Can Rabbits Have Courgette?
Many of our favorite squashes are commonly associated with the fall season—especially orange ones such as pumpkin and acorn squash. One squash we eat in the summer, however, is the crisp, hydrating courgette. This delicious, nutritious vegetable has a delicate flavor that makes it incredibly versatile. We use courgette in salads, breads, muffins, soups, and wraps. In recent years, this low-calorie, high-fiber squash has become a favorite among those counting their calories or carbohydrates—many people spiralizer courgette to make noodles or French fries, and some fitness fanatics are even using shredded courgette to add bulk to their daily oatmeal breakfast.
Though courgette is useful as an ingredient, it also makes a great snack on its own—simply slice and eat! If we have pets, however, one of our first questions is this: can we share summer’s bounty with them? Many of us are unafraid to share table scraps with our dogs, but rabbits have more limited diets. As vegetarians, most of their food looks like lawn clippings, and the only foods we seem able to give them are fresh vegetables. Courgette, then, seems like a perfect treat! But is it safe to give our pets chunks of fresh courgette? Can you give your rabbit courgette?
The answer: yes, absolutely! Though our pets do have rather limited diets thanks to their fragile digestive systems, courgette is one of the few ‘people foods’ that rabbits can eat on a regular basis. This refreshing summer squash is not only safe and nontoxic (which means you do not have to worry about poisoning your pet), it is actually a healthy, hydrating vegetable. Healthy adult rabbits need about two cups of fresh vegetables per day to maintain health and happiness. While most of these veggies should probably be leafy greens, courgette is a good option to provide some variety.
Courgette and other squashes are lightly sweet in flavor, but they are also mild enough not to cause stomach problems. More flavorful or spicy vegetables might irritate your bun’s sensitive stomach, but courgette is usually well tolerated in moderation. Because rabbit digestion is so fragile, feeding them foods that will not cause stomach problems is a key part of overall health.
Feeding your bun foods that are harder on their stomachs can cause problems because rabbits who are feeling ill will often refuse food and water. Undereating is bad news for any animal, but it can be especially dangerous for rabbits, because their entire gastrointestinal tract relies on a steady intake of fiber. Rabbits who do not consume enough food do not take in enough fiber, which means that their stomach and their caecum do not empty as quickly as they should. As a result, food sits in the gut for a longer period than is healthy, which can cause bacterial overgrowth that can lead to serious illness.
Bunnies who refuse food are also likely to refuse water, and dehydration combined with low fiber intake can cause even worse problems. Without adequate hydration, the food sitting in the gut can dry out and become impacted, plugging up the GI tract. For rabbits, the king of all digestive disorders is gastrointestinal stasis, which is what occurs when the gastrointestinal tract stops working altogether. Symptoms of gastrointestinal stasis include loss of appetite, tiny or deformed fecal pellets, straining during bowel movements, and lethargy. If your rabbit has completely stopped producing fecal pellets, seek veterinary care immediately.
Gastrointestinal stasis is commonly caused by eating a diet low in fiber and water, yet high in sugar and starch. Courgette is a fabulous food for your rabbit—it is low in sugar, yet loaded with fiber and water! Though no food is as safe for your bun as hay, this summer squash is an excellent part of a balanced diet.
Things to Consider
Domesticated rabbits who eat lots of starchy fruits and vegetables are also prone to obesity, which causes even more health problems. Unlike more decadent rabbit treats such as bananas and mangos, courgette is low in calories and sugar, which makes it safer to give on a regular basis. 100 grams of fresh zucchini contains only 17 calories! This means that your rabbit doesn’t have to live on hay in order to lose weight. They can eat courgette and other low-calorie vegetables even when they have to eat fewer calories than usual.
Finally, courgette does offer small amounts of some nutrients that may help support overall health. By giving this vegetable to your bunny, you can boost their intake of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and even iron. Even though this food is a great supplement, it should not make up a large part of your pet’s diet—feeding your rabbit too much zucchini can cause nutritional imbalances and watery stool. If you notice that your bun produces watery pellets after eating zucchini, you may want to opt for vegetables that are higher in fiber.