What do rabbits and apples have in common? Maybe not much at first glance, but exert a bit of creativity, and you can find some common themes.
Here’s one: both apples and rabbits are frequent motifs in ancient mythology. And in the present day, you run into myths about both bunnies and apples.
For example, we know that, despite the maxim, eating a daily apple doesn’t keep humans in perfect health. But for rabbits, does an apple a day keep the veterinarian away? Will apple seeds kill rabbits, or is that a fable, too?
In this article, we’ll unpack some evidence-based do’s and don’ts of feeding apples to rabbits. No myths allowed.
We’ll cover topics like:
- Are apples a safe treat for rabbits?
- Health benefits of apples for rabbits.
- How much apple can a rabbit eat?
- Can rabbits eat apple peels, seeds, or stems?
- The pros and cons of applewood chew toys.
Can Rabbits Eat Apples?
Yes, adult rabbits can eat up to a tablespoon of apple flesh per day as a treat without detracting from a nutrient-rich diet. The skin of apples makes a better rabbit snack, thanks to its high fiber-to-fructose ratio. Conventionally grown apples test high for pesticides, so use organic apples for your bunny’s treats.
What Parts of an Apple are Safe for Rabbits?
Many parts of an apple fruit and apple tree are safe for rabbits to enjoy. For rabbits, the edible parts of an apple are the flesh, the peel, the stem, and apple wood bark or branches.
Can Rabbits Eat Apple Skin and Stems?
Yes! Rabbits can eat apple skin and stems. Apple skin is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, and quercetin. If you like your apples peeled, your bun-bun will happily share your snack and eat a few square inches of the skin.
The stems are just an extension of the woody parts of the tree. Rabbits can chew on applewood treats, so the woody stems on the apple fruits aren’t a problem.
Are Apple Seeds Poisonous for Rabbits?
“Don’t eat apple seeds; they contain the poison cyanide!” My mom hammered this thought in when I was a kid; did yours?
This one’s not exactly a myth. Apple seeds – as well as peach pits, almonds, and many other fruit seeds – do contain small amounts of amygdalin. When microbiota in the gut digest this compound, it turns into a toxin called cyanide.
So can apple seeds poison rabbits? That all depends on two things.
- Are the seeds ground (chewed) so amygdalin is released?
- Is the level of cyanide produced high enough to be dangerous?
Rabbits will likely chew apple seeds rather than swallow them whole. Ground or chewed seeds are less likely to cause blockage in the GI tract, than whole seeds, which is good. But chewed seeds also allow amygdalin into the digestive system, which can lead to cyanide production.
Thankfully, the levels of cyanide in apple seeds are so low that it’s unlikely to hurt your rabbit. Humans need to eat at least 150 seeds (or up to 1000 in some varieties of apples) to consume cyanide at harmful levels. Though rabbits are smaller than people, their bodies can still process a little bit of this toxin without damage.
I have seen a rabbit eat a whole apple core – seeds and all – and no harm came to the bunny. I don’t recommend letting this happen, of course. You should remove the seeds before feeding your bunny an apple.
Don’t give your rabbit apple cores with the seeds still inside them. But if your rabbit happens to eat a couple of apple seeds, don’t panic. The levels of cyanide in apple seeds are so low that there’s probably no reason to call the vet.
Can Rabbits Eat Crab Apples?
Yes, rabbits can eat all the parts of a crab apple that are safe for bunnies in other varieties of apples. Crab apples are sourer than cultivated varieties, but your bunny won’t mind.
The lower sugar content in crab apples makes them healthy snacks for rabbits. Just make sure to cut a crabapple into small pieces so a rabbit won’t choke on it.
Pros and Cons of Feeding Apples as Treats to Rabbits
Although relatively high in sugar, apples are an easy-to-prepare rabbit snack that’s way more nutritious than yogurt drops or packaged bunny treats.
Pros: Health Benefits of Apples
Apples are High Fiber.
Here at Fuzzy-Rabbit.com, we’re always applauding high-fiber foods for rabbits. And with good reason. One-fifth of a rabbit’s total dietary macros should be fiber!
Apple skin has a higher concentration of insoluble fiber than apple flesh.
According to SF Gate, a small peeled apple has 1.7 grams of dietary fiber. But if you eat a small apple with the skin on, you more than double your fiber intake to 3.6 grams.
Apples Contain Vitamins and Phytochemicals.
Apples are a great source of nutrients called phytochemicals, including quercitin and anthocyanin. They’re also high in ascorbic acid – also known as vitamin C – but the presence of this famous antioxidant in apples doesn’t actually benefit rabbits very much.
Unlike humans, rabbits synthesize vitamin C in their bodies, so they don’t need a rich vitamin C source in their diets.
Apples Reduce Inflammation.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, animal studies show that the fiber, pectin, and vitamins in apples can reduce inflammation.
Apples positively impact the balance of bacteria in the digestive system, reducing chronic inflammation.
Cons: Cautions Regarding Apples as Treats for Rabbits
Apples are Full of Fructose.
Apples are 10% sugar, and most of this sugar is in the form of fructose. The good news is that apples are relatively low glycemic.
The fiber and pectin in an apple slow the digestion of carbohydrates so that the carbs in an apple won’t spike your rabbit’s blood sugar as much as the refined sugar in treats like yogurt drops.
But we must remember that a rabbit’s natural diet has virtually no sugar at all. A healthy rabbit’s gut — adjusted to processing roughage-rich hay — may lack the right microbes to process fructose in apples.
So when introducing apples or other fruits, start with just a couple of teaspoons per week.
Apples are on the Dirty Dozen List.
Unfortunately, studies find that conventionally grown apples carry high levels of pesticide residue.
For example, the Environmental Working Group’s 2022 list of “Dirty Dozen” produce items ranked apples as having the 5th-highest amount of pesticides among commercially-grown fruits and veggies.
On top of that, new research reveals that apples contain some of the highest levels of microplastics among all produce.
Scientists aren’t sure yet what the consequences of microplastics in food will be, but it may be bad news for those who want to share apples with their bunnies.
How to Feed Apples to Rabbits
- Source your apples for rabbits carefully. Buy organic apples from a local orchard to avoid high levels of pesticides or microplastics.
- Wash the apple to remove dirt, wax, and residue.
- Don’t peel apples for rabbits since the skin is very nutritious. (Or, if you do, feed your rabbits only the peels!)
- Give your rabbit a teaspoon of apple or less if it’s his first time trying this treat.
- Once your rabbit’s system has adjusted to processing apples, you may give your bunny half a slice of apple 1-2 times a week. Do not feed apples along with other high-sugar fruits.
How Much Apple can a Rabbit Eat?
Adult rabbits can eat up to a tablespoon of fruit per day without significantly affecting their overall nutrient intake. (A tablespoon of apple equals roughly a 1″ cube or half a slice of an apple.)
If you’re only feeding your rabbit the peels, you can give him a little bit more than a tablespoon, since the peels are quite low in sugar.
Can Baby Rabbits Eat Apples?
Baby rabbits (under 4 months of age) shouldn’t eat apples or other high-sugar fruits.
Their systems need exclusively high-quality hay and vegetables to develop a healthy gut.
Can Rabbits Eat Cooked Apples?
Rabbits can technically eat cooked apples (or applesauce) as long as no fat or extra sugar is added. However, we don’t recommend it.
Sugar is highly concentrated in cooked apples, so bunnies can only have a tiny amount. Also, applesauce is usually made from peeled apples, so you’re losing the nutritional benefits of the skin.
Is Applewood Safe for Rabbits to Chew On?
Don’t forget about apple wood! Fresh apple wood sticks, branches, or bark make safe chew toys for bunnies, and my rabbits love them!
Apple is a hardwood, so it doesn’t carry the risks that softwood products pose for bunnies.
Chewing on apple wood helps rabbits’ teeth wear correctly as they grow. This is critical in preventing malocclusion and dental disease.
Warning: Don’t give your rabbit apple wood chips made for use in meat smokers! Apple wood chips are often treated with dangerous chemicals. Instead, use apple wood sticks designed to be pet chew toys. Even better, harvest fresh sticks or branches from an apple tree yourself!
There are a few issues with apples that should give us pause when we think about feeding them to our furry friends – namely, sugar content, pesticides, and microplastics.
But if you source fresh, organic apples, wash and prepare them carefully, and keep them a minimal part of your bunny’s diet, there’s no reason your bunny shouldn’t enjoy apples now and then. Remove the seeds before giving your rabbit an apple core or piece of apple flesh.
Does your rabbit enjoy apples? Do you have any other questions about feeding apples to bunnies? Let us know in the comments!