Pet Consider

Can Rabbits Eat Sweet Potatoes?

Can Rabbits Have Sweet Potatoes?

One of the defining characteristics of humans is our love for carbohydrates. Whereas many of the most-feared carnivores in the forest have no interest in donuts, bread, or sweet peas, we can’t get enough of these foods. It’s true that most of us love sweets loaded with simple sugars more than healthier carbohydrate sources, but most of us can get pretty excited over wholesome carbohydrates such as whole grains, bananas, and of course, potatoes. Potatoes are cheap, versatile, bland foods that work well as a carbohydrate source for almost everyone. In the era of low-carb diets, many of us opt for sweet potatoes, which are richer in micronutrients and lower in calories.

Sweet potatoes are often touted as being the perfect healthy source of carbohydrates. They are popular among athletes (particularly runners, cyclists, and bodybuilders), health food fanatics, and anyone who has ever needed to put together a Thanksgiving dinner that was both festive and healthful. Almost everyone can stand to eat more sweet potatoes. This food shows up in baby food, pet treats, and even in higher-quality brands of dog food, which makes it seem to be a safe option for all of our furry friends. But what about our long-eared, twitchy-nosed animal companions? 
 
Can you give your rabbit sweet potato?

The answer will probably surprise you: no, rabbits should not eat sweet potato. While it is unlikely that your bunny will drop dead after gobbling up a scoop of baked sweet potato—sweet potatoes are not technically toxic to rabbits—they may suffer from unpleasant side effects. Sweet potatoes are starchy vegetables, which can cause digestive problems for rabbits if they are fed in large quantities or over a long period of time. If your rabbit seems to tolerate small portions of sweet potatoes without digestive distress or weight gain, it probably will not hurt them to continue using it as a treat. However, sweet potatoes are not generally considered a suitable food for rabbits, so they are best avoided.

Health Benefits?

Sweet potatoesAre there any potential benefits to feeding your rabbit sweet potatoes? Well, there is a reason why we humans consider them to be superfoods—they are quite high in many important micronutrients, including beta-carotene, Vitamin C, manganese, B vitamins, potassium, and fiber.

Like many orange vegetables, sweet potatoes are excellent sources of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body, can help support eye health. Fortunately, Vitamin A deficiency is exceedingly low in rabbits, and your bun should be able to get plenty of this key micronutrient by eating an overall healthy diet.

Sweet potatoes are full of nutrition, but, in reality, it is unlikely that your rabbit could safely eat enough of them to meet any of their nutrient needs. The only way sweet potatoes seem like a ‘good’ food for rabbits is if they are compared to plain white potatoes. Compared to standard potatoes, sweet potatoes are lower in calories and higher in fiber, which makes them safer for rabbit consumption.

Sweet potatoes may be higher in fiber than other potatoes, but they still do not contain enough fiber for most rabbits. While most animals (including humans!) could probably benefit from eating some extra fiber, rabbits literally need it to survive. While dogs can follow diets that are similar to those of humans, rabbits have very different dietary needs thanks to their unique, fragile digestive systems.

Rabbits have a large pouch in their gut called the caecum, which is essentially a large pouch that holds on to fiber. Inside the caecum, fiber is mixed with gut bacteria and fermented, which releases many of the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids your bun needs to survive. The presence of fiber is what stimulates the gastrointestinal tract to continue pushing food through in a timely manner. If your bun does not eat enough fiber, digestion stagnates, which can cause problems.

Things to Consider

Some rabbits suffer from digestive problems because they lose their appetite and stop eating, but many gastrointestinal problems are caused by consuming too many sugary or starchy foods. Sweet potatoes are high in sugar, yet relatively low in fiber, which can throw your rabbit’s digestion into disorder. If your rabbit has a poor appetite, runny stool, or has not been producing as many fecal pellets as they usually do, you shouldn’t give them any starchy foods. Rabbits who haven’t had a bowel movement in 12 hours should be examined by a veterinarian immediately. If left untreated, gastrointestinal motility disorders can cause permanent damage—or even kill your rabbit.

Final Thoughts

In the end, it probably is not a good idea to feed your rabbit sweet potato with any regularity. This food is quite high in sugar and calories, yet low in the dietary fiber rabbits need to thrive. While technically not poisonous, sweet potatoes and other vegetables are generally more trouble than they are worth.

 

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