Most of us love potatoes, so we may be tempted to share this tasty vegetable with our pets. But before you go ahead and slip some potato skins to your rabbit, think about whether they are safe for your pet to eat. Can your rabbit eat potatoes?
In veterinary clinics, we get a lot of questions about whether rabbits eat potato leaves or potato peelings, and how these treats sit with a rabbit’s gut. So in this article, we will answer your questions in detail about whether rabbits can eat potatoes. We’ll explore the following:
- Basic need-to-know information about potatoes
- Why rabbits love potatoes
- What the nutritional benefits of potatoes are
- Why potatoes are bad or good for pet rabbits
So let’s jump in!
Can Rabbits Eat Potatoes?
Potatoes are not recommended for rabbits, even though they’re a favorite snack. A few bites of cooked or raw potatoes are not poisonous to rabbits, but lack the nutrients and fiber required in a rabbit’s diet. Instead, they have a high starch content, which could cause weight gain and gastrointestinal (GI) stasis if given in large amounts. Do not feed sprouting potatoes to rabbits.
All About Potatoes
Potato plants have simple growth requirements, enabling them to grow in many parts globally. According to the USDA, 100 g of potatoes contains 2.05 g of protein, 2.1 g of dietary fiber, 17.5 g of carbohydrates, and 15.3 g of starch, among other trace nutrients.
Potatoes naturally produce glycoalkaloids, the main ones being chaconine and solanine. Glycoalkaloids occur throughout the entire potato plant, but the flowers and sprouts have the highest concentration. These compounds are poisonous to humans and animals and are characterized by a bitter taste. Their toxicity increases with improper storage, so spoiled or green potatoes have elevated levels.
Potato “eyes” and sprouted potatoes are highly toxic to rabbits and can kill. Keep sprouting or growing potatoes out of your bunny’s reach or carefully fenced off from your rabbit’s outdoor area.
Why Do Rabbits Love Potatoes?
Wild rabbits eat potatoes as they encounter them, and your pet rabbit will do the same if they get the chance. However, their nutritional content is not good for a rabbit’s digestive system.
Rabbits require a high-fiber diet, with a minimum of 18% fiber and around 12-18% protein, depending on their age. However, they don’t require high levels of carbohydrates and starch.
Nevertheless, potatoes are high in calories, making them tasty and tempting for rabbits. Raw potatoes have a slight aroma which rabbits probably like. Rabbits also love potatoes because they are fun to chew.
The carbohydrates in potatoes supply flight energy for wild rabbits running away from their predators. Potatoes also keep wild rabbits full for longer as they hide or search for their next meal in times of scarcity. Since your pet rabbit is never on the run from predators or starving, it doesn’t need this high-calorie snack.
Are Potatoes Bad for Rabbits?
Since rabbits are herbivores that routinely consume a wide range of vegetables, you may assume that potatoes are good for them too, but they aren’t. Apart from green or sprouting potatoes, which contain toxic glycoalkaloids, regular potatoes can also cause health problems if your rabbit eats too much.
The first issue with potatoes is their starch. Rabbits digest starch in their small intestines, but potatoes contain resistant starch inaccessible to the rabbit’s digestive enzymes. The resistant starch is pushed into the large intestine, which isn’t set up for processing starch. The process takes a long time and often results in loose stools.
Rabbits also require a fiber-dense diet to maintain their digestive tracts. Since potatoes contain negligible amounts of fiber, eating them can cause your rabbit to get diarrhea and even have GI stasis. The lack of fiber also promotes tooth overgrowth, which can damage your bunny’s tongue and cheeks.
The high calorie content also predisposes your bunny to getting overweight. Wild rabbits are less susceptible to getting overweight from potatoes, as they exercise a lot and usually survive on much less food than pet rabbits.
So, when you’re about to give potatoes to your little furry friend, hold back. Although a small piece might not do much harm, they don’t contribute to your bunny’s health. Instead, provide a fiber-rich diet to keep your bunny healthy and maintain its digestive system. Dandelion, cilantro, and Brussels sprouts make better treats.
Can baby rabbits eat potatoes?
Baby rabbits will eat anything they come across, including potatoes! However, that doesn’t mean it’s good for them. Potatoes lack adequate protein, fiber, and iron that young rabbits require for healthy growth, but importantly, their sensitive gastrointestinal systems can’t digest potatoes.
Potatoes can cause fatal stomach and intestinal obstructions in baby rabbits, so you should never allow your rabbit kittens to eat them.
They provide no nutritional value to your rabbit kittens. The best diet for baby rabbits is mother’s milk and hay.
Can rabbits eat cooked potatoes?
While it’s not an emergency if your pet rabbit accidentally eats some cooked potato, in general it should be avoided.
Herbivores such as rabbits cannot digest cooked food easily, and they can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, constipation, and GI stasis.
These effects can be worse with cooked potatoes than when rabbits eat raw potatoes.
Can rabbits eat potato chips or processed potatoes?
Rabbits shouldn’t be offered potato chips or any processed food. This is because processed foods are usually saturated in fats, high in starch, and have almost no fiber content.
Fats are dangerous to rabbits as they can cause blockage of veins, and liver and heart issues.
Can rabbits eat potato peels?
Although they aren’t toxic, it’s not a good idea to let your rabbits eat potato peelings. Their fiber content is fractionally higher than the rest of the potato, but it’s negligible. The peels are also rich in starch, causing similar negative effects as the flesh. Rather avoid potatoes altogether and feed your rabbit grass hay, Timothy hay, and the appropriate amount of pellets.
Are potato leaves and vines edible for rabbits?
Potato leaves, vines, and flowers are poisonous to rabbits, as toxic glycoalkaloids are more concentrated in the flowers, leaves, and vines. Some rabbits can detect poisonous plants, but most eat whatever appeals to their eyes. So keep an eye on your rabbits if there are potato plants around.
Can rabbits eat sweet potatoes?
Sweet potatoes are distinct from standard potatoes. They aren’t poisonous for your bunny, but their high carbohydrate content makes the tubers unsuitable for your rabbit’s diet.
However, sweet potato leaves and vines are appropriate for rabbits. They are a source of proteins and fiber and make a perfect substitute for alfalfa hay in growing rabbits.
What should you do when your rabbit eats potatoes?
If your rabbit ate a small portion of potato, it might not have adverse effects. You should monitor it for 24 hours. Observing its poop is the best way to detect problems in a rabbit’s digestive system.
If you observe abnormal poop after potato consumption or if your bunny ate a large portion of potatoes, contact your vet immediately for further assistance. Failure to defecate should also warrant an emergency visit to your vet.
Rabbits are delicate pets, so be sure to provide critical care when your bunny is unwell.
Final Thoughts on Rabbits Eating Potatoes
In conclusion, there are various human foods that rabbits can eat, but potatoes are not among them. Although your rabbit can digest raw potatoes, they are not good for its health, and eating cooked potatoes will have negative repercussions.
It is best to keep potato plants, tubers, and peels away from your bunny. Sweet potato tubers aren’t suitable either, but their leaves and vines are great for pet rabbits to snack on.
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