Can Rabbits Have Chocolate?
Simply put, chocolate is a go-to dessert that many of us have in the house at all times. We do our best to practice moderation, but when we have a reason to celebrate, we bust out the chocolate to share with our family. But should we share it with our pet rabbit, too? Is a square of dark chocolate, or a bite of chocolate cake, or a splash of chocolate syrup a safe way to include our bun in the festivities?
Can you give your rabbit chocolate?
The answer is no, rabbits can’t eat chocolate—ever. There are many human foods that are unhealthy for rabbits, but chocolate is pretty close to the top of the list of things you should never feed to a bunny. In addition to being nutritionally empty and totally lacking in the fiber rabbits desperately need to thrive, chocolate contains theobromine. Theobromine is extremely toxic to cats, dogs, and, yes, rabbits. If your bun has consumed a tiny quantity of white chocolate or chocolate frosting, they will probably be okay. If they have consumed dark chocolate or a larger portion of chocolatey foods, however, contact a veterinarian or a poison control center as soon as possible. Chocolate can kill your rabbit very quickly, and all types of poisoning require veterinary attention.
There is no reason to give your rabbit chocolate. There is some evidence that the antioxidants found in small quantities of dark chocolate may benefit human health, but even the darkest of chocolates will not support your bun’s body. We can eat sweet, fatty treats like chocolate from time to time without suffering any serious health problems, but our rabbits can’t.
Humans are omnivores who can process a wide variety of foods. Rabbits, on the other hand, are strict herbivores—and, even more limiting, they are lagomorphs. While humans thrive on diets that include more calorically dense foods like fruits, starches, nuts, and seeds, rabbits have evolved to eat hay, grass, and leafy greens almost exclusively. Their digestive systems are highly specialized and very delicate.
The key to rabbit health is large quantities of low-calorie, high-fiber foods. The healthiest rabbit foods are plants, like hay and grass, that we would consider to be totally inedible. The high amounts of cellulose in these foods are necessary for rabbit health. Fiber is what keeps their gastrointestinal tracts functioning properly—as the fiber moves through the gastrointestinal tract, it stimulates the stomach and the cecum. Without this stimulation, a rabbit’s digestive organs fail to empty properly, which means that old food sits around in their gut for longer than it should.
Things to Consider
The more pressing issue, when it comes to chocolate, is the high risk of poisoning. People can process fairly large quantities of theobromine without too much of a problem, but rabbits cannot. Even if your bun only eats a small portion of chocolate every so often, the theobromine can add up very quickly. Consuming a toxic dose of chocolate can cause organ failure, cardiac arrest, and sudden death. Rabbits are incapable of vomiting, so it can be difficult to tell when things start to go downhill. If your bun develops symptoms like diarrhea, depression, lethargy, or fever, take then to see the vet. As a general rule, the darker the chocolate, the higher the risk of toxicity.
When it comes to chocolate, the best thing you can do is keep it out of reach of all of your pets. Neither your cat, your dog, nor your rabbit are able to eat any quantity of chocolate safely. Feeding your rabbit any amount of chocolate can cause organ failure or cardiac arrest. Even giving your rabbit small amounts of ‘safer’ white chocolate, which contains smaller quantities of theobromine, can result in gastrointestinal motility problems and obesity.