Can Rabbits Have Pumpkin?
Though many of the desserts we bake it into are unhealthy, pumpkin itself is considered by many to be a superfood. As a vegetable, it seems like the perfect way to treat our vegetarian bunnies to the festive flavors of fall! We are, however, understandably anxious—our rabbits are strange, mysterious little creatures with strange, mysterious little digestive systems. So, is this orange vegetable as innocent as it seems? Is a lump of canned pumpkin the key to celebrating fall holidays with your bun?
Can you give your rabbit pumpkin?
The answer is yes, rabbits can eat small quantities of pumpkin as a treat. Like broccoli, bell peppers, and many other vegetables, pumpkins do not contain any substances thought to be toxic to bunnies. Even if your rabbit overdoes the pumpkin once or twice, they probably will not suffer from any serious or long-term side effects. A bit of unseasoned, unsweetened pumpkin is an excellent way to give your bunny all the pleasure of a pumpkin pie without all the junk. Just keep in mind that pumpkin is a treat food, not a dietary mainstay—your rabbit will probably get sick if they eat large amounts of this sweet squash.
There may be some small health benefits to including foods such as pumpkin in your bun’s diet. This is especially true if you are using pure pumpkin in place of highly processed, corn-based rabbit treats. Many of the treats available on store shelves are pressed into fun shapes to appeal to bunny parents’ sense of fun, but, thanks to large amounts of starch and not much else, they aren’t actually all that great for your rabbit’s health.
Pumpkin, on the other hand, is naturally sweet, low in calories, and rather high in fiber (as sweet foods go). Unlike artificially dyed corn treats, pumpkin gets its brilliant hue from naturally occurring beta carotene, which bunnies convert into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is necessary to maintain optimal eye health, proper bone development, reproductive health, and a strong immune system.
Buns who don’t get enough Vitamin A often suffer from an increased risk of infection, and are far more likely to develop enteritis, which occurs when the lining of the gastrointestinal tract becomes inflamed. Your rabbit’s daily diet should meet their Vitamin A requirements—if it isn’t, you are not feeding them properly!—but orange vegetables like pumpkin can be a sweet, enjoyable way to boost your bun’s beta carotene intake.
As nutritious as pumpkin is, it should not provide a significant portion of your furry friend’s daily caloric intake. Pure pumpkin is much healthier than processed rabbit treats, but it is still inadequate rabbit food. Bunnies love the sugary sweetness of pumpkin and other sweet veggies, but it really isn’t healthy for them.
Things to Consider
Feeding your rabbit too much pumpkin can also cause severe digestive problems. The rabbit gastrointestinal tract relies on fiber to keep moving food through the body. Without adequate fiber to stimulate digestion, food can sit stagnant inside your bun’s gut for long periods of time. If this is left unaddressed, it can become a serious, life-threatening problem. If your rabbit has started to refuse food and water, strains to pass stool, or hasn’t had a bowel movement in 12 hours, seek veterinary care.
In sum, pumpkin is a perfectly safe treat option for your rabbit, but it should not be the foundation of their diet. Most of your bun’s calories should come from hays, grasses, and leafy greens. So, by all means, treat your rabbit to a scoop of pumpkin puree. Just make sure that they don’t end up overdoing it!