The short answer to “Can rabbits eat watermelon?”
Yes, rabbits can eat watermelon, but it should be cut up into small pieces to prevent choking, the seeds must be removed, and it should be limited to 1-2 servings a week as a treat.
Instead, rabbits need a diet that consists mainly of fibrous hay, which is supplemented with small amounts of pellets and vegetables. Fruit should be considered a treat, and therefore should be given in moderation.
What Are Watermelons?
First, let’s look at what watermelons are so that we can better understand their role in rabbits’ diets.
Watermelons are fruits from the family Cucurbitaceae (that’s a mouthful) which includes squash, pumpkin, cucumbers, and gourds. They are known for their juicy, refreshing taste, and are especially popular in the summertime.
Watermelons, believe it or not, are berries which are fruits that do not have pits or stones, have three distinct layers, have two or more seeds, and come from one flower that has only one ovary.
There are a lot of requirements just to be considered a berry!
But watermelons don’t just draw the line at being berries; they are a special type of berry called a pepo which is a berry that is not internally divided and has a hard rind. This is as opposed to regular berries which are divided (like tomatoes) or that have a thinner, softer outer skin (like grapes).
The reason that watermelons being a type of berry is important is that typically the seeds of berries are toxic to rabbits (like tomato seeds). In fact, most fruit seeds are toxic to rabbits (like apple or apricot seeds), but there are exceptions (like grape seeds).
Sadly, watermelon seeds are not one of those exceptions, and they can be toxic to rabbits if ingested in large quantities. More importantly, they are also a choking hazard due to their large size in relation to rabbits’ mouths and throats.
You should always remove watermelon seeds before feeding your rabbit or buy seedless watermelons.
Benefits of Watermelon for Rabbits
There are plenty of benefits to feeding your rabbit watermelon.
Watermelon is incredibly high in water (around 91% water) which helps to keep rabbits hydrated. It is also high in electrolytes, which are minerals that have an electric charge (like sodium, potassium, and chloride) that help regulate water amounts in the body.
Think of watermelon as being a type of Gatorade or Powerade for rabbits. It can be very refreshing and hydrating on hot days when your rabbit may be tired and overheated (although too much is not good for your rabbit, we will go over that later).
Watermelon is also high in vitamin A and vitamin C, both of which are good for rabbits’ immune systems and overall health. However, rabbits can make their own vitamin C (unlike humans), so they don’t really need to go out of their way to ingest it.
It has been suggested that rabbits who are stressed, anxious, or depressed may benefit from extra vitamin C, but excess amounts can lead to kidney damage. Therefore, as with any food, moderation is key, and you should always check with your veterinarian if you feel that your rabbit is getting too much of any one nutrient or food.
Watermelon is high in magnesium, which is an important mineral for rabbits. This is because rabbits are very prone to developing what is called bladder sludge, where they have too much calcium, and it builds up in their urine. Sounds delightful!
This phenomenon happens because rabbits absorb all the calcium from their diet. (As opposed to other mammals that absorb only what they need.) They then must rely on urine excretion to rid themselves of the excess calcium.
It has been proposed that rabbits who are prone to bladder sludge can benefit from an increase of magnesium in their diet. Not only watermelon, but cranberries as well are thought to help in the prevention of bladder sludge.
Common symptoms of bladder sludge are blood in the urine, straining to urinate, frequent urination, and visible sediment in the urine. If you think your rabbit has bladder sludge, then please seek veterinary help!
Another benefit of watermelon is that it is high in choline, which is an essential nutrient that is required for a body to function properly. It is often grouped with (and performs similarly to) B vitamins.
Choline helps improve sleep, muscle function, metabolism, and brain responses. That’s one important nutrient!
Watermelon is also one of the lowest calorie fruits (it contains only 46 calories per cup) which can help prevent weight gain from excessive calories from treats.
Watermelon is also high in carotenoids which are fat-soluble pigments that give a plant its color (mainly yellow, orange, or red).
Some of the carotenoids that watermelon has are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lycopene, all of which are also antioxidants that help prevent free radical damage.
Also, watermelon rinds (the outer skin) are very fibrous compared to watermelon flesh, and their hard structure is also good for rabbits’ teeth. This is important because rabbits’ teeth never stop growing.
Watermelon rinds also have less sugar than the flesh part and contain high amounts of citrulline, which is an amino acid that helps with heart and blood vessel health.
However, you should always chop up watermelon rinds (and the flesh) to help prevent choking.
Cons of Watermelon for Rabbits
So far, watermelon is sounding like a wonder fruit, right?
Sadly, there are some cons to feeding your rabbit watermelon.
We mentioned one con briefly before, but watermelon seeds are toxic for rabbits in large amounts, and they are also a choking hazard due to their large size. (However, watermelon leaves and flowers are safe for rabbits to digest.)
Another con of watermelon is that it is high in sugar content. This may not seem like a serious issue, but for rabbits, it is incredibly important.
Unlike humans, rabbits do not have peristalsis, which is constant stomach movement. This means they rely heavily on fiber to help them digest their food. Remember that rabbits need hay, hay, and more hay to be healthy!
If a food is high in sugar (like watermelon) then, not only is it hard for rabbits to digest, but it can upset the pH level of their stomach. This can lead to gas, bloating, or diarrhea. Not fun times!
Rabbits are notorious for their finicky stomachs, so always introduce any new food slowly.
Also, even if your rabbit has been fine with watermelon before, excess amounts can still cause stomach upset. The most common side effect of too much sugar is loose stool, so check your rabbit’s poo daily to make sure they are in tip-top shape.
Excess sugar can also lead to health problems like obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. Furthermore, rabbits that are fed too much fruit will often refuse to eat their regular food.
Always feed rabbits watermelon after they have eaten their hay.
Try to equate watermelon with human junk food. It’s okay now and then, but they shouldn’t eat it all the time.
Therefore, fruits (including watermelons) should be considered treats and should only be fed in moderation.
All fruit should be less than 10% of rabbits’ diets and should be rotated. So, you should never feed rabbits watermelon daily.
Rabbits should be limited to 1 tablespoon of watermelon per 2 lbs. of rabbit body weight given 1-2 times a week.
Yes, rabbits can eat watermelon, but it should be cut up into small pieces to prevent choking, and it should be limited to 1-2 servings a week as a treat.
Instead, rabbits should be eating lots of hay that is supplemented with some pellets and vegetables.
There are some benefits to feeding rabbits watermelon: it is high in water, electrolytes, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, choline, carotenoids (like alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lycopene), it is low in calories for a fruit, and the watermelon rind is good for rabbits’ teeth and is high in citrulline.
There are some cons to feeding rabbits watermelon: it is high in sugar, and the seeds are toxic in large amounts (and are a choking hazard).
Some reminders to keep in mind when feeding rabbits watermelon:
- You should always remove watermelon seeds or buy seedless watermelons.
- You should always chop up watermelon (both the flesh and the rind) to help prevent choking.
- Always introduce watermelon (or any new food) slowly to prevent stomach upset.
- Always feed rabbits watermelon after they have eaten their hay.
- Never feed rabbits watermelon daily, and fruit should be less than 10% of their diet.
- Rabbits should be limited to 1 tablespoon of watermelon per 2 lbs. of rabbit body weight given 1-2 times a week.