They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. And vets are technically doctors … so can rabbits eat apples? The short answer is yes, but there’s a lot more to it. We’re going to look at why apples are good for your bunny, and we’ll check out other fruits that are safe for rabbits.
Can Rabbits Eat Apples?
The largest part of a rabbit’s diet is high-protein hay. Options include timothy, alfalfa, and oat hay, and your bunny needs a daily serving that’s roughly the size of its own body. You can offer fruits in small amounts because that fructose can quickly pile on the pounds! Can rabbits eat apples? Yes! They also eat pineapples, pears, plums, bananas, and watermelons.
Other options include mangoes, apricots, strawberries, kiwi fruit, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, and peaches. Their skin and peels are safe, but you should never let your rabbit eat the pits or seeds. They can be a choking hazard, and some have potentially poisonous bits and natural chemicals built in. Tart fruits are good since less sugar means better health.
Ordinarily, we worry about feeding apples to pets because apple seeds have cyanide, and it’s toxic. In humans, you’d have to eat 100+ apples to feel the poison, but pets can die from a lot less. So when you feed apples to your rabbit, remove the seeds and apple stems. Cut apples into cubes or slices for easy consumption, and serve them fresh – they’ll oxidize in minutes!
Ideally, your rabbit should only eat apples once or twice a week. And it shouldn’t be a whole apple – just one or two slices in total. You must core the apple, but you don’t have to peel it. Wash it carefully though, to get rid of any dirt or pesticides that may have settled on the rind. The fruit offers fiber and antioxidants, and it tastes amazing too, so your bunny will love it.
Fruits for Fluffy Friends
How much fruit should your rabbit eat? On average, serve a teaspoon worth of fruit for every two pounds of your bunny’s body weight. So an 8lb bunny can handle 4 teaspoons of fruit per week. And if you’re into the metric system, that’s about 1 teaspoon per kilo. Measuring a teaspoon of fruit is tricky, so you can use grams (5g = 1tsp) or fluid ounces (0.17oz = 1tsp).
For apples, your rabbit should eat a maximum of two slices per week. On fruity days, check whether your bunny has diarrhea or excess stool. These can hint at how well your rabbit is responding to this intensely saccharine treat. And for fruits with a higher water content like watermelons, you can offer a slightly larger serving – one tablespoon per kilo of body weight.
Also, while tart or unripe fruits have less sugar, they have the same number of calories, so don’t overdo them! The upside to unripe fruit is their sugar is still in its complex carb form. This offers more fiber for your bunny, even though the calories are the same. Unripe fruits also take longer to digest, so they’re less likely to be stored as fat or cause obesity.
If you’re still uneasy about fruit portions, remember that fruit may be healthy for humans, but it’s junk food for rabbits. The pillars of rabbit nutrition are protein and fiber, so don’t stuff your bunny with comfort food and snacks. Once or twice a week is fine. Offer enough fruit for a single sitting and toss any leftovers since fruit goes bad quickly and it can attract pests.
Toothy Tips for Bunnies
Rabbits are rodents, and their teeth never stop growing. If they get too big, they can be painful and prevent the rabbit from eating or grooming. Overgrown incisors can curl while over-sharp molars (called spurs) can hurt your bunny’s tongue and cheeks. A healthy hay diet helps to keep a bunny’s teeth at the right size and avoids any lethal dental problems.
While the crunch of apples is deeply satisfying, you can achieve a similar texture by offering a vegetable like a carrot, celery, or broccoli. They hit the sweet spot but are less calorie-dense than fruits. You can also offer commercial rabbit pellets. They provide fiber, nutrients, and crustiness. Your rabbit needs fresh water every day, so juicy fruits provide an extra benefit.
Rabbits do have a significant sweet tooth, but their bodies are too small to handle that kind of sugar. They shouldn’t eat apples or fruits for two days in a row, but a teaspoonful (or 5g) on alternate days is fine. Apples are recommended because they have fiber, potassium, Vitamins A, B, C, E, K, and other minerals. But too much Vitamin C can hurt bunny kidneys.
Of Farmers and Furrents
A lot of us keep a pet rabbit, but commercial farmers rear them for meat and fur. When you’re raising rabbits for agricultural purposes, you probably have a hundred or more. So it wouldn’t make financial sense to feed them apples regularly. But if you have a pet bunny or three, it’s not a stretch to have some fruit in their daily diet. There are some caveats though.
Bunnies – even larger breeds like Flemish Giants – are compact creatures. Their puffy bodies are mostly fur, but rabbits have a feed-to-meat ratio of 4:1. They also grow quite fast, and in commercial settings, rabbits can be harvested as early as 12 weeks for fryers. Rabbit meat is characteristically lean and they don’t have much body fat. But they can easily get overweight.
That’s the main pressure point for fruity diets. They have a high sugar content and lots of calories, so if you offer too many to your bunny, they can gain unnecessary weight that could harm their health. This excess weight can cause problems like heart disease and fatty liver issues known as hepatic lipidosis. This causes jaundice, with yellow eyes and skin. It can kill.
If your rabbit gets too fat, it may also struggle with pododermatitis aka urine burns. Since the bunny has excess folds in its skin, it can’t clean itself as effectively, especially in its nether regions. Moisture can build up inside those flaps of flesh and scald your bunny’s bottom. It can also happen if your bunny’s body is so bulky that the bunny can’t angle itself to groom.
Overweight bunnies may also experience sticky-bottom syndrome. Because they’re eating too many calories, they poop a lot, and more of their droppings are cecal. Cecal droppings aka night feces come from food that isn’t fully digested. They have a different texture and a stronger stench, so they attract more pests like flies. These flies can give your bunny flystrike.
For reference, rabbits excrete a mixture of regular droppings and cecal droppings. It’s why they eat their poop – the cecotropes offer essential nutrients, and this rabbit habit is called coprophagia. But since cecal poo is so attractive to parasites, you want to minimize that type of poop by giving your bunnies just enough food and not splurging on sweets and calories.
Flystrike aka myiasis is a condition where flies lay eggs on your bunny’s bottom. The eggs hatch and slither up your rabbit’s digestive tract, feeding on its insides. Others will feast on your rabbit’s skin. Myiasis can be fatal in as little as 24 hours, so you need your bunny to ingest its cecotropes. If the bunny has a sticky bum, it means they’re not eating them all.
High-fiber dishes are better for safe elimination. Another issue that could result from obesity is poor hygiene. Rabbits are a lot like cats, so they sleep and groom a lot. But if your bunny gets too chunky, it can’t easily reach its rear end. And since its bottom isn’t as clean, your bunny is prone to sticky bottom and other parasites. For these reasons, apples are a treat.
The Rear End of Things
If you watch your rabbit at mealtimes, you may think the poor thing is starving! Bunnies are enthusiastic eaters, which is why it’s so easy to overfeed them. But as your vet might tell you, rabbits get the bulk of their nutrition from the cecotropes in their night poop. It’s a bit like chewing cud for cows. So don’t overdo their fruity feasts. Instead, check the bunny’s bedding.
Rabbits only eat their cecal droppings – the ones they excrete at night. You can identify them because they have a different shape from regular poop. They’re also stickier and more stinky. Ideally, there should be no cecal poop in your bunny’s bed because they eat it all up. You can also check your bunny’s bottom since the bunny eats cecotropes while grooming.
So if the rabbit isn’t on track with its coprophagia, its rear end will be slick and sticky with uneaten cecotropes. Also, if you’re overfeeding your rabbit – especially with sugary snacks – they can’t digest their food efficiently, so they’ll produce more night poop than they can eat. Reduce its saccharine portions and ask your veterinarian if you need to take further steps.
Also, don’t give your bunny grains or dairy. Rabbits don’t have the digestive juice for carbs, and they don’t need milk after they’re weaned. As an aside, rabbits should never drink cow milk. If you need to substitute nutrition from your bunny mama, try kitten milk instead. You can buy it at most pet stores. And for the record, your cats shouldn’t drink cow milk either!
What’s Apple, Doc?
Can rabbits eat apples? Yes, and they love it! But remember to take out all the seeds, stems, and leaves. Limit your bunny’s intake to two slices a week, and cut them into small portions so your rabbit can nibble in comfort. They can eat the peel but wash it carefully to remove residue. Don’t overdo the sweet treats or your cuddly buddy may end up being obese!
Does your bunny enjoy apples? What kind do s/he like? Tell us all about it in the comments!