Can Rabbits Have Cucumbers?
When we want cool and refreshing, we turn to cucumbers—and not just for cosmetic purposes. These juicy, delicious vegetables are well over 90% water, low in calories, and high in the fiber that Americans so desperately need. When we tell our doctors that we have started eating cucumbers, they are positively thrilled. Parents and pet owners alike rely on cucumbers in the summer to sneak more water to their children and their animal companions. Even if we can’t get our toddlers or our terriers to drink a glass of water, we can usually convince them to gobble up a couple slices of fresh cucumber!
But toddlers and terriers are easy to feed—they’ll eat anything. Those of us who have to raise rabbits have a more difficult time of figuring out which foods are safe. Bunnies have digestive systems that are, to put it simply, bizarre. So, can you give your rabbit cucumbers? Or should we find another watery vegetable to drop into their dish?
Good news: rabbits can eat cucumbers in small quantities. Unlike onions, garlic, and grapes, cucumbers are a completely nontoxic plant food; even if your rabbit gobbles up a little more than they should, they are unlikely to suffer from immediate kidney or liver problems. The high water content of cucumbers makes them an excellent choice for rabbits who need treats without a lot of sugar or calories—it’s hard to find a lower-calorie food than one that is roughly 96% water. So, if you want to feed your bun a safe, hydrating treat, a slice of cucumber is a good way to go.
Health Benefits of Feeding Your Rabbit Cucumbers
Though your rabbit should not eat them in large quantities, cucumbers are one of the healthier treat options for most rabbits. This is especially true if you’re comparing them to standard rabbit treats. Many of the treats available in pet stores are highly processed and loaded with starch that can cause obesity or digestive problems. In most cases, it’s a good move to opt for fresh fruits and vegetables instead of fluorescent green ‘rabbit pretzels’, yogurt drops, or carrot-shaped candies.
Cucumbers will not make or break your rabbit’s health, but they can be a healthy treat, and they may come in handy if your rabbit is dehydrated or struggling with mild constipation. Rabbits who eat too much starch and too little fiber often refuse to eat hay and drink water, which can result in constipation. Though fruits are high in fluids, they also contain large amounts of sugar that can make your rabbit’s digestive problems even worse.
This is where watery vegetables like cucumbers come in handy—even if your rabbit’s upset stomach causes them to turn their nose up at their usual fare, they may be willing to take in hydration in the form of sliced cucumbers. This may be able to introduce water into their system and get things running smoothly again.
However, if your rabbit is already dealing with moderate or severe constipation, you should take them to the veterinarian immediately. Bunnies who are straining or who have not had a bowel movement in over 12 hours need emergency veterinary care. Cucumbers alone are not enough to treat constipation or prevent serious complications. Left untreated, constipation can turn into a deadly condition called gastrointestinal stasis.
Gastrointestinal stasis happens when food stops flowing properly through the intestinal tract. It can often be caused by a blockage or hard, impacted, partially digested food that sits for too long inside the rabbit’s cecum. Left to sit, the impacted plant matter may become a breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria, which produce gas and toxins that can cause extreme pain and death. Even if gastrointestinal stasis does not kill your rabbit, an imbalance of unhealthy bacteria in the gut can result in permanent liver damage.
Things to Consider
Though cucumbers are a great way to keep your bun hydrated, they should not be fed to rabbits in large quantities. Your cotton-tailed companion thrives on diets high in hay, which provides all of the vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber that bunnies need to stay healthy. Just as the occasional slice of cucumber can help prevent constipation, too many slices of cucumber can disrupt digestion and result in diarrhea and other digestive problems.
If you notice that your rabbit’s fecal pellets have changed in number, shape, color, or texture since you started giving them cucumbers, lay off the fresh vegetables and consult a veterinarian. Because their digestive systems are so different from our own, many people who raise rabbits misinterpret changes in stool. It is always best to consult a veterinarian before trying to rectify your bun’s digestive problems on your own.
In conclusion, cucumbers are safe to be fed to rabbits as an occasional treat. They are low in calories and high in fluids, so they can aid in hydration without contributing to weight gain. Just remember that cucumbers should be a supplement and not a staple—too many watery vegetables can wreak havoc with your bun’s gastrointestinal tract.