Can Rabbits Have Parsnips?
The stereotypical rabbit loves carrots, but so, too, does the average pet rabbit. Most rabbits will devour crunchy root vegetables with unmatched enthusiasm. Carrots are often considered safe bunny treats when they are fed in small doses, so what about their slightly less glamorous cousins? Parsnips are cream-colored root vegetables that are both affordable and easy to store, so they could be very convenient additions to your bun’s diet. But are they safe?
Can you give your rabbit parsnips?
The answer is yes, rabbits can eat parsnips in small quantities as treats. Just like carrots, parsnips are considered nontoxic, so there is no real risk of toxicity even if your furry friend winds up overindulging once or twice. If you’ve been feeding your rabbit a bunch of parsnips, you probably do not need to rush them off to the vet’s office, but you should dramatically decrease the amount of root vegetables they are eating. Even though parsnips and carrots are not poisonous, they remain one of the more decadent bunny food options, and they can cause health problems if they are fed in excess. Most rabbits should not eat more than one or two tablespoons of root vegetables per day. If your bunny is overweight, you should avoid root vegetables altogether.
The Vitamin C found in parsnips also serves as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are found in most plant foods, and they may benefit overall health in the long term. The antioxidants in parsnips can help keep your bun’s cells young and healthy by neutralizing highly charged metabolic waste products, called free radicals, that could otherwise damage the DNA stored within body cells. Free radical activity is thought to be at least partly responsible for a wide range of chronic and life-threatening conditions, including arthritis, many types of cancer, and even the cognitive decline associated with aging. Antioxidants will not grant your rabbit immortality, but they may reduce their chances of chronic disease.
There are, however, much better sources of antioxidants for rabbits. Though parsnips are safe to eat in small quantities, they are not the ideal rabbit food—they are much too high in sugar for our bunnies’ fragile digestive systems. Our rabbits are grazing herbivores who have evolved to eat diets that are extremely high in cellulose and extremely low in sugar (this is why your bun eats so much hay!).
Things to Considercecum to empty in a timely manner. If your rabbit eats a lot of starchy root vegetables, their digestion may grow sluggish, which can result in gastrointestinal motility problems. If your rabbit’s toilet habits change after you introduce parsnips to their diet, stop feeding them root vegetables and consult a veterinarian. Severe digestive problems can turn into gastrointestinal stasis, which can be fatal.
All that sugar can also lead to weight gain and obesity if you are not careful. Rabbits have very low calorie needs, so feeding them large amounts of starchy parsnips can easily result in overeating. If your rabbit is already overweight, opt for leafy greens instead of root vegetables. To make sure your rabbit doesn’t overeat, limit their parsnip portions to one or two tablespoons per day. Most of their food should be hay!
Overall, parsnips, like carrots, should be used as decadent bunny treats—they are nontoxic and usually well-tolerated in small quantities, but they can contribute to serious health problems when they are consumed in excess. As long as your rabbit is healthy and has access to plenty of hay and clean water, it should be okay to feed them small amounts of parsnip for dessert.