Can I Give My Rabbit Apples?
American adults often struggle to get enough fruits and vegetables, but one of the produce items that almost every person—even little kids—can enjoy is the sweet, crunchy apple. Even those who look down their noses at salads or carrot sticks will happily enjoy a fresh apple. We often tell ourselves “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” as we slice up a nice, ripe Fuji apple to eat dipped in peanut butter. For humans, apples are a symbol of health and nutrition. But does the same hold true for our furry friends?
We know that rabbits are supposed to be vegetarians, but should their plant-based diets include our favorite fruits, too? Can rabbits have apples?
The answer is yes, rabbits can eat apples in small amounts. Apple flesh does not seem to be toxic to rabbits in any way, so you need not rush Thumper to the pet hospital if your kid pawns off half an apple on them. Though not toxic, apples are not good for your rabbit in large amounts, so they should not make a regular appearance inside their food dish. Use apples and other fruits as dessert— this high-fiber, vitamin-rich whole food is an excellent treat option for your beloved bunny.
We love apples because they are both delicious and nutritious. Our rabbits seem to like them, too. So, will an apple a day keep the veterinarian away?
Unfortunately, your rabbit will not benefit nearly as much from eating apples as you or I would. Rabbit digestion is vastly different from our own—it is set up in a way that allows them to meet all of their energy and nutrient needs on a diet of foods that are not particularly nutrient dense. A rabbit’s digestive system is all about efficiently processing low-calorie, high-fiber foods.
Though they are strict vegetarians, not all vegetarians have the same dietary needs. Unlike fruit bats, orangutans, and other animals with raging sweet teeth, rabbits have evolved to eat predominantly grasses and other vegetable matter. They need a different balance of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids than fruit-eating herbivores.
Even if you manage to balance their caloric intake just right, a rabbit who eats a lot of fruit is likely to suffer from nutritional deficiencies that can cause severe health problems.
So it’s safe to say that you should not give your rabbit apples because they are high in Vitamin C or any other nutrient. There is, however, one other reason why you may want to supplement your rabbit’s diet with the occasional fruity snack: fiber.
Rabbits are known for their fragile digestion. Though they manage pretty well in the wild, where they can eat exactly the foods that they have evolved to eat, they often run into problems when they are forced to eat whatever foods us well-meaning humans drop in their dish at dinner time. One of the most important parts of protecting rabbit health is ensuring that they consume enough fiber.
Rabbits who eat too many carbohydrates and too little fiber often suffer from a condition called gastrointestinal stasis, which is similar to severe constipation. A poor diet inhibits digestion, causing waste and partially digested plant matter to ‘build up’ inside the body. With their system clogged up, rabbits often stop eating and drinking. This causes dehydration, which their body then tries to solve by pulling water out of the colon. As dehydration worsens, the matter in your rabbit’s stomach and intestines becomes even more dried out and solidified, which worsens constipation. Left untreated, this condition is often fatal.
Apples are renowned for their ability to treat constipation in humans, and the same can be said for rabbits. The fiber in apples becomes slippery when it absorbs water, which can help soften hard or impacted stool. This means that apple slices are a great way to get things moving again if your rabbit seems to be suffering from mild constipation.
Fruits like apples are considered healthy human staples, and they may help bunny constipation, but they should not make up a large portion of your pet rabbit’s diet. Apples are much higher in calories and carbohydrates than standard rabbit food. In addition to upsetting their digestive system and possibly causing diarrhea, feeding your rabbit too many apple slices is likely to make them overweight or obese.
Things to Consider
Pudgy rabbits may be cute, but they are also more likely to suffer from health problems. If your rabbit is already overweight, avoid giving them any fruit whatsoever. They do not need the extra calories.
In conclusion, small amounts of apple are an excellent treat option for healthy rabbits or rabbits who are prone to mild constipation. Fruit should not, however, make up a large portion of your rabbit’s diet. Unlike some other herbivores, rabbits have evolved to live mostly on grasses and other vegetable matter, not fruit. If your rabbit has any digestive problems after eating apples, decrease the serving size or consult a veterinarian.