Can Rabbits Have Strawberries?
Few fruits are decadent enough to serve as dessert, but if we had to pick one festive fruit, it would probably be strawberries. These small, sweet red berries pair wonderfully with all sorts of our favorite treats—we use them in strawberry shortcakes, pies, brownies, cookies, and other baked goods. When the spring holidays roll around, we celebrate with fresh strawberries dipped in rich dark chocolate. But these flavorful fruits certainly are not junk food! During summertime, we love to eat strawberries in salads, smoothies, sliced atop hot or cold cereal bowls, and in sweet salsas. Arguably the best way to eat strawberries, however, is by themselves straight out of the basket.
Strawberries don’t need to be covered in chocolate and sugar to be delicious, so many of us turn to them when we are searching for healthier dessert options. For pet parents, their delicious-on-their-own qualities present another interesting idea: can we use them as dessert for our furry friends? Most of us are comfortable with feeding cats and dogs the occasional berry, but we are often more wary when it comes to our rabbits—they are so tiny and we are terrified of making them sick! So, what’s the general consensus on strawberries? Can you give your rabbit strawberries?
The answer is yes, rabbits can eat small quantities of strawberries for dessert. If you’re hunting for the perfect treat option for your bun, strawberries are an excellent choice—they are fairly low in calories, high in micronutrients and antioxidants, and most importantly, completely nontoxic. Even if your bun gobbles up too many strawberries in one sitting, they probably will not suffer any lasting health effects. Just remember that nontoxic is not the same as healthy; rabbits who eat large quantities of fruit usually suffer from digestive and other health problems.
As treats, strawberries are one of the healthier options available. Like all berries, they are chock full of beneficial micronutrients and phytochemicals that, combined with a healthy overall diet, can provide a little boost to your bun’s immunity and full-body health. This is because they are loaded with Vitamin C and other antioxidants, which protect the body from the negative effects of metabolic waste products known as free radicals.
Free radicals are very reactive particles. When they show up in your bunny’s body, they react with the only particles around them—and those particles happen to make up body cells. This can result in cell damage and genetic mutations that may lead to a wide range of diseases. Free radicals are thought to be big contributors to the cell damage that leads to cancer, arthritis, and even aging.
The antioxidants in strawberries help not by undoing cell damage, but by preventing it altogether. How? Antioxidants, unlike body cells, can react with free radicals without becoming severely damaged. Several studies have found that antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which means that they will no longer react with—and therefore damage—body cells. Your bun’s strawberry treats are not going to reverse the aging process, of course, but they may provide a little antioxidant boost that can help keep them spry and sharp into their later days.
When we are seeking to maximize the amount of micronutrients we consume, experts often tell us to ‘eat the rainbow.’ Our rabbits have different dietary needs than we do, but providing a variety of colorful whole foods for their desserts and ‘side dishes’ can help keep them healthy and happy—while staving off the boredom that comes with eating the same foods day after day!
Things to Consider
Though strawberries are full of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, they really should not make up a large portion of your rabbit’s caloric intake. Unlike humans, rabbits did not evolve to digest fruit—their gastrointestinal tracts are set up in such a way that they require huge amounts of cellulose and relatively small amounts of sugar. Strawberries are considered healthy foods to most of us, but they are much too high in sugar for regular rabbit consumption.
This is one reason why so many bunnies wind up overweight, obese, or seriously ill. Because fruits are healthy for us, we assume that they are safe indulgences for our rabbits. Unfortunately, feeding your rabbit more than two tablespoons of fruit per day will likely cause them to suffer from health problems. If your rabbit experiences weight gain, constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or any irregularities in their fecal pellets, stop giving them fruit and focus on hay. Hay is what rabbits need to be healthy!
Strawberries are a great treat for a healthy bunny. They are full of antioxidants, relatively low in calories, and easily digested in moderation. Moderation is, of course, the key word—if you feed your rabbit too much fruit on a regular basis, they may become overweight or develop gastrointestinal motility problems.