Pet Consider

Can Rabbits Eat Runner Beans?

Can Rabbits Have Runner Beans?

Many of the pets we share our homes with are fairly easy to feed—as long as you take the time and effort to do a little research, you can usually find high-quality kibble, wet food, or dried mixes that will meet all of the daily dietary needs of your cat, dog, hamster, or bird. We often treat our pets to small quantities of other animal-safe foods, but, for the most part, we are comfortable covering their key nutrients with these specially formulated mixes.

And then there are rabbits. While our other animal companions frequently eat dried food out of packages on a daily basis, rabbits have to eat fresh, high-quality roughage. Most rabbit parents are instructed to give their furry children mostly hay, but also to supplement their diet with moderate amounts of other fresh plant foods. Legumes are one of the healthiest plant foods for us humans, and runner beans grow in many of our backyard gardens, so they seem like a good candidate for our pets’ meals. Unlike more mild legumes, runner beans have a strong, distinctive flavor and a rough texture that is hard to ignore. But is this strong flavor indicative of something that might be dangerous to our pets? 
Can you give your rabbit runner beans?

The answer is no, rabbits should not eat any quantity of runner beans. While many plant foods are not recommended for rabbits due to their high starch or fat content—both of which are present in runner beans—this plant also contains substances that are quite toxic to rabbits. So, in addition to being an unhealthy food, runner beans are poisonous! If you have already given your furry friend a taste of runner beans, do not panic. It is possible that your rabbit will be able to tolerate a small quantity of this food without suffering any real consequences. Do not, however, let it become a habit!

Health Benefits?

runner beansEven aside from their toxicity, runner beans are not a great source of nutrition for rabbits. It is true that they contain many micronutrients that are beneficial to humans. In other foods, these nutrients are also very helpful for bunnies. Some nutrients found in runner beans, like Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and assorted antioxidants, are just as good for your bun as they are for you. Vitamin A plays a role in protecting and maintaining eye health, and Vitamin C helps to boost the immune system and fight disease. The antioxidants found in runner beans help combat free radicals, which reduces the risk of chronic disease and inflammation.

Unfortunately, for rabbits, runner beans are a poor vessel for these micronutrients. Like other legumes, they are high in starch and protein, yet low in the type of fiber that bunnies need to thrive. Rabbits are unique among herbivores. As grazers, they have evolved to eat not calorie-dense foods like nuts, seeds, and fruits, but low-calorie, high-cellulose foods such as hay and grass. Their gastrointestinal tract actually relies on indigestible fiber to run properly.

Rabbits have a special pocket inside their digestive tract called the caecum, where fiber is separated and fermented. The fiber sits inside of this pocket until it is digested by bacteria which release the nutrients, making them available for the rabbit’s body to absorb. The large amounts of fiber are what keep food flowing smoothly through the stomach, caecum, and intestines. Without large quantities of fiber, these organs can’t empty properly. As a result, digestion can stagnate, resulting in gastrointestinal motility problems that can range in seriousness from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening. If your rabbit has any digestive problems, they should only eat hay and water until the problems rectify themselves or you receive a diagnosis from a veterinarian.

Things to Consider

That said, the biggest reason to avoid giving your rabbit runner beans is the toxicity. While there are many foods that are unhealthy for rabbits because they can disrupt digestion, runner beans have the additional risk of causing toxicity. Many bunnies appear to be able to handle consuming a small amount of this bean on occasion, which may lead well-meaning pet parents to believe that it is safe.

Sadly, many pet parents have accidentally killed their pets by feeding them runner beans. Because rabbits are unable to vomit, toxic foods are even more dangerous for your bunny than they would be for your cat or dog, so it is up to you to keep these legumes out of their reach. If your rabbit has consumed a significant portion of runner beans, or if their behavior begins to change, seek veterinary care immediately.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, runner beans are not a safe food for rabbits to consume. They are too high in starch, too high in protein, too low in fiber, and full of toxic chemicals that can kill your rabbit in significant amounts. Keep this legume off your rabbit’s plate completely.

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