Can Rabbits Have Sweet Potatoes?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.
Are 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
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.