Can Rabbits Eat
February 18, 2022
If you’re an animal lover, you might have both dogs and rabbits as pets. And no wonder because both animals make for lovable pets that steal your heart.
If you’re a dog owner with a rabbit living inside your home, you’re probably keeping your bunny in its habitat unless both pets are closely supervised. Still, it’s not uncommon for a rabbit to find its way to the dog’s food bowl and steal a few morsels to nibble on when they are roaming free.
So, what if your bunny gets its paws on dog food? Is it a cause for concern, or can rabbits, in fact, eat dog food?
This article covers everything you need to know about rabbits and dog food, so read on to learn more.
The Basics of Dog and Rabbit Diets
To start with, rabbits and dogs have very different nutritional requirements.
See, rabbits are herbivores, which means they get the energy and nutrients they need from plant-based materials. For pet bunnies, this means mostly hay. Truthfully, 80% of a rabbit’s diet should consist of hay, which is high in fiber and keeps their digestion going and teeth trimmed.
Both rabbits and dogs should always eat species-specific food.
Hay is what offers bunnies most of the nutrients they need, but they also need pellets and vegetables to ensure the intake of all essential vitamins and minerals.
To keep your rabbit nourished, this is what their diet should look like:
- 80% Hay
- 10% Veggies (75% of these being leafy greens and 25% other vegetables)
- 5-7% Rabbit pellets made of timothy hay
- 2-3% Treats like fruit or healthy rabbit treats
When you look at what a rabbit’s diet consists of, you can notice that it is all based on plant material. Dogs, however, also eat meat.
Dogs are omnivores, which means that their diet is based on both plants and animal protein. Dogs used to be carnivores, and they only ate meat in the wild. However, after bonding with humans and starting to live with them, dogs also started eating grains, vegetables, and fruits as a part of their diet.
Meat still makes up most of a dog’s daily food intake, but they can also benefit nutritionally from plant-based material.
As you can see, rabbits and dogs have fundamentally different diets. But what does that mean?
Can Bunnies Eat Dog Food?
No, rabbits cannot eat dog food. It is not actually toxic for rabbits, but because dogs and rabbits have very different dietary needs, rabbits should not have dog food. Eating dog food may cause health issues like diarrhea, gut stasis, or stomach upsets.
So, to make it short and sweet, you should not allow your bunny to eat dog food. But why is that, and what are the risks if your rabbit accidentally gets to nibble on some dog food?
Lets’ find out.
4 Reasons Why Rabbits Cannot Eat Dog Food
Although dog foods usually contain grains and vegetables, they are mostly made of animal protein. Because rabbits are herbivores, this type of food is not suitable for them.
If you have a rabbit and dog in your house, it’s best if you can make sure your dog’s food and treats are kept well out of your bunny’s reach.
– Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
1. Dog foods contain meat
Dog foods contain meat, which the digestive systems of rabbits cannot process. So eating meat is a big no-no for rabbits and could make them very sick. A few bites will not harm your bunny, but if fed meat regularly or in large amounts, it will cause digestive issues like diarrhea or gut stasis.
2 Dog foods are usually quite low in fiber
Although dog foods do often include grains and vegetables, which adds to the fiber they contain, they are honestly quite low fiber.
On the other hand, rabbits need a lot of fiber every day. It helps keep their bowel movements regular and prevents gut stasis, which is a possibly fatal condition where the digestion slows down or stops altogether.
3. Dog Food in high in protein and fats
While dog food is low in fiber, it is high in protein and fats. Too much protein can damage the kidneys, while fats may lead to weight gain.
If your rabbit becomes obese, it may lead to other health problems such as difficulty grooming and eating cecotropes.
4. Dog food does not contain the nutrients rabbits need
All in all, dog food does not contain the nutrients rabbits need. Also, rabbits cannot digest the animal protein in dog foods, so they are not able to utilize the nutrients or the energy.
Rabbit food and dog food are very different from each other. While dog food is made of meat, grains, and vegetables, and it’s high in protein, rabbit pellets are made from hay and contain a lot of fiber and less protein.
Both rabbits and dogs should always eat species-specific food because it has been formulated with that specific animal’s nutritional and physiological needs in mind. Only a species-appropriate and balanced diet will ensure your pet is thriving, and as a pet owner, your responsibility is to offer a diet that keeps your rabbit healthy.
Ok, but what is my rabbit eats dog kibble? Is that safe?
Can Rabbits Eat Dry Dog Food?
No, rabbits cannot eat dry dog food. Although dry dog kibble contains grains and veggies in addition to meat, it is still not suitable for rabbits.
The animal protein in dry dog food is something your rabbit cannot digest, and it can cause various health problems. For example, dog food may cause weight gain, obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal upsets, and gut stasis because it is high in protein and low in fiber. Also, it will not provide the much-needed nutrients for your pet bunny.
Again, dry dog food is not toxic, so nibbling on a few pellets may not do any harm. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure to keep your dog’s food bowl out of reach when your rabbit is free-roaming.
What to Do If Rabbit Eats Dog Food?
If your rabbit is out of its cage and finds its way to your dog’s food bowl, as curious animals, they may want to take a bite. It’s not uncommon for owners of dogs and rabbits to find their bunny nibbling on dog food and vice versa.
If you see them eating dog food, monitor them for the next 24 hours.
The good news is that eating a few pieces of dry dog food or having a taste of wet dog food is unlikely to cause any harm. There is nothing in dog food that is toxic to rabbits, so you don’t need to rush to the vets if your rabbits eat some dog food Still, you should carefully monitor your pet for any digestive changes.
Dog food should never be fed to rabbits intentionally, for long periods, or in large quantities. This is why:
Risk of gut stasis
Dog food does not contain enough fiber to meet the needs of your rabbit’s digestion. As you have noticed, bunnies tend to nibble on hay throughout the day. They do this to keep their digestion moving at all times. The fiber in the hay they eat ensures regular bowel movements and protects them from gut stasis.
Gut stasis is a condition where digestion slows down or stops completely. It can quickly lead to deteriorating health and even be fatal if not treated in time.
Because dog food does not contain enough fiber, eating too much of it risks intestinal stasis.
Getting excess protein can lead to several health issues
Dog food contains a lot of protein. Rabbits are not used to getting as much protein from their diet, so what excess protein can lead to is kidney problems, weight gain, obesity, diabetes, or gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea.
Again, all of these are severe health issues and good reasons not to allow your rabbit to eat dog food.
Dog food can lead to nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition
Thirdly, dog food can lead to nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition. Rabbits are not able to digest animal protein and benefit from it nutritionwise. Although dry dog food does contain some grains and veggies, they do not provide bunnies with the nutrients they need.
Also, dog food has not been formulated to meet the dietary needs of rabbits. If you feed it to your rabbit regularly, it will fill up your bunny’s stomach and reduce the need to eat what they usually eat. If dog food that is low in the vitamins and minerals rabbits need replaces what your pet should be eating, it will quickly lead to malnutrition and deficiencies or various important nutrients.
To sum it up, small amounts of dog food are unlikely to harm your rabbit. Still, if you see them eating dog food, monitor them for the next 24 hours for symptoms of stomach upset. Offer lots of hay and fresh water and take them to get checked by the vet immediately if you notice any signs of gut stasis.
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Bottom Line – Can a Rabbit Eat Dog Food?
To sum it up:
No, rabbits should not eat dog food. A few bites are likely to be ok, but you should still never feed dog food to bunnies knowingly.
Because dog food contains meat, is high in protein, and contains too little fiber, it is completely unsuitable for rabbits that are herbivores and need a high-protein diet.
If you own dogs and rabbits, you should keep your bunny in its cage while you feed your dog or ensure your bunny doesn’t have access to the dog’s food bowl.
As nosy little creatures, rabbits are likely to nibble on anything of interest that they come across in your house. However, although dog food is not dangerous as such, it’s better to keep it out of their reach.
While wild canines are carnivores, our pet pooches have evolved to better digest starches and extract more nutrients from grains than their wild counterparts.
Rabbits have an extremely delicate gastrointestinal system, and the tiniest change can lead to potentially life-threatening diarrhea or gut stasis. If you have a rabbit and dog in your house, it’s best if you can make sure your dog’s food and treats are kept well out of your bunny’s reach.
– Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your pet’s specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.