Can Rabbits Have Peppers?vegetables we eat for the nutrition, some vegetables we eat as part of the main course, and some vegetables we use mostly for their ability to add flavor and texture to otherwise bland dishes. One of the vegetables we like to add to soups, salads, and wraps is peppers—they’re colorful, they’re full of flavor, and they add a unique texture to almost any dish you add them to. Those of us who love to cook often have peppers lurking somewhere in our refrigerator. These delicious, nutritious vegetables appear in many of our favorite lunches and dinners, but can we share them with our pets?
We generally have a pretty good idea of how to feed our dogs (they aren’t that different from us!) and our cats (they’re carnivores), but once we bring other animals into our homes, things get complicated. We know that cartoon rabbits thrive on all-carrot diets, but reality is not a cartoon. So, is it safe to feed our furry friends the leftover peppers in our crisper? Can rabbits eat peppers?
Can you give your rabbit peppers?
The answer depends on the type of pepper. The word ‘pepper’ is used to refer to a wide range of different vegetables. Some of these veggies are perfectly safe and even healthy for your bun to consume in moderation, but others can cause serious health problems even if they are fed in small quantities. As a general rule, most sweet peppers (such as bell peppers) are safe for rabbits, whereas most hot peppers (such as cayenne and habanero) are not. It is always a good idea to avoid giving your rabbit any food that is spicy enough to make your nose run and your eyes water. To keep your furry friend safe from serious gastrointestinal problems, stick with sweet bell peppers.
What are the health benefits of these safe, sweet bell peppers, and just how many of them can you give your bun?
Sweet bell peppers are considered excellent rabbit treats mostly because of their low calorie and moderate fiber content. Rabbits have evolved to eat diets that include large quantities of ‘indigestible’ fiber—this is why your pet has to eat tons of hay in order to maintain health. The largest part of the rabbit’s digestive system is devoted to fiber; it is a big, thin-walled organ called the cecum, where indigestible plant material is mixed with bacteria until it begins to ferment. The fermentation process is what releases many necessary vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
In addition to providing nutrition, dietary fiber is what actually keeps food flowing through your rabbit’s gastrointestinal tract. This is what makes their digestion so fragile. Treats that are low in fiber and high in sugar, like bananas, potatoes, nuts, and processed foods such as pasta, do not contain enough fiber to stimulate the stomach and the cecum. This means that these organs fail to empty as promptly as they should, which can cause serious health problems.
To prevent gastrointestinal problems, many bunny parents opt for treats that are relatively low in sugar and relatively high in fiber. This is where sweet bell peppers come in: though they have a lightly sweet flavor, they also contain some fiber, and they are fairly low in starch. Most rabbits can eat them in moderation without any digestive problems.
Things to Considermicronutrients, but red bell peppers contain them in higher concentrations than the other colors. This is due to their level of ripeness.
Spicy peppers, on the other hand, can be dangerous. There are not too many studies on the effects of hot peppers on bunny health, but the risks outweigh any potential benefits. Spicy foods like jalapenos and chili peppers can cause severe digestive distress in fairly small quantities, and therefore should be completely avoided. If your rabbit ingests jalapenos, chili peppers, or any other spicy food, monitor them carefully for several days after the fact. If their fecal pellets change in shape, color, or frequency, it may be a good idea to consult a veterinarian. A rabbit with an upset stomach may refuse food and water, which can cause gastrointestinal motility problems.
In the end, the answer to the question ‘should I feed my rabbit peppers?’ depends entirely on the pepper in question. Sweet peppers, such as red bell peppers, are considered safe and healthy treats for rabbits—they are high in fiber, low in calories, and usually well tolerated. Hot peppers, such as jalapenos, are usually more trouble than they are worth. If you decide to treat your rabbit to some sweet peppers, just remember that they are, in fact, treats; most of your rabbit’s diet should consist of hay.