The Short Answer: Yes, rabbits can eat strawberries, but only in moderation, as an occasional treat. Ideally, rabbits should eat mostly hay, and their diet should be supplemented with pellets and vegetables.
Now for little more in depth information about feeding strawberries to rabbits.
What Are Strawberries?
First, let’s look at what strawberries are so that we can better understand their role in rabbits’ diets.
Strawberries are fruits from the family Rosaceae (which includes apples, pears, plums, almonds, and roses) that are known for their bright red color and sweet flavor.
Contrary to their name, strawberries are not actually a type of berry. A berry is a fruit that does not have a stone, has three distinct layers, has two or more seeds, and comes from one flower that only has one ovary.
Phew. That is a lot of requirements to be a berry!
In fact, many berries are misnamed (like raspberries and blackberries). And there are several fruits that don’t have berry in their name, that are in fact berries (like grapes and watermelons).
Would it blow your mind to know that a banana is also a berry?
Instead, strawberries are aggregate accessory fruits (a fancy term for fruits in which not all their flesh is derived from the ovary). These fruits are also called false fruits.
For strawberries, their flesh comes from the receptacle (what we think of as the “fruit”) that holds the ovaries. And what we call the “seeds” are the ovaries and they have seeds inside of them. This is important to note because it means that rabbits can eat strawberry seeds!
So, while many fruit’s seeds, stems, and leaves are toxic to rabbits (such as apples, tomatoes, and apricots), strawberries (and many other aggregate accessory fruits) are not toxic to rabbits.
This means that you can feed your rabbit any part of a strawberry plant. Great news for people who keep gardens for their pet rabbits or people who just don’t like to waste food!
Benefits of Strawberries for Rabbits
There are some benefits of strawberries for rabbits (other than the fact that rabbits find them sweet and tasty).
A major benefit of strawberries is their large water content (they are around 91% water) which can help keep rabbits hydrated.
Strawberries are also high in vitamin C, but rabbits (unlike humans) are perfectly capable of producing their own vitamin C from glucose, so this isn’t too compelling of a reason to give rabbits strawberries.
However, it has been suggested that rabbits who are stressed, depressed, or anxious may benefit from fruits that are high in vitamin C.
Be aware though that too much vitamin C can cause kidney damage in rabbits, so it’s best to moderate their vitamin C intake unless specified by a veterinarian.
Strawberries are extremely high in antioxidants (compounds that help defend cells from free radicals). In fact, they are consistently ranked as one of the top 20 foods that are high in antioxidants.
One of the antioxidants that strawberries are well known for is anthocyanin which is what gives them their beautiful red color. Supposedly, this antioxidant also helps prevent heart disease in both humans and animals.
Strawberries are also high in magnesium. Magnesium is important for rabbits because they can be prone to developing what is called bladder sludge (which is where there is too much calcium, and it builds up in their urine).
This phenomenon may be because, unlike most mammals, rabbits absorb all the calcium from their diet (instead of only the amount they require). They rely upon urine excretion to get rid of excess calcium.
Symptoms of bladder sludge can be straining to urinate, blood in the urine, frequent urination, and visible sediment in the urine. It has been proposed that rabbits that are prone to bladder sludge may benefit from increased magnesium in their diet over an extended period.
Cranberries (another false berry) are also thought to help prevent bladder sludge in rabbits. Who knew fake berries were so beneficial?
Cons of Strawberries for Rabbits
While strawberries are not toxic and are generally considered safe for rabbits, there are some cons to feeding rabbits strawberries.
The main con of strawberries is their high sugar content.
Rabbits have a very specialized diet. This is because they do not have peristalsis (which is constant stomach movement that helps rabbits to digest their food).
Due to this, rabbits require a diet that is extremely high in fiber, but very low in sugar. And although humans find strawberries to be very sweet, rabbits find them even more so.
By rabbit standards, most fruits are decadently sweet desserts!
Since their digestive system is not equipped for lots of sugar, large amounts of it can cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, and stomach pain in many rabbits. Also, too much sugar can lead to health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and tooth decay.
You should always feed strawberries in moderation as an occasional treat or a tool for training.
An average portion of strawberries (depending on your rabbit’s size) is one medium strawberry fed no more than twice a week.
It’s also important not to feed your rabbit strawberries daily, not only to limit sugar but because many rabbits will often refuse to eat their hay if offered strawberries daily. Apparently, strawberries are very addicting to rabbits!
Instead, think of strawberries as being the rabbit version of ice cream. Would you eat your veggies if every day you were fed chocolate ice cream? Of course not!
Try to always feed your rabbit after they have eaten their hay first.
Strawberries should also be washed thoroughly to help remove any chemicals or pesticides that may be detrimental to your rabbit and cut up into chunks to prevent choking.
You should also never give rabbits dried strawberries because dried fruit has around three times more sugar than fresh fruit!
Also, it is well known that rabbits have sensitive stomachs, so it is always smart to slowly introduce any new food to your pet rabbit. And, just like humans, some rabbits are allergic to strawberries.
Some symptoms to look out for are loose stool, diarrhea, bloating, dehydration, lethargy, and loss of appetite. If you think your rabbit is having an allergic reaction to strawberries, please see your veterinarian immediately!
Summary of Can Rabbits Eat Strawberries?
Yes they can eat strawberries, although they should be fed in moderation as an occasional treat. Instead, rabbits should be fed a diet high in hay that is also supplemented with pellets and vegetables.
There are some benefits to feeding rabbits strawberries: they are high in water, vitamin C, antioxidants, and magnesium.
There are also some cons to feeding rabbits strawberries: they are high in sugar, can upset rabbits’ stomachs, and some rabbits are even allergic to strawberries.
You should always wash strawberries to remove any harmful substances, and strawberries should be cut up to help prevent choking.
Also, you should never feed rabbits dried strawberries.
An average portion of strawberries would be a medium strawberry that is limited to no more than twice a week.
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