Pet Consider

Can Rabbits Eat Corn?

Can Rabbits Have Corn?

Staple foods come and go as the centuries pass, but one of the most persistent foods in the western hemisphere is corn, also known as maize. We have been eating corn for thousands of years. While patrons of health food stores and non-GMO eaters might be picky about the corn (and corn byproducts) that they eat, most of us will gobble up this grain without a second thought. It is mild in flavor, universally liked, filling, and fairly easy on the stomach. Many of us will toss a couple corn kernels into our dogs’ food bowls without any concern.

But other pets are trickier to feed. Rabbits, who are herbivores, seem to have dietary needs that many of us find perplexing. So, where is corn’s place in your bun’s diet?
Can you give your rabbit corn?

The answer is no, rabbits should not eat any amount of corn, whether it is fresh or dried. This food is not ‘poisonous’, per se—it will not result in immediate kidney or liver failure—but it can cause long term health problems for several reasons. Corn is both a potential blockage and a poor source of nutrition. This is one food that is best left off your rabbit’s plate for good.

Health Benefits

cornAre there any good things about feeding your rabbit corn? Aren’t they missing out on all those healthy, natural starchy carbohydrates? No, not at all. Corn is often recommended as a safe starchy food for very active (or very hungry!) humans looking to increase their energy intake, but the same can’t be said for our bunnies.

Omnivores like humans and dogs often do well on foods containing moderate amounts of healthy carbohydrates—fruits, beans, and whole grains are excellent sources of energy when consumed in moderation. Even some herbivores, like squirrels and fruit bats, handle moderate to high amounts of starch rather well. Rabbits may be herbivores, but have very different dietary needs from many of the other vegetarians in the animal kingdom.

While many herbivores would do backflips at the opportunity to take in the easy calories in sugary, starchy foods, these foods can make rabbits dangerously ill. Rabbits have very unique (and very fragile) digestive systems—unlike many other animals, they have evolved to meet most of their nutritional needs by digesting large amounts of low-sugar, low-energy fiber. They have a special organ, called the cecum, where fiber ferments so that they can extract nutrients from it.

Their digestion relies on fibrous foods to keep things flowing properly. Without eating copious amounts of plant fiber (mostly from hay), the stomach and the cecum may not be able to empty properly, which means that partially digested food will sit stagnant inside the gastrointestinal tract for long periods of time. The same thing can happen if your rabbit consumes corn kernels—the hull that makes up the outer portion of a corn kernel is completely indigestible for rabbits.

This condition, called cecal hypomotility, can cause serious problems for bunnies.

Your rabbit will likely lose their appetite and refuse to drink water, which will only worsen their condition. If this problem is left unresolved, it progresses to something called gastrointestinal stasis. This occurs when the contents of your rabbit’s cecum become dry and impacted, which will prevent food from flowing in and out of the cecum as it should. Symptoms of gastrointestinal stasis include a distended or bloated abdomen, reduced number of bowel movements, moderate to severe abdominal pain, reduction in body temperature, and weight loss. This condition should be considered a medical emergency.

If your rabbit stops producing fecal pellets, take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Some vets have success in getting the cecum to empty with fluids and other supportive care, while others find that the only option is cecal surgery. This type of surgery is extremely risky for rabbits. To ensure the best possible outcome, it is always better to get professional care sooner rather than later.

A poor diet is the number one cause of digestive problems in rabbits. By keeping starchy foods and indigestible materials like corn hulls out of their diet, you can greatly reduce their risk of potentially deadly conditions like gastrointestinal stasis. The majority of your rabbit’s diet should be made up of foods packed with cellulose, such as hay and leafy greens.

Things to Consider

If you are looking to give your rabbit a treat, opt for small quantities of fruit. Though they are higher in sugar than healthy rabbit foods, they are better tolerated than the starchy, indigestible substances that make up corn kernels and husks.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, corn should not be fed to rabbits in any circumstances. This starchy, caloric, low-cellulose food is nutritionally empty for your rabbit. Corn’s high starch content, as well as its indigestible hull, make it a recipe for digestive disaster. If your rabbit has eaten corn and appears to be suffering from bloating, gas, or constipation, seek veterinary care.



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1 Comment

  1. Denise

    March 26, 2020 - 7:16 am

    Rabbit chow contains corn. i cannot understand why most chow is loaded with grains – wheat and corn and soy. Of course these are non-organic and corn and soy are GMO crops, and wheat is sprayed with glyphosate toxin, so what is a bunny owner to do???

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