Nature designed rabbits to eat only plant-based matter, meaning they are pure herbivores. Their diet will consist of mostly grass and seeds, supplemented by leafy green veggies and berries when they can be found out in the wild.
Our domesticated pals are a joy to watch as they munch, and it can be very tempting to feed them morsels of human foods on top of their regular hay. But not every vegetable that is good for us is good for rabbits. Some are even toxic, and it's important to know what is safe to feed, and what is not.
Can Rabbits Eat Broccoli?
Yes, rabbits can eat broccoli. In moderation, broccoli can be a healthy treat that provides C, K, and B Vitamins and other nutrients. However, the starch and sugars in broccoli give rabbits digestive problems and gas. Broccoli is also high in calcium, so stick to our feeding instructions to avoid urinary stones or bladder sludge.
Broccoli can make a nice treat every now and then for your bunny.
- Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM
Most rabbits absolutely love the taste, gorging themselves on broccoli stalks, leaves, and flowers when given half a chance. But broccoli is only good for rabbits in moderate amounts, and it's best to avoid the thicker stems and flowers altogether.
If you can get hold of them, broccoli leaves are the best part to feed to your rabbit. It is particularly true if your rabbit has a sensitive tummy, or has had digestive issues before.
Health Benefits: Is Broccoli Good for Rabbits?
Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family and is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can find on your supermarket shelves.
Many of the benefits it has for us humans apply to bunnies too.
Broccoli is a Vitamin C Bomb
At 89.2 mg per every 100 grams, this vegetable is literally bursting with vitamin C. For this reason alone, regularly feeding your rabbit some broccoli is worth it unless your rabbit has some contraindicative health issues.
Vitamin C is one of the essential vitamins and has a vital role to play in the body. It is a powerful antioxidant that works to keep your rabbit's immune system strong. It gives your rabbit better resistance when fighting off disease, bacteria, and parasitic infections.
This vitamin also promotes faster healing of wounds and will help your rabbit quickly recover from the little scrapes and wear and tear of life. If your bunny is eating a balanced diet, it's already getting a good amount of vitamin C, but some extra never hurts.
Excellent Source of Vitamin K
Another solid reason to feed some broccoli to your precious bunny is the vitamin K that it contains. Vitamin K is not a single vitamin, but rather a group of fat-soluble vitamins that have a significant role in keeping the body functioning normally.
Vitamin K is essential for proper blood clotting. A lack of vitamin K in the body can result in uncontrolled bleeding whenever there is any cut or injury. The injury will take much longer to seal itself off and heal, potentially leading to infection and other complications.
Your rabbit needs vitamin K in its diet, and broccoli is a great way to add some while providing taste and variety too. The trick is simply not to feed too much in one go.
Broccoli Contains Many of the B Vitamins Too
The concentrations are smaller than those of vitamin C and vitamin K, but the B vitamins are present in broccoli in decent amounts. B vitamins have several important roles in the body from converting food into energy to maintaining healthy nerves and digestion.
The B vitamins also contribute to manufacturing red blood cells and keeping your rabbit's immune system strong. They contribute toward healthy fur and nails, and also help keep your rabbit's skin healthy.
Broccoli contains good amounts of vitamin B6, Pantothenic acid and riboflavin, and smaller quantities of some other B vitamins. Adding some broccoli to your rabbit's diet will help make sure your pet is getting adequate amounts of these essential vitamins.
Good Balance of Essential Minerals
The vitamin concentration broccoli offers is already awesome. But add to that the fact that it contains all the essential minerals your rabbit needs in decent amounts, and you get a super-food.
Broccoli provides high amounts of phosphorus, manganese, and potassium, and all the other essential minerals, too, although in smaller quantities. Feeding your pet rabbit broccoli offers a lot of nutritive value with minimal calories, especially from sugar.
Related reading: Best Rabbit Food Pellets
Health Risks: Is Broccoli Bad For Rabbits?
So if broccoli is such an excellent super-food for rabbits, why do we keep saying it needs to be fed in moderation? It's true that broccoli is very nutritious, and that most rabbits love the stuff. But there are a couple of reasons why feeding too much will only land your bunny in trouble.
Baby and juvenile rabbits are best without, and the same applies if your rabbit has a history of digestive problems.
Broccoli is a 'Gassy' Vegetable
It may be a super-food, but broccoli doesn't come without its downsides. Anybody that has eaten this veggie in sufficient amounts can tell you about the gas and bloating afterward. Not fatal (at least for us humans), but not pleasant either.
With rabbits, it's the starch and sugars found in broccoli that messes up their digestive systems. They upset the balance of a rabbit's natural gut flora and bacteria, causing gas buildup. And since rabbits can't pass gas, this condition becomes very painful for them.
Broccoli leaves contain much less starch and sugars than the stalks and flowers. Not all shops sell the entire broccoli head, but some do. So if you can get hold of one with the leaves intact, that would be the best option for your furry pal.
Too Much Calcium Isn't Good For Rabbit
Some veterinarians will tell you to watch how much calcium you let your rabbit eat. This is because too much can sometimes lead to bladder stones, a painful condition that can even lead to death if left untreated.
Broccoli doesn't carry the highest concentration of calcium around, but it does contain a fair amount. For this reason, it's best to feed in smaller amounts, especially if you're feeding together with other high-calcium veggies.
Potential Chemical Poisoning
Most of our veggies, broccoli inclusive, are commercially grown. It means that they will have been sprayed several times with pesticides before they get to the supermarket. Traces of these chemicals likely remain on the vegetable and can lead to poisoning if your rabbit ingests them.
A mild case of poisoning may result in a bit of discomfort that quickly passes. But a severe case can cause serious complications, not to mention unbearable pain and suffering. Please be sure to wash broccoli thoroughly before feeding to your pet. And if you can manage it, organic is the best.
Related reading: Best Vegetables for Rabbits
Feeding Guidelines - Broccoli for Rabbits
Broccoli is overall a good, healthy veggie to feed to your rabbits, and most love the taste, readily eating whatever you give them. But we've been talking about moderation, so how much is too much?
The most you should give at any one time is one tablespoon of broccoli per 2 pounds of your rabbit's weight.
If your rabbit has never had broccoli before, it's best to start slowly to help your rabbit get used to the new food. Broccoli leaves are the best if you can get them, but if not, go for the florets. Offer one tiny floret the first time. Watch your rabbit for any signs of distress over the next 24 hours.
Once you're sure your rabbit is fine, you can wait a day or two, and feed some more broccoli, this time a slightly larger amount. The most you should give at any one time is one tablespoon of broccoli per 2 pounds of your rabbit's weight.
If your rabbit is a baby or juvenile, please avoid broccoli altogether, as its stomach is still too sensitive.
Feed a Few Times a Week
If your rabbit is tolerating the broccoli well, you can gradually increase the serving frequency to 4-5 times per week. Some people give broccoli daily, but we feel it's best to err on the side of caution.
We already know that broccoli is a nutrition powerhouse, packing huge amounts of vitamin C and vitamin K. It also contains a good dose of many of the B vitamins and vitamin A.
Add to this the good all-round mineral and high fiber content, and you've got your rabbit a great deal. There isn't much sugar or fat to speak of either, especially in the leaves.
The only thing to watch out for is the relatively high calcium content and the 'gassy' factor.
Broccoli is a great, nutritious vegetable to add to your rabbit's diet, but only if your bunny doesn't have a sensitive tummy. Baby and juvenile rabbits are best without, and the same applies if your rabbit has a history of digestive problems.
If you do choose to feed your rabbit broccoli, keep the quantity moderate. Don't offer more than a tablespoon per two pounds of body weight, and don't feed every single day.
What parts of broccoli can rabbits eat?
Rabbits can eat all parts of broccoli, but you should avoid feeding the flowers and stalks if your bunny has a sensitive stomach. Thick stalks and the flowers of broccoli give many rabbits gas, but the leaves and smaller stems are usually more easily digested. All parts of broccoli can be a nutritious addition to a balanced diet, but feeding too much broccoli may cause gas, diarrhea, or bloating in your rabbit.
Broccoli can make a nice treat every now and then for your bunny.
The bulk of your rabbit's diet should be hay and grass, and they should consume their own body size of this daily. This is crucial to keep their gastrointestinal tract functioning normally and to wear down their constantly growing teeth, preventing dental problems. Timothy hay is the best choice for your bunny, and alfalfa hay should be avoided due to its high protein, phosphorus, and calcium levels.
The rest of your pet's diet can be made up of a small amount of pellets and fresh leafy green vegetables, with other veggies (like broccoli!) as a special treat.
- Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM
Dr. Leonie McKinlay has always had a special fondness for animals and knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a veterinarian. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Calgary and then her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 2011. Since graduation, Dr. McKinlay has been working at the same small animal practice, caring for dogs and cats.
NOTE: Advice provided within this article 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.