Strawberries are a great treat to enjoy, especially during the warm summer months. They taste great and can be mixed into many foods we already eat, like smoothies, oatmeal, or even ice cream.
They are also considered a healthy food and can be enjoyed with little regard to nutrition facts. Naturally, rabbit owners want to share delicious treats with their pets, and "can bunnies eat strawberries" is a common question we get.
Although strawberries can be a wholesome choice for a yummy snack, there are a few caveats you have to know before offering your rabbit these fruits. Read on to find out how to feed this juicy berry safely.
Can Rabbits Eat Strawberries?
Yes, rabbits can eat strawberries. Strawberries can be a healthy and hydrating treat with Vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. However, you should always follow feeding guidelines as strawberries contain sugar which can cause diarrhea, gas, bloating, and weight gain. Also, strawberries contain calcium, so feeding too many may cause bladder sludge in bunnies.
That said, strawberries are absolutely a treat that rabbits can enjoy, but owners have to use moderation when they feed it to their rabbits. The main problem with strawberries is that they contain a lot of sugar, which is not good for the rabbit's teeth, weight, or overall nutrition.
On the rabbit's nutritional pyramid, strawberries are classified as treats, which means they should not comprise more than 2-3% of the daily caloric intake.
- Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
Always keep in mind that good-quality hay should make up 80-90% of your bunny's diet. Veggies are a great addition to offer variety, enrichment, and nutrients – and so are fruits and berries when fed in moderation. Still, hay is what keeps them healthy, their digestion working, and their teeth trimmed.
Indeed, the strawberry itself is safe to eat. The leaves and stems/tops of the berry are fine too, but only if you have washed them carefully to prevent your rabbit from eating any pesticides that might remain on them.
The strawberry's actual plant is fine too, but only if you can be certain it does not contain harmful pesticides or other bacteria (such as animal fecal matter) that might hurt your rabbit.
Baby rabbits should not eat strawberries because their digestive systems are not fully developed yet. These babies depend mainly on their mother's milk to provide them the necessary nutrients for growth, and until 2-3 months of age, they should only be fed hay and pellets.
Certainly, rabbits love strawberries and, if left to their own devices, would eat plenty. But as you can see, it's not a good idea to offer it to them too often. Let's have a look at some of the health benefits and risks strawberries have when it comes to your bunny.
Health Benefits: Are Strawberries Good for Rabbits?
Strawberries have some great health benefits. You will see why strawberries make for a great item to give to your bunny as an occasional sweet treat.
Strawberries are fairly low in calories and contain vitamins and minerals that are considered healthy.
Loaded With Fiber And Good for Digestion
Fiber is very important for rabbits, as it is what they need for healthy digestion. Most of that fiber comes from hay, which should make up the majority of your pet's daily food intake. If your bunny doesn't get enough fiber, it could become very sick.
Gastrointestinal stasis (gut stasis) occurs when the bunny's digestive system stops working thanks to a lack of fiber in the diet. The rabbit may
- lose its appetite
- stop eating
- have small or no droppings
- become bloated
- become lethargic
GI stasis is a severe and potentially lethal condition that requires immediate veterinary care. If you suspect your rabbit may be suffering from gut stasis, contact a vet immediately.
Although the most important way to prevent gut stasis is to offer your rabbit unlimited hay to chew on all day long, high fiber treats are always a better choice compared to treats that are low in fiber.
Luckily, in 100g of the strawberry, you get 2g of dietary fiber. If you want to help your bunny's digestion, this delicious red berry is a good choice for a snack.
Helps With Hydration
Rabbits eat a lot of hay, which is dried grass. The hay keeps their digestion moving, but bunnies also need hydration to ensure healthy bowel movements.
Strawberries are very high in water. In fact, 91% of the weight of a strawberry is all thanks to water. Eating them will help your rabbit get the amount of water they need to stay properly hydrated.
Just keep in mind that, as with other treats, you should not rely on strawberries as your primary source of water. Instead, make sure you are offering unlimited clean water for your rabbit to drink.
Helps With Cardiovascular Health
Strawberries are excellent when it comes to the improvement of vascular function, the reduction of LDL cholesterol, and the reduction of inflammation. They are also great for reducing oxidative stress and improving blood antioxidant status.
With benefits like these, strawberry is definitely an excellent choice when it comes to giving your pet a treat.
Helps Maintain Healthy Bones
Strawberries also contain manganese, which is important for bone health. It is necessary for the absorption of calcium, maintaining a bone structure that is healthy and functioning, and creating the enzymes that form the bones. Yet more benefits strawberries can offer your rabbit!
Loaded with Antioxidants
Antioxidants are a great thing for rabbits in that they help your bunny ward off diseases such as cancer. Antioxidants also reduce the oxidation of lipids, and they are great for boosting your pet rabbit's immune system.
Health Risks: Are Strawberries Bad for Rabbits?
Now you know about the health benefits of strawberries, but what are the risks?
After reading about the health benefits strawberries have to offer your bunny, you may be thinking that strawberries are, without doubt, a safe and nutritious food you can feed your rabbit.
Although they come with some excellent benefits, there are some health risks that need to be taken into consideration too. Read on to discover why strawberries are best served on an intermittent basis.
Too Much Sugar
Although a low-calorie snack for humans, strawberries actually contain quite a lot of sugar from your rabbit's point of view.
Sugar is not good for a rabbit's digestion. The rabbit's digestive system is rather fragile in nature and is not equipped to handle large amounts of sugar. Therefore, too much sugar may lead to diarrhea, gas, bloating, and stomach pain.
It can also throw off the rabbit's stomach's pH balance, which can prevent the production of necessary vitamins such as B-vitamins.
In addition to digestive issues, sugary foods like strawberries may lead to weight gain and obesity in pet rabbits that get limited exercise. Also, in the short-run, over-eating with sugary foods can lead to weight loss, if the diarrhea is persistent and lasts for several days.
To ensure a healthy and balanced diet, you need to keep the sugary treats to a minimum – even if they may have a few health benefits.
Also, remember that baby rabbits should not be given strawberries because they cannot process sugary foods.
Bladder Stones and Bladder Sludge
Because strawberries are high in calcium, rabbits run the risk of developing bladder stones and/or sludge if they are fed this fruit too often.
Rabbits absorb mostly all of the calcium they take in, and the excess goes to the kidneys to be filtered. But the kidneys can only handle so much before they give out. When this occurs, the calcium is formed into a solid crystal that is excreted via the urine and produces a cloudy sludge.
Because rabbits are prone to bladder sludge, any foods that contain calcium need to be fed in moderation. Some of the signs that your rabbit may be getting too much calcium in its diet are
- blood in the urine
- frequent urination
- signs that urination is painful
- white crystals in the urine
Increasing water intake may help, but catheterization and flushing or even surgery may be needed in severe cases. Always seek assistance from a vet if you suspect urinary tract problems. Seek assistance from a vet if you suspect urinary tract problems.
Feeding Guidelines: Strawberries for Rabbits
How Many Strawberries Can Rabbits Eat?
This actually depends on the size of your rabbit. Begin by calculating their size, and then figure out what to feed from there.
The ideal portion is 1 tsp or 5g per 2lbs of body weight. Here is a quick table you can use to determine strawberry amounts that are OK for your rabbit's individual weight:
How Often Can I Feed My Rabbit Strawberries?
Strawberries are actually OK to serve as a daily treat if you stick to the amounts mentioned above. You could offer it to them every day based on their weight, or just a few times per week. Just make sure that the overall intake of fruits and other sugary treats stays within limits.
How to Prepare Strawberries for Rabbits?
- Begin by shopping at your local supermarket for organic strawberries if possible. Regular strawberries are OK, but these have often been treated with pesticides that may harm your rabbit if ingested.
- Look for fresh berries that have no signs of spoilage or mold.
- Once you get them home, wash them.
- Then, when it is time to treat your rabbit, carefully cut the strawberries into halves and place them into the enclosure. If you have a larger rabbit, they can handle the whole strawberry- just make sure it is washed off carefully before giving it to them.
- The leaves, top and seeds are also safe for rabbits.
- Be sure that you remove anything your rabbit does not eat to ensure food does not go bad and spread bacteria in the food dish.
What About Other Strawberry Products?
Dried and freeze-dried strawberries with no added sugars are OK for your rabbit to eat. Just remember that they are very high in sugar and should not be fed in the same amounts as fresh strawberries.
Frozen strawberries are OK, too, as long as they have been thawed before feeding, and they have no added sugar or preservative.
Cooked strawberries are not ideal for rabbits. They lose a lot of their nutritional value, and when we cook strawberries as part of pies, cakes, or other treats, they are included with recipes that have added sugars and other things rabbits shouldn't be eating.
Strawberry jam is another item to avoid. It is a condiment that is made with extra added sugar and serves no benefits to rabbits when eaten.
Strawberries and cream, or fresas con crema, should also be avoided because it is far too sugary for rabbits to enjoy without a serious risk of getting sick.
According to the USDA, here are the nutrition facts for a 100g serving of strawberries:
- Calories 33
- Fat 0g
- Sodium 1mg
- Potassium 153mg
- Carb 8g
- Sugar 4.9g
- Protein .7g
Strawberries also contain these helpful vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B-6
As you can see, strawberries are fairly low in calories, but they do contain a lot of sugar compared to what rabbits are used to digesting – which is mainly grass and hay. Although strawberries contain vitamins and minerals that are considered healthy, too much of this sweet berry will do more harm than good.
Now you know that strawberries are OK to be eaten in moderation together with an otherwise balanced and nutritionally sound diet.
The most important thing to remember is that your rabbit thrives best when on a diet of unlimited hay, clean water, a small serving of daily pellets and veggies, plus the occasional treats in the form of fruits and bunny treats.
Just remember to offer the strawberries to your rabbit only after you have carefully cleaned and prepared them. Cut them into small portions to make sure they are safe for your rabbit and don't produce a choking hazard. You'll be delighted at how delicious your rabbit finds the treat.
Since rabbits have unique digestive systems and breed-specific nutritional requirements, feeding a rabbit can be a tricky business.
In general, rabbits thrive on a mix of commercially available rabbit food and hay. More precisely, a rabbit's daily menu should consist of around 80% hay, 10% veggies and leafy greens, 5-7% pellets, and 2-3% healthy treats.
On the rabbit's nutritional pyramid, strawberries are classified as treats, which means they should not comprise more than 2-3% of the daily caloric intake. Therefore, as long as you stick to the tablespoons rule, strawberries can be a healthy treat for rabbits and a good way of adding diversity to their menu.
- 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.