Can I Give My Rabbit Blackberries?
Rabbits are another story. People who have never raised a rabbit often assume that these salad-eaters are rather simple to feed, but true bunny parents know otherwise: rabbit diets can be surprisingly complicated, and most sources seem to argue that fruit is something to keep to a minimum. So, what’s the verdict on these little antioxidant bombs?
Can rabbits have blackberries?
Yes, they can—in small portions. Blackberries are not at all poisonous to rabbits, so there is no need to fret if you tossed a handful of these juicy little fruits into their food dish already. However, though they are not at all toxic, too many blackberries too frequently can contribute to serious health problems in the long term. For rabbits, blackberries and other fruits should act as healthy treats. Because they are high in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, they are an excellent dessert choice.
If you’re new to raising rabbits, this may seem a little strange. Our doctors are constantly telling us to eat more berries, so why should we place severe restrictions on our rabbits’ portion sizes? Aren’t blackberries supposed to fight cancer and prolong life?
Though many would argue “the more the better” when it comes to berries in the human diet, this does not hold true for rabbits—their digestive systems are set up much differently from our own. Humans are omnivores who can thrive on diets of whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and small amounts of eggs or meat.
Rabbits, on the other hand, are highly specialized herbivores. Like most herbivores and omnivores, they can benefit from vitamin-rich foods like blackberries. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances present in these beautiful berries can help prevent disease, boost immunity, improve skin health, and even alleviate the symptoms of inflammatory illnesses like arthritis. There have not been many studies performed on the role that antioxidants play in the bunny diet, but the research done on humans and other animals is promising. Antioxidant-rich foods seem to have powerful protective effects on overall health.
Unlike some other herbivores, rabbits are extremely dependent on fiber.
The foods that rabbits thrive on, such as hay, are extremely high in fiber, yet low in sugar and calories. Blackberries do contain substantial amounts of fiber by human standards, but for bunnies, this fiber is not nearly enough.
Every bunny has a sweet tooth, and most of them absolutely love fruit, but it’s important to practice moderation. Too much sugar—even the natural sugars found in fruit—can wreak havoc on your bunny’s body. Because blackberries are higher in sugar and lower in fiber than hay and other vegetables, they flood the body with simple carbohydrates that can quickly turn into fat.
Rabbits have evolved to eat foods that have low caloric density, so it is extremely easy for them to gain weight if they start eating higher-calorie foods on a regular basis. It seems like there would be few cuter things than a pudgy bunny, but obesity can be a serious problem. Just like in humans, obesity can contribute to fatty liver disease—eating too many carbohydrates can actually cause the liver to become overrun with fat cells, which damage its functioning. Left untreated, this condition is often fatal. This disease is almost always caused by a poor diet in rabbits, so it is easy to prevent if you keep your bun’s nutrition dialed in.
Things to Consider
In sum, blackberries are a perfectly safe treat option for your rabbit. They are nontoxic, high in vitamins and antioxidants, and sweet enough to serve as a decadent dessert. However, blackberries and all fruits should only be fed to rabbits in small amounts. One or two berries is plenty for most rabbits; in large quantities, the sugar in berries can cause obesity and gastrointestinal problems. If your rabbit is currently dealing with digestive or weight-related issues, it may be wise to pass on the fruit altogether.