themselves – for example, the rabbit intestines make vitamins B and K from microbes.

Some other vegetables are higher in the vitamins that the rabbits need. This is why we need to give a variety of vegetables to our pet bunnies to ensure that they end up with a balanced, healthy diet.

What if my rabbit doesn’t like mangetout?

Should you be worried if your bunny turns up their nose at mangetout? 

No.

Just like you and me, rabbits have their own food preferences. Most bunnies love bananas – one of ours (Peach) isn’t bothered at all, and turns away.

In the same way, not all bunnies will like mangetout.

Neither do all humans – confession time – including me. 

If I won’t eat mangetout I can hardly complain if my rabbit won’t.

Just try other vegetables until you hit on some that your bunny loves.

What about sweet peas?

You should avoid giving your rabbit decorative sweet peas or dried peas.

Decorative sweet peas are poisonous. 

While your bunny is likely to be fine if they nibble a small amount, in large quantities the leaves can produce lathyrism, with effects similar to scurvy, affecting collagen production. (Find out more on the research, done on rats, here).

Conclusion

You can safely give mangetout or sugar snap peas to your rabbit as part of a varied diet. The rabbits can ‘eat-all’ of it.

As you are interested in food for your rabbit, check out our other posts in this area:

Happy reading!

Posted by Jonathan in General, Rabbit diet and health
Bunny Eye Care: Rabbit Eye Problems & Treatments

Bunny Eye Care: Rabbit Eye Problems & Treatments

By Kristin Woodbury, Education Director at the San Diego House Rabbit Society

The vast majority of people would agree the bunnies are among the cutest pets you can have. Their fluffy fur, floppy ears, and big eyes captivate young and old alike. Interestingly, the placement and size of rabbits’ eyes enable them to see predators coming from both sides. Rabbits are also usually farsighted, so they can glimpse a danger coming from far away. Unfortunately, because of the eye anatomy rabbits are susceptible to the whole array of eye conditions. Here we’ll discuss bunny eye care, including common treatments and solutions.

Bunny Eyesight

Regardless of being able to see danger coming from afar, rabbit eyes have blind spots directly in front of them, directly behind them and under their chin. Moreover, their eyes are so big it makes them quite open to injuries. Rabbits are also partially colour blind and their eyesight considerably decreases in very bright environments. That’s why, sadly, so many rabbits die when they get blinded by the headlights of cars.  

Common Eye Issues

The most frequent eye problem among the rabbits is associated with their tear ducts. Rabbits’ tear ducts are prone to inflammation and they can get watery. There’s also a sticky discharge that gathers around the eye and fur around it. To make matters worse, tear duct issues are connected to poor dental health.

The reason for this is the fact that rabbit tear ducts run just above their top teeth. Overgrown front teeth press the tear ducts, making them closed and infected. 

If you think your floppy-eared friend may be suffering from this, take him or her to your veterinarian, who will flush out the ducts with saline solution and drive the pus and infected substance out. Rabbits are also susceptible to foreign bodies in their eyes, like pieces of bedding, food or anything else that doesn’t belong inside or around the eye. These are usually small and light, so they easily get stuck.

To treat a foreign body you will need cotton wool and cooled boiled water. If the soreness persists after you cleaned your rabbit’s eye, you should consult your vet. 

Serious Eye Issues

Physical wounds around the eye can cause serious distress in the eye area. The most common form of eye damage is swelling directly under the eye which forms an abscess as a result of the wound around the eye. The abscess appears in the form of a bump that suddenly appears. On the other hand, rabbit eye ulcers happen when something gets stuck in the rabbit’s eye, or the eyeball suffers some form of trauma to the cornea, the clear, outermost layer of the eye. 

An ulcer is a defect in the cornea and it’s usually very painful. If you see your bunny scratching the eye or holding it shut, that’s the indicator the eye is painful or irritated. Conjunctivitis, or “pink eye” is the inflammation of the pink tissue around the rabbit eye. Rabbits can catch conjunctivitis from an environment rich in bacteria, such as dirty water, or a dirty cage. Proptosis is the worst and thankfully the rarest rabbit eye problem. Basically, proptosis is the eyeball popping out of your rabbit’s head, and it usually takes severe trauma to happen.

Eyes, Teeth, and Health 

Close up of rabbit
Photo by Colter Olmstead on Unsplash

If you notice that your bunnies have bright and healthy eyes with equal pupils and without any discharge, you can make sure that their teeth are in good condition too. The best way to keep your rabbits’ teeth healthy is through feeding your pet a diet rich in fibre, such as hay, grass and raw vegetables. High fibre is the best rabbit food for teeth health.

Chewing high fibre food will prevent bunny teeth from growing too long and blocking tear ducts. Generally speaking, if rabbits eat well they will be healthy.

Prevention and Treatment

The best way to maintain your rabbit’s eye health is to feed them with proper levels of roughage and long fibre, such as grass and hay. That way you will prevent teeth from overgrowing and blocking tear ducts. Just in case, examine your rabbit’s eyes frequently for any anomalies. Keep your bunny in spacious living quarters with access to open space where it can run. A lot of room to run around will keep your bunny fit and happy. 

Don’t forget to clean out your rabbit repeatedly. That way you will decrease bacteria and ammonia levels built from soggy paper, sawdust or straws, which is usually used for lining. If you have more than one bunny, they will help each other clean their eyes by grooming and licking the fur around their companions’ eyes. It’s also very important to keep your bunnies vaccinated. Some serious conditions, such as myxomatosis, can be mistaken for an eye condition. And it goes without saying that you should always seek the vet’s help whenever you are worried about your bunny’s eye health. 

Conclusion

Bunnies are really cute, but also prone to various illnesses. Their eyes are especially sensitive because of their size and position. There are many ways in which bunnies can hurt their eyes, from light to severe ones. Thankfully, there are many ways to help and treat your fluffy friends’ eyes and to prevent bad things from happening by taking good care of them. 

More articles…

Lots of eye problems come from teeth problems. Find out more about rabbit teeth.

Take a look at our article on how rabbits see the world.

You might also like to find out more about how rabbits hear the world.

We also have a look at when and how rabbits sleep.

And if you’re looking for some boredom busters for your bunnies, we’ve tried ten different toys that were a success.

The main feature image on this page was by Gary Bendig on Unsplash.

Posted by Jonathan in General, Rabbit diet and health
What fruit can rabbits eat? (In-depth guide)

What fruit can rabbits eat? (In-depth guide)

If you’re like me, you want the best for your bunnies. Food-wise, that means ensuring the rabbits are getting a healthy diet, with the occasional treat thrown in. The main part of a rabbit’s diet should be hay (read more about why hay is so great for them here). Fruit should be regarded as a treat for bunnies. But you want to be sure that any treats or snacks you give a rabbit are safe.

This is a guide to fruit as a treat for rabbits – what fruit are safe for rabbits to eat, how much fruit should you feed a bunny, and what particular concerns might there be over specific fruit. I’ll go into more detail on each fruit, including portion size, but here’s a quick summary.

What fruit can rabbits eat?

Rabbits can safely eat small amounts of all the following fruit. You can feed bunnies these fruit as a treat (the links take you to more information lower down the post):

What fruit are dangerous for rabbits?

The following fruit are toxic for rabbits – do not feed them to a rabbit:

  • Avocado – including any of the plant
  • Rhubarb – including any of the plant

(Rhubarb is a vegetable, but is often combined or cooked with fruits, so I’ve included it here).

How much fruit should you give your rabbit?

Give a maximum of 2 tablespoons (about 2oz or 50g) of fruit a day for an adult rabbit (over 7 months) of about 6lb (2.7kg). Consider halving this for rabbits between 7 and 12 months old. 

Be careful introducing fruit to younger rabbits – it is best to slowly let them adapt to different greens first, and introducing fruit when they are a bit older.

If your rabbit is overweight or obese, consider giving much smaller portions or no fruit at all. 

If your bunny has any gastro-intestinal issues, don’t give any fruit (as always, check with your vet if your rabbit has any particular issues).

Can rabbits eat dried fruit?

Rabbits can eat dried fruit if it is safe for them to eat the fresh fruit.

BUT – the portion size should be much smaller. Dried fruit are deceptive – they look much smaller and weigh less than their fresh fruit equivalents. However, they contain just as much sugar. So giving 2oz of dried fruit to a rabbit is much, much more sugar than giving 2oz of fresh fruit. 

Because of this, it is usually best to stick to fresh fruit.

If you do use dried fruit, use the equivalent portion size of fresh fruit as a guide (so if the maximum portion size is 10 grapes, then the maximum portion of raisins is 10 raisins). 

What are the problems in giving too much fruit?

Fruit contains a type of sugar called fructose. Just like too much sugar isn’t good for us, it isn’t good for bunnies either. 

Fruit is also lower in fibre than a rabbit’s normal diet.

So even though fruit may seem like a healthy choice, it’s like giving your rabbit a sweet.

If your bunny is given the choice of more (unhealthy) fruit, or healthy, full of fibre, hay, they will choose the fruit every time. 

This is because rabbits are concentrate selectors

That means in the wild they ‘select the low fiber, nutrient-rich leaves and immature growth of plants and avoid coarse, heavily lignified, or mature plant tissue. Thus they select the herbage that is highest in protein and soluble carbohydrates and lowest in fiber’. (Manning, 2014, 322).

In other words, bunnies will choose the sweetest, richest, softest food they can find in preference to harder, more fibrous, less sweet hay – even if in the long run this is bad for their health.

Over time, that’s bad for your rabbit, leading to obesity, potentially fatal gut problems, and dental problems (rabbits need to be gnawing on hay and fibre to keep their teeth in top condition). 

Bottom line? Don’t give your bunny too much fruit – it’s like feeding a child nothing but chocolate.

Can rabbits eat apples? And can rabbits eat apple pips or seeds?

Rabbits can eat apples safely. However, you may want to avoid giving your rabbit an apple core. 

A maximum portion for a 6lb/2.7kg adult rabbit is about ½ a small apple or ¼ of a large apple.

Can rabbits eat apple pips? The science…

Some people worry about the rabbits eating the apple pips (seeds). I don’t think you should be too concerned if your rabbit does, and I’ll explain why, but feel free to err on the side of being cautious.

If you want a more in-depth explanation, I’ve written an article on why rabbits can eat apples safely.

The issue with apple pips is that they contain amygdalin (so do some other seeds, kernels and stones including apricots). Amygdalin is a cyanogenic glycoside. That means it’s a chemical which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide.

Hang on – cyanide?! Isn’t that the poison of Bond movies, Agatha Christie murder mysteries, and other lethal events?

Because of this, you’ll read advice on the internet that apple cores are highly dangerous for your rabbit.

But with anything toxic (and in a large enough dose, just about anything is toxic – even water) the amount matters. How much cyanide is in an apple seed?

Apple seeds contain 2.96 mg/g of amygdalin (original research paper here).

This could theoretically produce 0.174mg/g of hydrogen cyanide (1g of amygdalin can produce 59 mg of HCN – see here for details).

An apple seed weighs about 0.7g. So each seed theoretically can release 0.12mg of hydrogen cyanide.

The lethal cyanide dose for rabbits is 0.66mg per kg of bodyweight (info taken from this authoritative review)

An adult medium sized rabbit weighs from 2-4kg.

So the lethal dose is 1.3 to 2.6mg.

This is 11 to 22 apple seeds.

One apple usually contains no more than about 8 seeds.

BUT – this assumes perfect extraction and degradation of the amygdalin in apple seeds. 

The apple seeds have a hard, shiny coating which protects the insides. You could only release the amygdalin if you ground the seeds completely up into fine powder.

A rabbit eating an apple core won’t do that, and neither will their intestines.

Apple seeds have evolved over the centuries to be able to be passed through animals – that’s how the seeds get spread. If doing this was dangerous to the animals, it wouldn’t have succeeded.

In practice, very little amygdalin is likely to be released or broken down into cyanide (which in turn is quickly broken down by the body into safe compounds – there’s no long-term build up). 

This can also be seen in looking at what is a dangerous dose of amygdalin. For rats, the lethal dose is 880mg/kg bodyweight. And rabbits are fairly similar to rats in their reaction. 

An apple seed contains about 2mg of amygdalin. So on this basis, a 2kg rabbit would have to eat 880 apple seeds. That’s a lot of apple cores!

And, according to a vet specialising in rabbits, there are no known cases of rabbits being poisoned through eating apple seeds.

Bottom line?

Don’t worry about feeding your rabbit apple cores. If your bunny eats one, they are highly unlikely to suffer any consequences. But feel free to be cautious if you prefer.

Can rabbits eat apricots?

Rabbits can eat apricots safely (but don’t give them the kernel/stone). 

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 1/3rd of an apricot (without the stone). 

However, avoid giving rabbits the stone, or kernel. Similar to apple seeds, the kernel contains amygdalin, which breaks down into cyanide. 

While it is unlikely that your bunny would grind the stone up and then eat it, you may feel safer just not giving it to your rabbit.

Also, your rabbit may choke on the stone.

Can rabbits eat banana (and also banana peel)?

Chips loves banana. Yum yum.

Rabbits can eat banana safely.

For many bunnies, it is one of their favourite foods.

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 1/3rd to ½ of a banana (without the skin). 

Be careful about feeding too much – bunnies love bananas so much that it can be difficult to resist giving it to them. 

But, like other fruit, too much banana is bad for your bunny.

Banana peel (and banana leaves) can both also be eaten by rabbits in small quantities – they are not toxic. But your bun is unlikely to appreciate them as much as the peeled banana.

Can rabbits eat blackberries?

Rabbits can eat blackberries safely. Make sure you give ones that are ripe.

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about six blackberries.

Rabbits can also eat blackberry thorns and brambles. 

Can rabbits eat blueberries?

Rabbits can eat blueberries safely. 

A maximum portion of blueberries for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 30 blueberries.

Can rabbits eat cherries? 

Rabbits can eat cherries safely, but you should avoid feeding bunnies the stones. Cherries are a good source of potassium for rabbits, but because they are high in fruit sugars cherries should only be given as treats.

A maximum portion of cherries for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 10 cherries – without the stones.

Can rabbits eat cucumbers?

Rabbits can eat cucumbers safely as a treat, including the skin and the seeds. Check out our more detailed post on bunnies eating cucumber here.

And yes, cucumbers are technically fruit, as they grow from flowers and contain seeds.

Can rabbits eat grapes?

Rabbits can eat grapes safely as a treat, including seeds. You can feed small portions of all grape varieties to your bunny. Grapes contain useful minerals for rabbits including magnesium, potassium and copper as well as some vitamin A. However, grapes are mostly water and fruit sugars, so rabbits can only eat grapes in small quantities to avoid giving stomach upsets or putting on weight. Cut grapes in half to make sure that your bunny doesn’t choke. 

We used to cut grapes in half when making toddler snacks for a toddler group. If a young child can choke on a grape, perhaps so can a bunny.

Also, wash the grapes first if you think there might be pesticide residue.

A maximum portion of grapes for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 10 grapes.

Rabbits can eat both red and green grapes, and with or without seeds.

We have a full post on whether grapes are safe for rabbits and what precautions to take. Find out more about can rabbits eat grapes.

Can rabbits eat kiwi fruit?

Rabbits can eat kiwi fruit safely. 

A maximum portion of kiwi for a 6lb adult rabbit is about half a kiwi.

Rabbits can also eat kiwi skin safely.

Can rabbits eat mango?

Rabbits can eat mango fruit safely (but not the stone/seed).

A maximum portion of mango for a 6lb adult rabbit is about ¼ of a mango.

Rabbits can eat the mango skin as well.

Can rabbits eat melon?

Rabbits can eat melon safely (cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon).

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about ½ a thin slice. 

Rabbits can eat the rind – but some will turn up their noses at it. The rind is also high in carbohydrates, so should be counted as part of the treat.

Can rabbits eat nectarines?

Rabbits can eat nectarines safely (but don’t give them the stones).

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 1/3rd of a nectarine.

Can rabbits eat papaya (pawpaw)?

Rabbits can safely eat papaya, also known as pawpaw. You can feed the papaya fruit including the skin to bunnies. Papaya leaves are also safe to feed to bunnies. Papaya provides useful nutrients needed by rabbits including potassium, selenium and vitamin A. Like all fruit, papaya should only be given in small portions as a treat – a maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about a tablespoon of papaya.

If you want to check out the safety of papaya further, here’s a study checking the effect of papaya leaves on the health of rabbits (they were checking to make sure that papaya didn’t affect the ability of rabbits to reproduce).

Pawpaw leaves can be served to rabbits either in its fresh or wilted state without affecting reproductive parameters assessed in this study. Results of hormonal assay did not reveal any adverse effects due to dietary treatment on the rabbits.

Henry et al. (2018) Hormonal Assay and Reproductive Performance of Rabbits Fed Pawpaw (Carica papaya) Leaves as Feed Supplement. Annual Research & Review in Biology 25:3

Can rabbits eat peaches?

Rabbits can eat peaches safely (but don’t give them the stones), including the skin. You can feed peach to bunnies as a treat, as it is a good source of potassium and vitamin A. Like many other fruits, peach is also high in sugars (which is why it should only be a treat) and vitamin C, which rabbits don’t need. A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 1/3rd of a peach.

Can rabbits eat pears?

Rabbits can eat pears safely (including the stem). You can feed pears to bunnies as a treat as part of a healthy diet including plenty of hay and water. But don’t give your rabbit too much – a maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about a quarter of a pear.

Pears, like many fruit, are relatively high in sugars, which is why your bunny probably likes pear, but also why too much is not good for them. Too much could lead to diarrhoea or other gut problems.

Pears are a good source of potassium (119mg per 100g), one of the minerals that rabbits need (they also get potassium from other foods, including timothy hay). Pears also, like many fruit, have vitamin C, but healthy rabbits don’t need vitamin C in their diets (find out more about which vitamins and minerals rabbits need in our related post).

Some people remove the pear seeds (like apple seeds, they contain small quantities of amygdalin, which breaks down into a cyanide compound). But the amount is so small (see the section on apples) that you don’t need to worry if your bunny eats a few pear seeds.

Can rabbits eat pineapple?

Rabbits can eat pineapple safely, so long as you stick to the fleshy core. Don’t give bunnies pineapple leaves or pineapple skin, as the sap within these can irritate rabbit intestines. Like other fruit, pineapples are high in sugars, so too much may cause diarrhoea and other problems. Pineapple also contains some potassium, which rabbits need, and is high in vitamin C, which rabbits don’t require. Pineapple is best as a small treat for rabbits.

The juice of pineapples is acidic, and there have been occasional reports that it may help break down furballs inside the rabbit’s intestine (as in this report from the BBC). But the first thing to do if your bunny has a problem is check out the best course of action with a vet.

Can rabbits eat plums?

Rabbits can eat plums safely (but don’t give them the stones). 

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about one small plum (without the stone) or ½ a large plum.

Plum stones, like apricot kernels and apple pips, contain amygdalin which breaks down into a cyanide compound, though it is unlikely that a rabbit swallowing a stone by accident would break it down enough for serious harm. 

Here’s the science:

A plum stone is about 10g. The amygdalin content is therefore between 175mg (green plums) and 4mg (red plums) (see apples section for references). The maximum theoretical hydrogen cyanide release is therefore between 10mg (green plums) and 0.24mg (red plums). These figures look dangerous – but they are theoretical. 

The actual lethal dose of amygdalin is likely to be about 880mg/kg bodyweight (again, see apples section). On this basis, a 2kg rabbit would have to chew up completely 10 green plum stones to reach a dangerous level. 

On this basis, it is unlikely that one or even two plum stones would cause any toxic harm.

However, plum stones are also a choking hazard. All in all, it’s best to avoid giving the stone to your bunny.

Can rabbits eat oranges (and also orange peel)?

Rabbits can eat oranges safely.

Rabbits can also eat satsumas and mandarins safely.

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is about 1/3 of an orange, or 3 segments.

Rabbits can also eat the peel safely (but this should count as part of the treat). Orange pips aren’t a particular problem either.

Can rabbits eat raspberries?

Rabbits can eat raspberries safely.

A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is up to 10 raspberries. 

Rabbits can also eat raspberries leaves and canes, so if you grow these in your garden, try to rabbit-proof your plants.

Rabbits can also eat dried raspberries (make sure that your rabbits have plenty of access to water) – again, don’t give more than 10. Even though they weigh less and look smaller, they contain just as much sugar.

Don’t give your rabbits canned raspberries. These are usually soaked in highly sugary juices, and are much less healthy for your pet bunny.

Can rabbits eat strawberries?

Rabbits can eat strawberries safely. You can feed strawberries to bunnies, including leaves, as a treat. Rabbits love the fruit sugar (fructose) in strawberries, but too many could lead to obesity or gastrointestinal problems. Strawberries also provide rabbits with minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and manganese. A maximum portion for a 6lb rabbit is 4 medium sized strawberries. 

Rabbit eating a strawberry
Buzz, like most bunnies, loves strawberries as a treat.

Bunnies not only love strawberries, but they can also eat strawberry leaves and canes (and some rabbits love them), so if you grow these at home, try to rabbit-proof your plants. I am always amazed at how much of a garden bunnies can eat.

As with all these fruit, strawberries should only be a treat given as an addition to the main diet of your bunny, which should be hay and fresh water.

Rabbits can eat dried strawberries, but you need to give much less. Four dried strawberries may not look like a big helping, but the sugar content is the same as four fresh strawberries. Make sure that you provide plenty of fresh water.

And don’t give strawberries (or any fruit) to baby rabbits. They don’t process sweet foods well.

Can rabbits eat tomatoes?

Rabbits can eat tomatoes safely (but do not feed bunnies any of the plant or leaves or stalk). Tomatoes contain useful minerals that rabbits need, including potassium and magnesium. A maximum portion for a 6lb adult rabbit is up to 1/3 of a medium sized tomato. You should feed hay to rabbits as their main diet.

Tomato plants (not the fruit) are toxic (poisonous) for rabbits.

They contain a glycoalkaloid poison called tomatine. It is a similar (but less toxic) poison to solanine, that is found in high quantities in the plant deadly nightshade. (Note that some websites mistakenly state that tomato plants contain solanine – they don’t).

Can rabbits eat avocado?

Rabbits should not eat avocado. Do not feed any part of the avocado plant to bunnies, including the leaves. Avocado contains a toxin which is poisonous for rabbits. This toxin is found in all parts of the plant. Eating avocado may cause the rabbit to have heart and breathing difficulties, and may prove fatal.

How is avocado poisonous to rabbits?

Avocado contains persin, a fungicidal toxin. The persin can be found in all parts of the plant, including the leaves, the bark and fruit.

Persin doesn’t affect humans (except for some with this specific allergy).

But persin is toxic to a wide range of animals, including rabbits.

The effect of persin on rabbits is for the heart to start beating irregularly, and a build up of fluid in salivary glands near the mouth. Breathing may become more difficult. Exposure to persin may prove fatal.

A heart-breaking case from Argentina where 14 pet rabbits were fed some freshly cut avocado leaves shows how dangerous avocado is. Sadly, all the rabbits died [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.toxicon.2019.03.024].

Can rabbits eat rhubarb?

Rabbits should not eat rhubarb.

It is poisonous to them.

The rhubarb plant is also poisonous, including the leaves, not just the fruit.

How is rhubarb poisonous to rabbits?

Rhubarb causes diarrhoea and dehydration in rabbits, along with irritating their mouths. This is from the extremely high levels of oxalic acid the plant contains. Oxalic acid in high doses affects the kidneys of rabbits. Rhubarb also contains emodin and rhein, which are also active compounds with laxative effects.

What is a healthy diet for a rabbit?

A healthy diet for a rabbit consists mainly of unlimited access to fresh Timothy hay, and plenty of drinking water. A handful of greens and an egg-cup of pellets a day is enough.

Failure to stick to this diet can cause all sorts of health problems for rabbits, including with their teeth and their stomachs. 

Fruit should be considered a treat, not a main part of the diet.

If you’re interested in what rabbits can and can’t eat, check out our other pages on what herbs rabbits can eat, whether rabbits can eat apples safely, whether rabbits can eat mangetout safely, and why Timothy hay is so good for rabbits.

Also check out our favourite rabbit toys to keep your fluffy bunny friends entertained and interested.

Posted by Jonathan in General, Rabbit diet and health
What herbs are safe for my rabbit?

What herbs are safe for my rabbit?

Introduction

You love your rabbit. We love our rabbits, Fish and Chips. And we love giving them the best foods and treats we can. When we first got Fish and Chips, one of the first greens we bought was some fresh coriander, which they loved – eager to devour it. It complemented their main diet of Timothy hay well (why Timothy? Find out here). Great, let’s get some more herbs from the local supermarket – any will do, we thought. After all, can’t rabbits eat every type of herb? Big mistake.

There are many herbs which rabbits can enjoy, but a few (including one common one) are dangerous, and can lead to serious illness for your pet bunny. If you’re like me, you want to be able to wander down the vegetable aisle, pick up a pack of fresh herbs, and feel relaxed that your bunnies will be safe and enjoy the treat. So what herbs can I feed my rabbits? The short answer follows, and below that there are more details about how much to give and whether dried herbs are OK. You can also find out why some herbs are dangerous, and what to do if your rabbit eats some.

What herbs are safe for my rabbit?

The following herbs are safe for rabbits:

  • Basil
  • Coriander (also called Cilantro)
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Mustard
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Watercress.

Do not give your rabbit chives. This herb, along with spring onions, garlic or any food within the onion family, are all poisonous to rabbits.

If you are unsure about a food, check with your vet!

How much herbs should I feed my rabbit?

The main food we give Fish and Chips is hay – usually Timothy hay. Rabbits need unlimited supplies of this, and hay should make up about 85% of a rabbits diet. We also give up to an eggcup full a day of pellets. So any herbs you give will be in relatively small quantities. It’s good to mix it up a bit, and give some variety, so any herbs you give will be part of a larger diet including other fresh leafy greens and vegetables (like kale).

What does this look like in practice? For a 4lb (2kg) bunny, about 2 cups each day (either in one go, or spread out over different feedings). A cup is about the same as an adult handful of greens.

You also need to be careful with younger rabbits – their digestive systems are delicate, and they need time to adjust to new foods in their diet.

Can rabbits eat parsley?

Herbs
Anyone else like Simon and Garfunkel? If it’s in the song, it’s safe.

Rabbits can eat parsley safely as part of a sensible diet mainly based on hay. You can feed an adult bunny a handful of parsley as their daily allowance of greens.

Some people suggest that you need to be careful with how much parsley and fresh mustard you give your rabbit.

This is because parsley (along with some vegetables, like spinach) contains a relatively high level of a type of chemical called oxalates (you can see a table of the amount of oxalates in different vegetables here).

Oxalic acid, in huge quantities, could lead eventually to liver damage. However, this would require feeding your rabbit exclusively parsley (instead of hay) over a long period of time.

So long as parsley is not the major part of the diet (this should always be hay), it’s fine to give your rabbit some. For example, if you check out the PDSA advice on safe foods to give your pet rabbit, it includes parsley. It’s also on the approved list from the Royal Veterinary College.

I have also seen worries about whether the amount of calcium in parsley is too high for rabbits. Rabbits process calcium differently from most other animals, and too much calcium can lead to a variety of problems including urinary stones.

However, while parsley has higher calcium levels than some other foods, it isn’t particularly out of the ordinary (figures taken from this Rabbit Welfare Association article):

Calcium levels – mg per 100g
Kale130
Spinach170
Parsley200
Spring greens210
Mint210

This means that parsley has a calcium content of 0.17%. In contrast, Timothy hay typically has a calcium content of 0.4% – over twice as high – and your rabbit is going to eat far more hay than parsley.

Fish enjoying some spinach

Your rabbit would need to eat about 10 small packets (30g – amount 1 oz) of fresh parsley in a day merely to reach the recommended daily allowance.

So you shouldn’t be concerned about the calcium content of parsley or other green vegetables unless your vet has recommend a specific diet for specific problems. (See also this article on calcium levels in various foods – the main takeaway is that you are far more likely to give too much calcium with pellets, and that it’s extremely difficult to give too much calcium with sensible amounts of green herbs).

And parsley contains a variety of other useful minerals and minerals. In particular, parsley is a good source of vitamin A and iron, both of which rabbits need in their diet. Find out more about the minerals and vitamins that rabbits need here.

The bottom line? As is often the case, parsley, like other foods, is fine in moderation.

Can rabbits eat thyme?

Rabbits can eat thyme safely as part of a sensible diet mainly based on hay.

I have seen some suggestions on the web that thyme can be helpful if your rabbit has diarrhoea. Whilst it may be true, I could find no evidence to back this up. More importantly, if your rabbit has diarrhoea, consult a vet straight away.

You can feed your rabbit both dried thyme and fresh thyme. This herb gives rabbits healthy quantities of the following nutrients: potassium, iron, magnesium, copper and vitamin A, and it is also high in fibre (check out more information on thyme’s nutrients here, and rabbit nutrition here). In short, thyme is an excellent herb to give to your bunnies providing many of the important minerals and vitamins they need.

Can rabbits eat cilantro / coriander?

Rabbits can eat cilantro (coriander) safely as part of a sensible hay based diet. You can feed both the stem and the leaves of coriander to bunnies. The herb is an excellent addition to give variety to your rabbit’s diet, helping ensure their nutrition is balanced. A handful of cilantro / coriander is about a serving for a mature rabbit.

Cilantro (coriander) is a great source for bunnies of vitamin K, copper, potassium and iron. We have a detailed post if you’re interested in finding out more about the nutritional needs of rabbits.

In fact, coriander is our bunnies’ favourite herb. When we give our rabbits a handful, they gobble it down.

Can rabbits eat rosemary?

Rabbits can eat rosemary safely as part of a sensible diet mainly based on hay and fresh water. You can feed both the stalk (sprigs) and the leaves to bunnies. Rosemary is a great herb to give to rabbits, providing variety to their diet and helping to ensure that they have a balanced nutrition. A handful (a few sprigs) is a portion for a day for a mature rabbit.

However, not all bunnies will like rosemary. Some rabbits dislike strong smelling herbs, so don’t worry if your bun turns up their nose.

If your bunny does like rosemary, you can be happy knowing that it will provide your rabbit with vitamin A and potassium, along with some fibre.

Can rabbits eat sage?

Rabbits can eat sage safely as part of a varied diet mainly based on hay and fresh water. You can feed bunnies both the leaf and stem of sage. Sage is a source of potassium, iron and vitamin K to rabbits. A portion size is a handful of leaves.

Sage has a historical reputation of being a healing herb – in mediaeval times, it was also known as ‘sage the saviour’ (Salvia salvatrix), and to the Romans it was the holy herb. Sage was used to treat everything from the plague to wasp stings.

While modern medicine doesn’t consider sage a miracle drug in the way that the past might have, it’s still a great herb for your bunny to eat.

Can rabbits eat dill?

Rabbits can eat dill (also known as dill weed) safely as part of a diet with lots of variety but mainly based on hay and fresh water. Dill is a good source of iron, magnesium, potassium and vitamin A for rabbits. You can give about a handful of dill as a portion size for an adult rabbit.

Humans have been eating dill for thousands of years (it was found in an Egyptian pharaoh’s tomb from 1400 BC). It is likely that rabbits have been nibbling away at dill in the wild for just as long.

Given all the nutrients in dill, it’s a good herb for your bunny to eat occasionally (if they like it – rabbits can be picky eaters).

Can rabbits eat mint?

Rabbits can eat mint safely as part of a diet that consists mainly of hay and fresh water. Mint is a good source of iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, and vitamin A in the right amounts for bunnies (find out more about what vitamins and minerals rabbits need here).

Mint has a reputation of being good for soothing stomach upsets in humans, backed up by medical trials. It also works as a cure for asthmatic rats (because it contains rosmarinic acid). It’s no surprise, therefore, that many owners suggest that mint helps their rabbits when they have stomach upsets (for any kind of serious upset, though, go straight to a vet).

All in all, mint is a great herb to give your rabbit. It’s healthy, nutritious, and might have some beneficial medical properties.

Can I give dried herbs to my bunny?

You can give dried herbs to rabbits as part of a varied, healthy diet. People sometimes want to mix in some dried herbs with other foods (including hay, or pellets). You can even buy some types of hay with herbs mixed in (some bunnies love this, others don’t). Again, moderation is the key. And you shouldn’t give dried herbs instead of fresh greens.

What about wild herbs?

I’m not an outdoor type, so I wouldn’t particularly recognise wild herbs if I came across them anyway. I get my herbs from the supermarket. But I found this list of plants to avoid. Some people like foraging – if that’s you, it’s probably best to decide on four or five plants that you recognise and know are safe, and collect them.

Why are some herbs dangerous for rabbits?

No chives

Chives are dangerous for rabbits because they can lead to gut problems and blood problems.

Along with other plants in the onion family (allum family) such as spring onions, onions and garlic, chives can lead to haemolytic anaemia (the red blood cells in the body become more fragile and some rupture) in many animals, including rabbits. The effects don’t happen instantly, but can take place over a period of days.

An oxidising substance called n-propyl disulphide binds to the sides of red blood cells, is recognised as a foreign body by other cells, so the red blood cell is destroyed.

Seek out professional advice from a vet if your rabbit eats chives or anything similar.

Humans are much less sensitive to this than other animals, which is why we can enjoy chives and garlic, and our pets can’t.

What should I do if my bunny eats a dangerous herb?

If in any doubt, contact your vet for advice.

Conclusion

Most herbs, including parsley, are safe for our bunnies. Fish and Chips love the various green herbs that we give them, along with other greens, as part of their diet. We get small packets regularly from our supermarket. They provide nutrients and flavours for our pet rabbits.

If you’re giving a sensible amount as part of a diet mainly based on hay, you don’t need to worry about oxalate content or calcium content – so parsley is fine along with all the others on the safe list. But make sure that you avoid chives – they are dangerous for your rabbit.

As you care about your bunny’s diet, check out our page on what fruit you can safely give your rabbit as a treat (and how much), and our page on why Timothy hay is so good for your rabbit.

You can also check out more about what vitamins and minerals rabbits need for a healthy life.

If you want to make sure you can always afford the best care for your rabbit, check out our page on pet rabbit insurance here.

Where can I find more information?

If you go searching on internet forums, you’ll end up with all sorts of conflicting advice about diet, and what foods are bad or good for your bunny. There are a lot of myths out there. Instead, I stick with the sites with some authority for my information. Here are some of the ones I consulted:

RSPCA advice about diet for rabbits

House Rabbit Society (a non-profit rabbit rescue and education organisation) advice about vegetables and fruit

The PDSA (a leading veterinary charity) advice about safe vegetables for rabbits

The PDSA also have this download about feeding rabbits (opens pdf file)

The Rabbit Welfare Association has a page on recommended vegetables and herbs

Posted by Jonathan in General, Rabbit diet and health
Timothy hay: what is it; why is it called Timothy; why is it good for rabbits?

Timothy hay: what is it; why is it called Timothy; why is it good for rabbits?

Introduction

Being a newcomer to the world of rabbits, I asked the pleasant assistant in the pet store what we needed to feed our rabbits. We talked first about pellets (only an eggcup) and treats, but then moved on to the main part of any rabbit’s diet, hay.

‘You need Timothy hay’, she told us.

‘What?’

‘Timothy hay’ she repeated confidently.

‘Oh, Ok,’ I replied, and sure enough, there were some bales marked ‘Timothy’.

‘Must be some brand-name’ I thought to myself. But it wasn’t.

Timothy hay, to my surprise, is a type of hay. But this led to a range of questions – what is Timothy hay? Why is it called Timothy? And why do my rabbits need Timothy hay?

Timothy hay, named after an American farmer of the eighteenth century, is a high fibre, high energy, low protein, low calcium type of grass hay that helps your rabbit’s digestion and teeth.

Here’s some more information on what Timothy Hay is, why it’s called Timothy, and why it’s so good and important for your rabbit.

What is Timothy Hay?

Timothy hay is a type of grass hay that is great for feeding both rabbits and horses. It can grow up to around 1.5m (about five foot tall), and is quite rough and stalky. It can come in three varieties, depending on which cut of the season you buy. Timothy hay is good for rabbits as provides fibre and protein with low calcium. Rabbits need the fibre both for their teeth and their guts.

Timothy hay comes in three different cuts, which vary a bit from each other:

  • First cut is the roughest and highest in fibre, and slightly lower in nutritional value.
  • Second cut is a balanced amount of fibre and protein.
  • Third cut is softer and greener, with relatively less fibre and more protein.

Having said that, the Timothy hay that I found on sale in pet shops and the local supermarket didn’t say which cut it had come from (maybe a mixture?) so I wouldn’t worry too much about this.

Types of hay

Timothy grass

Timothy grass. Credit Blokenearexeter [CC0]

I thought hay was hay, but I was wrong. You can get a range of different types, but they fall into two broad categories: legumes and grasses. Timothy hay is a grass hay.

Another type of grass hay is meadow hay. This is softer than Timothy hay, and may include some edible plants such as dandelions. Because it contains a variety of plants, it can also be a bit more variable in contents than Timothy.

Legumes include alfalfa hay and clover. Alfalfa is greener, and high in protein and calcium. It may be suitable for younger rabbits (always check with a vet), but mature rabbits need less calcium – and too much is bad for them (see below).

Here’s a chart of typical values for the three types.

%                     Timothy           Meadow          Alfalfa

Fibre                30                    30                    30

Protein            6                      7                      16

Calcium           0.4                   0.6                   1.2

You can get Timothy hay from a variety of places, and the values will vary a little. Our local supermarket stocks bales of Timothy in the pet aisle, and of course so do most pet stores.

Burgess Excel hay

This is the hay we buy. It’s 100% Timothy hay – but they only tell you that on the back of the packaging. Weird.

We get Burgess Excel Long Stem Feeding Hay in 1kg (2.2lb) bags. Bizarrely, you have to search quite hard on the packaging before you find it that it is 100% Timothy Hay. We get our hay from our local Jollyes, who also have an online service.

You can also get Timothy hay from Amazon UK and Amazon US who will deliver to your door.

Why is it called Timothy hay?

The earliest account I could find comes from a 1949 book on crops. A grass from Europe (called cat’s tail) ended up in the eastern states, and became well-known when it was cultivated and sold by a farmer called Timothy Hanson.

Here’s the account:

‘The most important hay grass in America now is timothy. It was first grown by a man named Herd prior to 1720 near the Piscataqua River mouth in New Hampshire. It was introduced from England where it was found growing in waste places and was known as cat’s tail grass. Early records indicated that it was known as herd’s grass in the New England area. Timothy seed was taken to New York, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina by a Timothy Hanson who lived near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was widely accepted in these states and became known as Timothy Hanson’s grass, which was later shortened to timothy. Jared Elliot sent seed of it to Benjamin Franklin in 1747, and when it was planted and grown Franklin described it as ‘mere timothy’. Large portions of the eastern part of the United States were planted to timothy by the colonists, and it has been the dominant hay grass in this region ever since.’

Gilbert H. Ahlgren, 1949, Forage Crops, New York: McGraw-Hill, p7.

You can also see an early reference to timothy hay in this 1859 newspaper article.

The Latin classification name for timothy grass is Phleum pratense. Knowing this allows us to access all sorts of databases and information (if you want to go further). For example, you can see the distribution worldwide of timothy grass here.

Three reasons why Timothy hay is so good for your rabbit

RabbitsOne of my questions was ‘why is Timothy hay good for rabbits?’ When I searched around, I came across three different but important reasons:

Reason 1 – fibre

Hay is the most important part of a rabbit’s diet, and the fibre part is essential. You know how we are always advised to make sure we get fibre in our diet? And so you might choose wholemeal bread or eat a high fibre cereal, and this helps keep us ‘regular’. This is even more important for our bunnies, who have eating systems that are designed around a high fibre intake. The high fibre content helps makes sure that their intestines don’t clog up (gastrointestinal stasis). Gastrointestinal stasis is extremely serious – even fatal. A diet of fibrous hay helps avoid this.

Reason 2 – teeth

High fibre hay also helps keep your bunny’s teeth healthy. A rabbit’s teeth can grow up to 5 inches in a year (or 3mm a week) – problems start when the teeth grow faster than eating wears them down.

One type of problem is when the teeth grow too long – they can make it harder for your bunny to breathe, as the teeth start to block nasal passages.

The second problem is when the teeth aren’t smoothed down by eating rough food. Without eating rough hay and grass, rabbits can develop sharp bits on their teeth, called spurs. These can be painful for the rabbit. To avoid using that tooth, the rabbit then starts overusing other teeth, and changing the way they chew. So one small sharp point can lead to problems with the entire mouth, including other teeth, ligaments and muscles.

So the coarse fibres in hay are not only good for your rabbit’s intestines, but also help keep their teeth healthy.

This is also why providing toys for your rabbit to chew on is a good idea – not only fun, but good for their mouths. You can see some of our favourite rabbit toys in our post here.

Reason 3 – calcium

This was the reason that surprised me the most when I did some investigating. It turns out that rabbits are very efficient at extracting calcium from the food they eat. Most animals only absorb a little from the food eaten, and then excrete a small amount. Rabbits, unusually, try to absorb all the calcium from the food they eat. Then, up to nearly half they excrete in their urine. If they have too much calcium, their urine may turn chalky as their bodies try to get rid of the excess. In the worst case, this can lead to urinary stones (urolithiasis).

Timothy hay is relatively low in calcium, and so ideal for mature rabbits. They can be given unlimited quantities safely.

How much hay should I give my bunny?

You can give as much hay as you like to your furry friend – but make sure it’s enough. A rabbit eats a bundle about the size of its own body every day. For more information on the best diet for pet rabbits, see this advice from the RSPCA.

Conclusion

So that’s what I found out about Timothy hay. It’s named after an American; it’s a type of tall, fibrous grass that’s high in fibre and low in calcium, and it’s important for my bunnies because it’s good for their guts and their teeth.

Rabbits eat more than hay – you can also give them a handful of greens every day. Want to know what herbs are safe for your bunny? We have a post that lets you know what herbs are OK, and what might harm your rabbit.

Want to know what fruit you can give your bunny as a treat (and how much you should be giving them)? Check out our in-depth guide on what fruit are safe for rabbits.

And we also have a guide to what vitamins and minerals rabbits need.

Posted by Jonathan in General, Rabbit diet and health