Our furry little friends are 100% herbivores. In the wild, they will forage for grasses and leafy green vegetables. They will eat fruit too if they can find it, but fruit is not so easy to come by and makes up only a small part of their diet.
Pet rabbits are usually fed on grass hays and leafy green vegetables. Some fruit and non-leafy veggies can be added as treats and snacks too. But which ones are healthy and which ones to avoid? People frequently ask about cucumber, and here we take a look.
Can Rabbits Eat Cucumber?
Yes, rabbits can eat cucumbers. The peel and seeds are also safe and edible to rabbits. When fed in moderation, cucumber is a great hydrating snack for bunnies. But be sure to follow our feeding advice, as too much cucumber may lead to loss of appetite, diarrhea, and malnutrition in rabbits.
Most bunnies love the taste of cucumber and will happily munch on it. They will readily eat the cucumber itself, including seeds and peels. And they will actually eat up the whole plant if given a chance.
But cucumbers should be fed in moderation. Otherwise, they can cause some digestive problems for your rabbit. Read on to find out.
Health Benefits: Are Cucumbers good for Rabbits?
Cucumbers are packed with several useful nutrients for human beings. They promote hydration, can help with weight loss, and lower blood sugar levels. Bunny nutrition requirements, however, are rather different from ours. Not all the benefits will apply to your rabbit.
Cucumbers are Completely Non-Toxic to Rabbits
Before even getting to actual health benefits, cucumbers are great for one thing. Your rabbit can safely consume the entire plant, cucumber, leaves, and stem too. None of it contains anything poisonous to a rabbit.
With many fruits and veggies, you have to be really careful, especially with the seeds as they often contain chemicals that are toxic to rabbits.
Cucumber seeds are small, soft and contain nothing toxic to a rabbit. Rabbits will easily chew through and swallow them. A big plus, since removing the seeds every time when feeding would be tiresome.
A Good Source of Silica
Cucumbers are not the richest of foods, but they do contain silica.
Silica is a core mineral required by the rabbit's body. It is essential for a whole host of things, from strong bones and teeth to good, supple skin.
Silica contributes a lot toward building a rabbit's bones. It improves bone density and bone flexibility. It is also a part of what helps control things like osteoporosis and age-related bone loss. This mineral is all-important if your bunny is to have strong, healthy connective tissue; joints, tendons, and ligaments all need silica to remain strong yet flexible.
It is also an essential ingredient in healthy rabbit skin and fur. Silica helps to form collagen, which is what your bunny needs to repair damaged skin. It will help your bunny remain healthy and age gracefully.
Another benefit of silica is that it also helps stabilize the release of insulin from the pancreas. Along with a clean, healthy diet, this will help prevent conditions like diabetes in your rabbit.
Keeps Your Rabbit Hydrated
Water is essential to keeping your bunny well-hydrated, especially during those hot summer months. Your bunny should always have fresh, clean water available. But some of the water it consumes should come from its veggie and fruit intake.
Cucumber is an excellent source of water for your rabbit. Combined with the silica it contains, it will help keep your bunny's skin healthy. It is especially true for hotter, drier climates. Chances are your bunny will love his cucumber snack on a blazing hot day.
Health Risks: Are Cucumbers Bad for Rabbits?
We've already mentioned that cucumbers contain nothing toxic for rabbits and your pet can safely consume the whole plant.
Having said that, we'll point out that cucumber should be fed in moderation. Feeding cucumber too much or too frequently can cause your rabbit some digestive issues.
Can Cause Diarrhea and Loss of Appetite
Rabbits produce what are known as cecotropes. Your rabbit actually produces two kinds of droppings. The fecal ones are the round, dry ones you'll find lying around in the litter box.
The second type, the cecotropes, are actually nutrient-packed, ”home-made” food for your rabbit. They are full of vital nutrients, and your rabbit will ingest them as they exit the anus.
This may sound disgusting to us, but it's essential to rabbits. Without cecotropes, they cannot survive. This is where eating too much cucumber can cause a serious problem. Cucumber contains a lot of water, and so overfeeding it can give your bunny diarrhea.
If this happens, your bunny will quickly become weak and may even lose their appetite. It may also not be able to ingest its cecotropes any more, which is a serious problem.
So while cucumber can do lots of good for your bunny, do be careful. You don't want to overdo it. Moderation is the best approach.
Watch Out for Pesticides
Cucumbers in and of themselves are a safe, toxin-free snack for your rabbit. But it's an excellent idea to wash them thoroughly before serving them to your pet.
Commercially grown cucumbers, and that's the majority in the shops, are grown using pesticides. Traces of these may still be on the cucumber when you buy it. Washing the cucumber will remove any chemicals still on the surface and prevent your rabbit from getting a tummy upset.
If you're considering feeding, not just the cucumber itself but the whole plant, best buy organic. Some pesticides are systemic, meaning they penetrate into parts of the plant and remain there.
Feeding Guidelines - Cucumber for Rabbits
You already know that cucumbers are quite good for your rabbit, but only when appropriately fed. Cucumber should not replace a healthy diet based on hay.
One slice a couple of times a week is enough for your rabbit.
It is best served as an occasional treat. How much you give and how frequently is what makes the difference.
Feeding the Cucumber Itself
1. If possible, choose organic cucumbers. Commercially grown cucumbers may carry pesticides. Letting your rabbit consume the plant could be harmful to their health. Organic cucumbers are the safest option.
2. Wash thoroughly. Before serving any cucumber to your rabbit, be sure to wash it thoroughly under running water. It will remove any traces of dirt and pesticides that may have been on it.
3. You can then go ahead and slice it up. It's not necessary to peel or remove the seeds. Your bunny can safely eat it as is.
Slice it up into pieces about a quarter-inch thick.
4. If introducing cucumber for the first time, start very small. Check your bunny's droppings after 24 hours for signs of diarrhea. If everything looks good, you can slowly build the serving size up.
Feeding Cucumber Leaves
If you have access to organically grown cucumber, the leaves make an excellent addition to your rabbit's diet. In general, a rabbit can eat 1 cup of leafy green veggies per 2 pounds of body weight in a day. Remember, however, that it's a good idea to mix the vegetables up.
Mix your cucumber leaves with at least two other leafy greens before serving. Kale, carrot tips, and turnip greens are examples of good additions.
Related reading: Rabbit Food Guide
Cucumbers should not replace a diet based on mainly hay.
Cucumbers contain some useful stuff for rabbits, like silica and water. Otherwise, they're not a nutrient-rich food.
Low-Calorie, Fat-Free Food
100 grams of cucumber with its peel still on will only give 16 calories. That's hardly anything. The same 100 grams will provide you with only 0.1 grams of fat and 3.6 grams of total carbs. Cucumbers contain only 0.7 grams of protein out of 100 and only 1.7 grams of sugars. You don't have to worry about excess sugars and calories here.
High Water Content
Cucumbers are 95% water. Together with the silica they contain, this is what makes them so hydrating. It is also the reason your rabbit shouldn't get too much cucumber. The high water content can lead to diarrhea and upset your rabbit's digestive balance. It's a good idea to give less in the colder winter months and more during the summer heat.
Not Much Mineral or Vitamin Content
Cucumber is not nutrient-rich food. It will provide about 147mg of potassium per 100 grams, but not much else. Vitamins A and C, as well as calcium and iron, are present, but in trace quantities. This is also why cucumber shouldn't be a major component of your rabbit's diet.
Just as with most veggies, cucumber is good for rabbits when fed in moderation. Cucumber as a snack will give your bunny valuable silica and help with hydration. Organically grown leaves also make a good addition to your rabbit's fresh leafy vegetable intake.
It is not a nutrient bomb, though, and should not replace hay. Rabbits still need about 80% hay in their diet to remain healthy. But they do love variety.
Cucumber can safely be offered as a snack a couple of times a week. Most bunnies enjoy it and will happily chomp it up.
Related reading: Which Hay is Best for Rabbits?
Can rabbits eat cucumber skin?
Yes, rabbits can eat cucumber skin. The whole cucumber is edible flesh, seeds, and skin included. Before feeding any cucumber to your bunny, you need to wash it thoroughly, because it may have been sprayed with pesticides. Also, remember that cucumbers have high water content and may cause diarrhea if fed in excess.
Cucumbers, possibly the key to everlasting youth (or the appearance of it anyway) is full of water and silica but not a lot else. Trace amounts of other nutrients are present, so cucumber isn't a superfood for bunnies.
The silica is fantastic for your bun's skin, joints, bones, and connective tissues (ligaments and tendons). It's also a great summer treat, hydrating, and all parts of the cucumber plant are safe for bunnies to munch on.
Too much cucumber, however, can cause their poop to soften and even become watery (diarrhea) while also reducing your bunny's appetite, which can have a significant impact on your bunny's health.
Bunnies produce a special type of 'poop' called cecotropes; not actually poo, these are little nutrient bombs produced for the bunny, by bunny himself! Cecotropes are full of protein and B vitamins, which are essential to good health. If your bunny isn't eating or isn't producing normal cecotropes because of diarrhea, then they can become malnourished quite fast.
- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
Edele Grey, BSc, MVB, PGCertESM, MRCVS was born and raised in Ireland on a farm, so she was destined for veterinary-related work from a young age. Dr. Grey attended the only veterinary university in Ireland, the University College Dublin, and graduated in 2013. Since graduation, Dr. Grey has worked with a range of exotic, companion, and production animal species.
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.