Pet Consider

Can Rabbits Eat Peas?

Can Peas Have Peas?

Most green foods strike us as snack foods or appetizers rather than filling meals, but one of the biggest exceptions is green peas. Technically a legume, peas are little round seeds produced by pea plants. The little round seeds that we like to steam with carrots grow inside small, fibrous pea pods. Though some people eat whole pea pods as snacks (or mixed into salads and stir fries), peas are most often eaten after they are removed from the pods, tossed into a pot, and cooked with seasonings. Thanks to their high protein and mineral content, peas are an excellent source of nutrition for athletes and anyone looking to fill up on plant foods.

If you’re raising a furry little vegetarian, nutrient-dense plant foods like peas seem like a great way to help nourish your pet, but you have probably learned to be careful when introducing new foods to your pet’s diet. So, is it okay to put peas on your bun’s plate?
 
Can you give your rabbit peas? 

The answer is technically yes, but it is not generally recommended. Peas are not considered at all toxic to rabbits, so you need not panic if you have already dropped a couple of boiled or steamed peas into your furry friend’s dinner dish, but you should try not to make a habit of it. Despite the fact that peas make a fantastic, high-protein staple for most humans, they really are not suitable for regular rabbit consumption. If your cotton-tailed companion has a soft spot for these little green veggies, it is okay to use them as a treat, but you should not let them consume peas in large quantities.

Health Benefits?

peasBut aren’t peas loaded with nutrients? Well, yes. Peas are chock full of high-quality plant protein, which is why they are often recommended for athletes and growing children. We also place a strong emphasis on protein in the diets of our two most popular animal companions, cats and dogs, who are, respectively, carnivores and omnivores. Our cats and dogs thrive on moderate to high protein diets, and many of us have learned to equate protein with health and fitness. Dieticians, serial dieters, personal trainers, veterinarians, and TV doctors alike have long praised protein as the superior macronutrient, so it is understandable that we would be obsessed with figuring out how to make sure our pets eat a bunch of it.

Unfortunately, we really can’t trust our intuition when it comes to how best to feed our rabbits—protein is great for carnivores and omnivores, but it can cause serious problems if it is given to herbivores in large quantities. Rabbits, as grazing herbivores, have a very unique (and very fragile) digestive system that differs vastly from our own. The ideal bunny diet is built on plants that we would not even consider to be food, much less good sources of protein: hay and grass.

Whereas your physically active dog would probably benefit from small quantities of protein-rich vegetables such as peas, your bouncy bunny has no need for such calorie-dense foods. For a rabbit, the foundation of a healthy diet is not protein, but fiber. Fiber is important for human digestion, but rabbits literally cannot survive without it—their entire gastrointestinal tract needs large quantities of fiber to function properly.

Rabbits have a specialized organ called the cecum, where fiber ferments to release key vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Starchy vegetables like peas do not have enough fiber to properly stimulate the cecum, which can slow down the entire gastrointestinal tract. In addition to causing bloating and discomfort, poor gastrointestinal motility can lead to serious (and even life-threatening) health problems.

Things to Consider

Rabbits who do not consume adequate fiber may suffer from a condition called gastrointestinal stasis, which can be fatal. If your rabbit’s toilet habits change after they have eaten peas, stop feeding them starches and include more hay and water into their diet. If they go 12 hours without producing fecal pellets, take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Even if your rabbit consumes adequate fiber, starchy vegetables like peas can cause health problems when eaten in excess. Peas are much more calorically dense than standard rabbit food. If you make a habit of feeding your bun such energy-dense foods, they may begin to pack on the pounds. Rabbits are small creatures who don’t require many calories to maintain their weight, so it doesn’t take a lot of excess calories to result in obesity.

Final Thoughts

So, even though peas are not likely to poison your rabbit, it may be best to avoid feeding this food to your bun regularly. Peas are high in protein, starch, and calories, and relatively low in the dietary fiber that rabbits need to thrive. If your rabbit can handle small quantities of this food without suffering from digestive problems, feel free to use it as a treat, but don’t let it turn into a staple.

 

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