Rabbits love veggies; that's no secret. We know they will nibble on lettuce, carrots, peas, and pretty much any veggie you offer them. But what about zucchini?
This versatile vegetable is a human favorite for stir-fries, pasta and even can be made into brownies. But can humans chop it up and offer it to rabbits?
Read on to discover the answer to "can bunnies eat zucchini?" as well as learn all the caveats you need to know about feeding your rabbit this treat. Because, although you may think zucchini is an excellent veggie to offer your rabbit, there are a few risks involved in overfeeding.
Can Rabbits Eat Zucchini?
Yes, rabbits can eat zucchini. It is a low-calorie veggie with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Still, although bunnies can enjoy zucchini, following the feeding guidelines is important to prevent diarrhea which the high water content of zucchini may cause.
Zucchini can be a part of your rabbit's diet, provided you know how to serve it correctly.
Also, it's always important to remember that 80-90% of your bunny's daily food intake should consist of high-quality hay. It is necessary for proper digestion and dental health. Always ensure that your rabbit has unlimited hay available along with fresh water, pellets, and healthy veggies.
That said, rabbits can absolutely eat zucchini. There is nothing toxic about the vegetable. Whether or not they like it will depend on the individual rabbit. Most of them really enjoy the taste.
However, baby rabbits should not be given zucchini to eat. Young bunnies have sensitive GI systems, so it is best just to let them grow by drinking their mother's milk and slowly introducing them to hay and pellets. Fruits and veggies are best avoided by baby bunnies until they reach about 12 weeks old.
Zucchini flowers, peels, and leaves
Many bunny owners wonder about the safety of the rest of the zucchini plant – not just the flesh of the vegetable. Thankfully, everything else about the plant is also safe to eat. The seeds are soft and do not need to be taken out before you serve the zucchini.
The flowers and leaves are OK too, just serve them fresh.
The peel is fine as well; this will not hurt your rabbit. Just make sure you wash it thoroughly, so all dirt and pesticides are removed. The ends of the zucchini, or the part of the stem that remains, should be cut off. This part is too hard to chew.
The peel is excellent because it contains the most significant antioxidant levels. If you can get your hands on a yellow zucchini instead of the green variety, you should offer these as they may have more antioxidants.
So, it sounds pretty good- after all, who wouldn't want to give their pet an antioxidant-rich veggie? It is actually not that simple- there are some risks involved you should know about.
Health Benefits: Is Zucchini Good for Rabbits?
But before we get to the potential risks of feeding zucchini to your bun, let's have a look at all the great benefits it offers.
Rich in water, fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, zucchini helps maintain proper hydration, aids the digestion processes, and promotes a healthy nervous system.
A Low-Calorie Treat
Obesity is actually a growing problem in pet rabbits because they rarely get enough exercise, but owners love to feed them their treats.
Did you know that in 100g of zucchini, there are just 17 calories? If you have a rabbit that is overweight or obese but still wants a treat, this is the way to go.
There's almost no fat and zero cholesterol as well. It is really a superfood in terms of ways to nourish and enrich your rabbit's life without causing them to put on weight.
Zucchini is mostly water. You can count on it to help your rabbit get some extra water in his diet. Since rabbits eat mostly hay that is dried grass, they need water to keep their digestion working, and zucchini can be a great way to offer some extra hydration in the diet.
Of course, this veggie is no substitute for the water bottle- make sure you always have an unlimited supply of clean water for your rabbit.
Zucchini is loaded with water, but it also contains fiber which is essential for digestion. Insoluble fiber helps bulk up the stools and will help your rabbit if he is constipated. The soluble fiber, on the other hand, helps feed the good bacteria of the gut.
Rabbits have a very delicate digestive system, and they are prone to a condition called gut stasis. If they don't eat hay and other high-fiber foods constantly, their digestive system could slow down or stop completely. This is called GI stasis, which can potentially be fatal if not treated.
Signs of gut stasis include
- reduced appetite
- no droppings
- dough-like consistency of the belly on touch
Hydration, exercise, and high-fiber foods help prevent this condition, but as prey animals, rabbits often hide their symptoms, so if you're worried your bunny may not be feeling well, always contact the vet to assess the situation.
High in Antioxidants
Antioxidants will protect your rabbit against cancers and other damage caused by free radicals. Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein, are part of zucchini. Make sure to feed the peels because they contain the majority of the beneficial nutrients.
Helpful for the Nervous System
Potassium is the star of the show here. Potassium is necessary for rabbits' nervous system health – one study indicated that rabbits deficient in potassium could develop muscular dystrophy, which may be fatal. Zucchini is an easy way to help your rabbit get enough potassium.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Because the veggie is high in potassium, this can help lower blood pressure. How? It dilates the blood vessels. Healthy blood pressure is connected to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Great for Heart Health
The high amount of fiber found in zucchini is remarkable and the reason it is so good for your heart.
Pectin is one sort of fiber, a soluble kind, that is contained within zucchini. It is good at lowering cholesterol overall, as well as bad or LDL cholesterol.
Zucchini also contains carotenoids, which guard against heart disease.
It Contains Lots of Vitamins and Minerals
This vegetable has lots of nutrients your rabbit can use. For example, potassium is part of the mix, as is Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and magnesium, to name just a few.
If you want to choose a highly nutritious veggie to offer your bunny, then zucchini certainly is one that will offer many benefits when it comes to vitamins and minerals.
Health Risks: Is Zucchini Bad for Rabbits?
Zucchini sounds pretty great: high in vitamins and minerals, low in calories, and rabbits love the taste. Even the seeds are safe! The only logical thing to do would be to cut a piece up for your rabbit, right? Not so fast.
Here are the risks associated with giving your pet too much zucchini:
Not A Staple Food
Zucchini is great for rabbits as a treat, but thanks to its high water content, it is not suitable as a staple food. The water content of this vegetable can lead your rabbit to experience diarrhea and eventually dehydration, which can be fatal if not treated properly.
Bunnies have digestive systems that are not equipped to handle large amounts of high-water foods.
Signs of dehydration include sticky saliva, crusty eyes, decreased appetite, less urine (which may be dark in color), or hard and dry fecal pellets. If you suspect your bunny might be dehydrated, try to offer it water and contact a veterinarian for assistance.
Also, remember that although zucchini contains a lot of nutrients, it should not replace hay and pellets in your bunny's diet. Don't let your pet fill up its stomach with veggies that are high in water, as it could drive to them eat less hay, which could then lead to deficiencies in nutrients and problems with digestion.
Pesticides Pose A Risk
If you buy your zucchini anywhere other than an organic market, or unless you grow it yourself, you are probably going to be dealing with pesticides on the vegetable.
You should always make sure to wash it thoroughly before cutting it up and serving it to your pet. If possible, it is best to buy organic to avoid any chemicals that may be harmful to your bun.
Baby Bunnies Should Not Be Given Zucchini
Baby bunnies' digestive systems are not equipped yet to handle zucchini. They could end up getting quite sick as a result, so just make sure they are at least 12 weeks old before offering them a piece.
And when you do offer them a piece, make it very small and see how they do over 24 hours. If they are successful with their first treat, you can give them another sometime.
Feeding Guidelines: Zucchini for Rabbits
How Much Zucchini Can Rabbits Eat?
You can offer your rabbit zucchini measuring 1/ 8" to 1/4" at the thickest, and you should make sure to cut it up so it is easier for your rabbit to enjoy. One or two slices is appropriate. Also, make sure to wash it before giving it to your rabbit to avoid any pesticides or dirt.
How Often Can I Feed My Rabbit Zucchini?
It is OK to give your rabbit zucchini about 2-3 times per week, but do not feed it to them on a daily basis. Too many digestive and other health problems can arise if rabbits are given veggies in place of hay, pellets, and water.
It's also better to offer a varied diet of many different veggies, with zucchini being just a part of the mix.
How to Prepare Zucchini for Rabbits?
- Start by making sure you buy your zucchini smart. Make sure it is free of spoilage and spots when you purchase it.
- Once you get it home, give it a good wash even if you do not plan to serve it that day.
- Once you are ready to serve it, carefully cut one or two slices that measure about 1/8 or ¼ inches wide.
- Cut them in half (or smaller if you have a small rabbit) and serve them to your pet.
- Remove and discard any uneaten zucchini after a few hours to ensure it doesn't go bad and spread bacteria in the enclosure.
Is cooked or frozen zucchini okay to feed?
Cooked zucchini is not an option- most of the nutrients get lost during cooking, and zucchini squash is not a good idea, either.
Frozen zucchini is OK after thawing, provided it contains no additives- but the taste and texture may not be as good compared to the fresh veggie. Also, frozen veggie mixes containing zucchini should not be fed as they usually combine several different vegetables that may not all be suitable for rabbits.
Fresh is always the way to go when feeding your rabbit a special treat like zucchini.
According to the USDA, here are the nutrition facts for 100g of zucchini:
- 17 calories
- Fat .3g
- Cholesterol 0mg
- Sodium 8mg
- Potassium 261mg
- Carbohydrate 3.1g
Vitamins and Minerals of Zucchini:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
As you can see, zucchini is a low-calorie food that contains many vitamins and minerals. Still, because zucchini is 94% water, you should be careful when feeding since bunnies have digestive systems that are not equipped to handle large amounts of high-water foods.
Whether you call it zucchini or courgette, this is one great veggie. However, this is not a staple food that your rabbit should be eating in place of their pellets, hay, and water.
Indeed, zucchini is fine as a part of your bunny's veggie mix but should still be served in moderation together with a diverse mix of vegetables and leafy greens.
Zucchini can be a part of your rabbit's diet, provided you know how to serve it correctly. The key takeaways are to purchase only fresh zucchini (organic if possible), make sure it is washed, and cut it up so your rabbit can enjoy it safely. It is a great-tasting treat that your rabbit will look forward to every time.
When it comes to nutrition, being a responsible rabbit parent is challenging. Rabbits have unique nutritional requirements, and unless those requirements are met, they easily and quickly get sick.
Around 10% of the rabbit’s daily food intake should be comprised of leafy greens and veggies. Knowing which greens and veggies are rabbit-friendly is important. One example of a healthy and beneficial vegetable is – zucchini.
Rich in water, fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, zucchini helps maintain proper hydration, aids the digestion processes, and promotes a healthy nervous system. Plus, they are a low-calorie treat.
All in all, when moderately used, zucchini is a healthy and beneficial vegetable for adult rabbits. Baby rabbits should wait until 12 weeks old before they can enjoy this tasty veggie.
- 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.