We love our bunnies. It can be very tempting to feed them tidbits that we love to eat ourselves. But can rabbits really eat the same stuff as we do?
They're pure vegetarians, performing best on hay and leafy green veggies. They can eat some fruit, too. But fruits generally contain lots of sugar, so your rabbit shouldn't get too much.
Any fruit should be fed strictly as a snack. And not all fruits are suitable for your rabbit either. Some fruits are toxic in their entirety, like avocado. Others may have parts that are toxic, such as the seeds.
Can Rabbits Eat Watermelon?
Yes, rabbits can eat watermelon. The rind, leaves, and flowers are also edible, but the seeds should be avoided because they are a choking hazard and may cause intestinal blockages. Check our recommendation on serving size, as high-sugar foods like watermelon may also cause digestive issues like bloating and diarrhea.
Watermelon is a fruit that has multiple benefits but really needs to be fed with caution.
Health Benefits: Are Watermelons Good for Rabbits?
Watermelon is quite rich in several nutrients that your bunny will benefit from.
Fed in the right quantities, and without the seeds, watermelon is an excellent addition to your rabbit's diet.
Watermelon Rinds are Good for Bunny Teeth
Rabbit teeth never stop growing. If they don't eat enough fibrous foods on a daily basis, their teeth can get too long. It may lead to an uncomfortable visit to the vet to have them trimmed down.
Watermelon rinds are very fibrous and work great to help keep those bunny teeth in good shape. Both the green outer part of the rind and the white inner are good to use.
High Carotenoid Content
Watermelons are a rich source of several carotenoid compounds. These are antioxidants and are great for boosting your rabbit's immunity. They work to prevent damage from free radicals in the body.
They Contain Choline and Citrulline
Choline is an important essential nutrient that is frequently grouped with the B vitamins. It contributes to metabolism and muscle function. It also helps to improve sleep and brain responses.
Citrulline is an amino acid and is found in high quantities in watermelon rinds. This nutrient is useful in maintaining the health of your rabbit's heart and blood vessels.
Good Source of Magnesium
Rabbits are prone to what is known as bladder sludge. It happens when rabbits consume too much calcium, and it builds up in their urine. Most animals will absorb only the amount of calcium they need. Rabbits are different and will absorb as much calcium as they've eaten.
Several studies have suggested that an increase in magnesium is good for rabbits prone to bladder sludge. Since watermelon is high in magnesium, it can make an excellent addition to your rabbit's diet.
Provides Vitamins A and C
Watermelons are also a good source of vitamins A, and C. Vitamin A is necessary to maintain good vision, and both vitamins help the immune system. Vitamin C is also thought to help rabbits that are anxious, stressed, or depressed.
Health Risks: Are Watermelons Bad for Rabbits?
Eating watermelon can do your rabbit plenty of good. But it's not all sunny, and there are some downsides too. As with all fruit, watermelon should be fed only in moderation.
Tooth decay, obesity, and diabetes are just some examples of serious problems that can occur.
Seeds Are to be Avoided
We've already mentioned it, but we'll say it again. Please don't feed your rabbit any watermelon seeds. They are quite hard and can pose a choking hazard. With smaller bunnies, they can get lodged in the intestinal tract, causing all sorts of problems. And if eaten in large quantities, they are actually toxic to rabbits. Avoid these at all costs.
Can Lead to Diarrhea
Watermelon is one of the lowest-calorie fruits, but it still has a lot of sugar. Rabbit stomachs don't have constant movement (known as peristalsis) like ours. They rely on fiber to digest their food. High-sugar foods are difficult for rabbits to digest and can upset the pH levels in their tummies. This, in turn, can cause bloating and diarrhea.
Overfeeding Poses Health Risks
Rabbits are meant to eat mostly hay and leafy green vegetables. These generally do not contain much sugar and offer lots of fiber. Feeding your rabbit too much sugar can lead to several health issues. Tooth decay, obesity, and diabetes are just some examples of serious problems that can occur.
There is a fair amount of sugar in watermelon. The rind has less than the flesh but still needs to be fed in moderation. Feeding too much in one go will result in more sugar than your rabbit can safely handle.
And finally, there is another good reason watermelon and all sweet foods need to be limited. Bunnies that are fed too many sweet treats will often refuse their hay and veggies. They will insist on eating only the sweet stuff. Getting them back on track can be challenging, but it is important you do so. It's best to prevent this from even happening by limiting the sugary treats.
Related reading: What Can Rabbits Not Eat?
Feeding Guidelines: Watermelon for Rabbits
By now, you know that all fruit, watermelon inclusive, should be limited to snack time. And even then, you have to be careful not to overdo it, tempting as it may be.
You can offer your rabbit this snack once or twice a week and stay safe. Give not more than 1 tablespoon of watermelon (rinds or flesh) for every 2 pounds of body weight.
This is how to feed watermelon for your rabbit:
1. Always Feed After the Hay. It's a good idea to feed your rabbit fruit only after it has eaten its hay. It is the single best way to make sure that it has enough fiber in its digestive tract. It will also help prevent your bunny from going picky on you.
2. First, remove all the seeds. Do remember to remove all the seeds before feeding your rabbit watermelon. Rinds may actually be a better option than the flesh because they contain less sugar. Either way, keep the serving size small.
3. Start small. If your rabbit is new to watermelon, it's a good idea to start small.
Offer just a teaspoon and watch to see what happens. Check the droppings after 24 hours for any signs of loose stool. If all looks good, you can gradually increase the serving size.
Apart from the seeds, they are non-toxic and do not contain anything harmful.
Watermelons offer a fair amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are good for your bunny.
Low-Calorie for a Fruit
Watermelon contains only 30 calories per 100 grams. That is much lower than most other fruits. For this reason alone, it makes an excellent treat for your rabbit. The low calories are mainly because of the high water content.
The flesh of a watermelon is 91% water. While this is good for hydration, too much is not a great idea. Bunnies that eat a lot of water-heavy stuff like watermelon and cucumber can develop diarrhea.
Given the low-calorie/high-water-content combo, watermelons don't offer much protein and fat. The values are negligible, coming in at 0.6 and 0.2 grams per every 100, respectively. Your rabbit still needs his hay to get a good dose of these.
Relatively High Sugar
While not the worst there is, watermelons still contain plenty of sugar. There are 6.2 grams of it for every 100, out of a total of 7.6 grams of carbs. The rind will have somewhat less sugar, but it is still there. This is why your bunny can only eat a little bit at a time.
Plenty of Carotenoids
These are the compounds that give the fruit its yellow, orange, or red coloration. Watermelon is a good source of some of them. It offers 303IU of beta-carotene per 100 grams. It also contains plenty of lycopene, with 4532IU in the same 100 grams. These are important antioxidants and help to protect the body against free radicals.
Other Useful Nutrients for Your Bunny
Watermelons are a pretty good source of some other stuff your bunny needs, too. Choline, vitamin A and vitamin C are all on this list. The flesh contains 4.1 mg of choline per 100 grams. Choline contributes to metabolism and muscle function, among other things. The same 100 grams of watermelon will give 569IU of vitamin A, and 8.1mg of vitamin C. These two vitamins contribute to your bunny's overall health and wellbeing.
Fed in moderation, watermelon is one of the best fruits you can give your bunny. As long as it remains an occasional snack, it should not cause any health problems.
Of course, if your bunny has pre-existing health conditions, it's best to consult with your vet first. Diseases like diabetes may mean your bunny cannot eat anything much with sugar in it.
Bunnies will enjoy both the rind and flesh of a watermelon. Watermelon leaves and flowers are also safe for your rabbit to eat. Seeds can be toxic and are the only part that should be avoided altogether. Be sure to remove these before feeding your bunny his tasty treat.
Can rabbits eat watermelon peels?
Yes, rabbits can eat watermelon peels. The rind of a watermelon is actually healthier than the flesh of the fruit because it contains more fiber and less sugar. Chewing on the peel will help wear down your rabbit's teeth. Cut the rind into smaller pieces before serving to avoid choking and remember that all fruits contain sugar and should only be fed in strict moderation.
Watermelon can cause your rabbit to have diarrhea. This is a very sugary and watery fruit that, if your rabbit overeats, will quickly lead to a tummy ache.
It is best to limit this fruit to a 1-inch square and only offer it once a week. Any more than this will quickly cause problems in your rabbit.
When first offering watermelon to your rabbit, monitor them for any diarrhea. If you see any problems, stop feeding them this fruit.
- Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM
Sara Redding Ochoa, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, was raised in Calhoun, LA. She knew since she was a little girl that her dream was to become a veterinarian. Dr. Ochoa attended Louisiana Tech for her undergraduate school, and then attended St. George University to complete veterinary school. After graduating, Dr. Ochoa moved to east Texas and has been working as a small animal and exotic veterinarian.
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.