An apple a day keeps the doctor away, or so they say. Apples taste great, come in many varieties, and are sold at even the most basic grocery stores. They are a staple food of American cuisine, sold in many forms such as applesauce and apple juice.
So, it is only natural we would like to share with our pets. "Can bunnies eat apples" is a pretty common question we get. The answer is an absolute yes! But there is a caveat in that it is only to be offered as a treat food.
There are also certain parts of the apple you should not feed your rabbit. As the article moves on, we will get into all of that, so stick with us to learn all you need to know about safely giving your rabbit apples.
Can Rabbits Eat Apples?
Yes, rabbits can eat apples. It is a healthy, low-calorie treat for your bunny. The skin is also edible; however, the stem, leaves, and seeds all contain cyanide and are toxic to rabbits. Also, follow our feeding guidelines as overfeeding apples may cause dental issues, obesity, diarrhea, and upset stomach, among other possible health risks.
Apples are categorized as treats, they should not account for more than 10% of the rabbit’s daily caloric intake
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Always keep in mind that 85-90% of your bunny's daily food intake should comprise good-quality hay that offers them the nutrients they need, keeps their teeth trimmed, and digestion working.
Different varieties of apples are OK, too. Granny Smith, Ambrosia, Jazz, Honeycrisp, Red Delicious, Fuji, and Cortlands are all OK. There are many more varieties than that as well; if your grocery store carries it, consider it safe so long as you wash and prepare it correctly. However, if given a choice, opt for the sweet-tasting types that are less acidic.
Rabbits really do love apples and will eat them en masse, so make sure you limit their intake. Also, baby rabbits are not capable of eating apples. Their digestive system is not equipped to handle all food just yet. As a result, you should avoid giving your baby rabbit apples until the age of 12 weeks, and always start slowly when it comes to something new they haven't tried before.
Can Rabbits Eat Apple Skin, Core, Seeds, Stems, or Leaves?
That said, rabbits can definitely enjoy apples; the skin and crisp part of the fruit is not toxic to rabbits at all. Skins are OK – you just have to make sure to rinse the fruit first in a thorough manner so that any pesticides, dirt, or germs are washed away before serving.
The core is something you should avoid. Rabbits are capable of eating the core, but the seeds need to be avoided.
The problem with seeds is that they do contain amygdalin, which forms hydrogen cyanide after ingestion. The amount of cyanide in one apple seed is minute and will not cause harm- not even to a rabbit- but it is best to avoid taking the risk.
For example, a small rabbit weighing in at 3lb would need 14.25 apple seeds to cause a fatality. But still, make absolutely certain you don't give your rabbit the seeds. Meanwhile, stems should also be avoided.
Both seeds and stems contain poisonous properties that could make your pet very sick. This is known as cyanogenic glycosides and can cause your rabbit to drop its heart rate, experience respiratory congestion, diarrhea, vomiting, or upset stomach.
If you suspect your rabbit has eaten any apple seeds and you see any of these signs, contact a vet for further instructions.
Apple leaves are OK for your rabbit to eat. However, there could be pesticides on the leaves if you get a piece of the fruit from the grocery store with the leaf still attached, so it's best just to pick it off and discard it.
Although rabbits can certainly eat apples, it's important that they are not considered a staple food and fed in too large quantities to prevent health issues. There are some health risks we'll get into later on, but first, let's talk about why apples can be a healthy treat for your bun.
Read on to understand all you need to know.
Health Benefits: Are Apples Good for Rabbits?
Yes, apples are good for rabbits in that they are a sweet treat and offer a source of enrichment to your rabbit. It is a special treat they can look forward to every now and then.
Apples are the perfect mixture of healthy carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, phenols, antioxidants, and dietary fiber.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Aside from making your rabbit happy, apples offer some great health benefits. Let's take a look at them now:
Helps with Digestion
Apples are a natural source of fiber, which is necessary, so your rabbit stays in good shape, avoids problems like obesity, and avoids GI Stasis. Bunnies are used to a diet rich in fiber, so apples make a great addition as an occasional treat.
If your bunny doesn't get enough fiber in their diet, they could suffer from something called gut stasis which is a possibly fatal condition where the digestion slows down or stops completely.
Signs of GI stasis include:
- reduced appetite
- no droppings
If you suspect your rabbit is suffering from it, contact a vet for help.
Helps Your Rabbit Hydrate
It's no secret that rabbits need water to stay healthy, and apples can help them achieve that. In addition to fiber, water is also needed to keep the digestion working as it should. And as apples contain a good amount of water, they provide some extra hydration for your bun.
Apples can't be a substitute for water, however. Make sure you always provide your rabbit with an unlimited supply of clean water.
Your Rabbit Can Get Potassium
Rabbits need potassium to keep their bodies functioning normally. According to one study, a rabbit lacking sufficient potassium underwent muscular dystrophy that rapidly progressed, and death occurred in 6 weeks or less.
Inside, the rabbit suffered hemorrhages of the stomach, pale and swollen kidneys, concretions of the gall bladder, and other ailments. Potassium is necessary so that rabbits have full use of their muscles and the nerves in their body, as well as a regular heartbeat.
Although a balanced diet should offer your rabbit everything it needs nutrition-wise, a little extra potassium from apples will certainly not hurt them and can actually be a good thing.
They contain antioxidants to aid in your rabbit's good health
Apples contain a lot of antioxidants. They help prevent cancer cell growth and also reduce lipid oxidation. Antioxidants are also good for the immune system of your rabbit.
Apples are also rich in phenols. They are phytonutrients known for their anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
Health Risks: Are Apples Bad for Rabbits?
Apples are great for bunnies when we feed them according to guidelines – that is, we think of them as a special treat to give our pets on an intermittent basis.
Although beneficial in many ways, apples do also come with some health risks you should be aware of before feeding.
Below, you will find the risks associated with offering your rabbit apples too often:
Can Upset Their Stomach
Too much of a good thing can really have dire consequences, as is the case with apples and rabbits. A medium apple 3 inches in diameter contains 19g of sugar.
Should your rabbit eat all the crisp part of the apple, that's a lot of natural sugar and can upset your rabbit's stomach. Bunnies have very delicate digestive systems that are not designed to handle large amounts of sugary foods. Therefore, it's not a good idea to feed your bun too much apple – or too often.
Your Rabbit Might Prefer High Sugar Foods
If your bunny is constantly served sweet and highly palatable foods, they might turn away from their proper diets of hay, pellets, and water. Because they fill up their tummies with treats, they lose interest in the foods they actually need to stay healthy.
Not getting enough hay may lead to gut stasis, which is a possibly fatal condition we discussed earlier. Another risk is malnourishment.
Bunnies are designed to eat a lot of hay, which provides them with many of the important nutrients they need. Not eating enough hay means your pet will not be getting the vitamins and minerals it needs, which leads to nutrient deficiencies and malnourishment. Therefore, you need to ensure you keep apples only as treats and not as a staple food.
Sugar Is A Tooth Decayer
Your rabbit's teeth matter. Because of the natural sugar in apples, decay can occur if your rabbit eats too much of it. It is one more reason why you should keep your rabbit's diet to that of hay, pellets, and water with the occasional treat. Hay helps promote dental health in rabbits by keeping their teeth clean, healthy, and trimmed.
Diabetes and Obesity Risk
Because apples are high in sugar, weight gain, obesity, and diabetes are a risk to rabbits. Obesity results when pets consume more calories than they burn and gain weight. Because many indoor pets get limited exercise, their diet should be carefully monitored to ensure they are not eating too much.
Diabetes is rare in rabbits, but make sure you are feeding a proper diet to avoid the risk altogether.
Some Parts Are to Be Avoided
Remember, cores, seeds, and stems are not OK for rabbits. Because they contain cyanide, they can be poisonous to bunnies when ingested in large amounts.
You have to be mindful and careful of how you prepare the apple for your rabbit to ensure they don't accidentally eat any of these undesirable parts.
Feeding Guidelines: Apples for Rabbits
As long as they are used in moderation, and the stems, seeds, and leaves removed, apples are a safe and beneficial treat for rabbits.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
How Much Apple Can I Give My Rabbit?
One or two slices is OK for your rabbit. Make sure to leave the skins on, as that is where the bulk of the nutrients are contained.
Other apple products like apple sauce and apple juice are not recommended as they usually have added sugar. Canned apples are also off-limits because of the high sugar content, but dried apples are okay as long as they are not additionally sweetened.
How Often Can I Feed My Rabbit Apple?
Once a week is ideal for giving your rabbit their treat. Fruit and similar treats should be used sparingly as part of your rabbit's diet because they are high in sugar and will cause health issues if fed too often.
How to Prepare Apples for Rabbits?
- Begin by shopping for apples that look good in the grocery store. Look for apples free of spoilage and mold. It is always best to go organic if you can- or if you can pick apples at an orchard, opt for that.
- Once you get the apples home, wash them, even if you don't plan on serving them that day. It will ensure the apples are safe when you are ready to feed.
- Once you are ready to serve the apples, safely use a corer or a knife to cut two small slices of apple from the fruit.
- Inspect it carefully to ensure no pieces of seeds, stems, or core are left behind.
- Then cut it into smaller pieces for your rabbit and place it in the enclosure.
- Remove anything your rabbit does not eat after about an hour to ensure the apple doesn't go bad and spread bacteria or mold in your rabbit's food dish.
According to the USDA, here are the nutrition facts for a 3 inch in diameter, medium apple:
- Calories 95
- Fat .3g
- Sodium 2mg
- Potassium 195mg
- Carb 25g
- Sugar 19g
- Protein .5g
Apples also contain these helpful vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B-6
As you can see, apples are very nutritious but also high in sugar. Although they can provide your pet with many useful vitamins and minerals, the sugar content means they can only be served as an occasional treat.
Yes, thankfully, rabbits and apples are compatible. They make a fine treat to cut up and share with your furry, long-eared friend once a week.
As with other delicious treats, moderation is the key to success. Make sure that each day you provide your rabbit
- unlimited hay
- fresh water
- a small cup of pellets
- a small amount of healthy greens and veggies.
Apples and other such high-sugar fruits should only be served as a treat.
Doing otherwise might seem fun, like you are helping your rabbit to enjoy food and life more. But the result is actually quite the opposite- you would be doing your rabbit a disservice and quite possibly getting them very sick. So, keep it to a minimum, and both of you will be a lot happier.
Your rabbit enjoys munching on fruits, particularly apples, but you are not sure how to incorporate this sugary fruit into its diet.
Well, since on the rabbit food pyramid, apples are categorized as treats, they should not account for more than 10% of the rabbit’s daily caloric intake. Simply put, rabbits can safely eat one to two slices of apples per week.
As long as they are used in moderation, and the stems, seeds, and leaves removed, apples are a safe and beneficial treat for rabbits. Apples are the perfect mixture of healthy carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, phenols, antioxidants, and dietary fiber.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Ivana Crnec is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine specialized in domestic carnivores. She graduated from the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. Ivana is a certified canine nutritionist and also certified in HAACP food safety system implementation. She currently works as a veterinarian while completing her postgraduate studies. Her research has been published in international journals.
NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your rabbit’s specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.