Rabbits should stick to a specialized diet that includes only safe and natural foods. Hay and grasses, high-protein pellets made from organic goods, and vegetables are great options to feed your pet rabbit. Can rabbits eat cheese and other dairy products, however? It turns out that processed foods, like cheese, are in fact not safe for your rabbit, and should be avoided at all costs.
Cheese poses a danger for rabbits for several reasons. Cheese contains dangerous substances like lactose, and it is also difficult for rabbits to digest. Although your rabbit won’t be poisoned by cheese because it is not toxic to rabbits, your pet could develop serious digestive tract issues that can make your rabbit incredibly sick.
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Why Is Cheese Bad for Rabbits?
While cheese isn’t likely to poison your rabbit, it does pose a serious health risk. Cheese has too many specific vitamins and minerals and not enough of others, creating an unbalanced situation for your pet rabbit. There are four main reasons why cheese is dangerous for rabbits.
To properly digest foods, rabbits need plenty of dietary fiber. Foods like hays and grasses are rich in fiber and help keep the guy healthy and strong. Fiber not only helps keep the digestive tract moving, but it can keep stool firm and healthy.
Unfortunately, cheese has no fiber at all. Without fiber, the gut has nothing to help move food through the intestines. When food doesn’t progress through the digestive tract, it doesn’t digest properly. Poorly digested food becomes stuck, which can lead to constipation. It can become fatal when a rabbit is constipated, especially if GI stasis occurs. If you suspect your rabbit is constipated, contact a veterinarian immediately for care.
While cheese has too little fiber, it has too much fat. Rabbits have select digestive systems that are designed to process vegetation like vegetables, hay, and grass. These foods don’t have loads of fat, if any, so that the rabbit can process them efficiently. Cheese comparatively is extremely fatty.
Rabbits that eat a diet that has too much fat likely have digestion issues. A fatty diet can cause bloating, diarrhea, gas, and indigestion. Undesirable bacteria living in the intestines feed on fatty foods, which produce even more gas and cause discomfort. It is important to note that many foods have high-fat content that rabbits should avoid. Commercially produced treats can have a high amount of fat even though they are marketed as rabbit-safe.
Protein is a necessary nutrient essential for building strong muscles and promoting organ health. However, too much protein can be a problem for rabbits. Typically, a rabbit’s diet will include about 17% protein that stems primarily from specific vegetable proteins. These proteins come in leafy greens, hays, and grasses. Cheese, comparatively, contains about 25% protein and consists of the wrong type of protein.
When rabbits get too much protein in their diet, their body has difficulty breaking down the foreign proteins. The result is a strange mix of amino acids, which can cause your rabbit to become sick. While protein is essential for health, the wrong type of protein can be detrimental.
Lastly, cheese contains a type of sugar called lactose. Rabbits have difficulty digesting this sugar, leading to serious health concerns. Lactose is considered a complex sugar, and so the body needs to break lactose into glucose and galactose to process the nutrient fully. A rabbit’s body isn’t equipped to break down complex sugars, leaving the complex sugar undigested.
What Should I Do If My Rabbit Ate Cheese?
Luckily, cheese isn’t toxic for your rabbit, so it is unlikely your rabbit will suffer severe consequences if it has nibbled a small amount of cheese. If your rabbit has ingested a significant amount, you may want to watch your pet.
The first 24 hours after eating cheese are the most pivotal as the body compresses the fatty food. In most cases, a rabbit will be alright, only suffering an upset stomach or mild diarrhea. Rarely will a rabbit have adverse effects from eating cheese. Ensure that your rabbit’s stool is firm, breathing normally, and eating a regular diet. You want to ensure your rabbit behaves as usual and is moving, interacting, and playing. If anything seems off, be sure to contact a veterinarian immediately for care.
What Should I Do If My Rabbit is Sick?
The most likely symptom of a rabbit eating too much cheese is diarrhea. If left untreated, diarrhea could cause your rabbit serious pain, dehydration, and even death. If you notice your rabbit’s stool is softer than usual after eating cheese, you will want to take steps to mitigate diarrhea so your pet can make a full recovery. Some of the best ways to help your rabbit include:
- High Fiber – Adding more fiber to your rabbit’s diet will help your rabbit’s gut get back to normal. Remove any cheese your rabbit may have had a bite of, and supply your rabbit with an unlimited supply of hay and grass. The fibrous grass matter can help restore the healthy balance of nutrients in the gut.
- Water – When your rabbit has diarrhea, it risks being dehydrated. Be sure to supply your rabbit with plenty of fresh, clean water.
- Clean Up – A rabbit sick to its stomach can make quite a mess of itself and its cage. When your rabbit has diarrhea, be sure to keep the cage clean. You’ll always want to clean your rabbit’s fur in case it has soiled itself. Pay close attention to your rabbit’s bottom. If left uncleaned, your rabbit could develop skin irritation or even an infection.
Watch your rabbit for a few days to ensure symptoms are improving. If you see no noticeable improvement or your rabbit worsens, call a veterinarian for care. Your rabbit may need prescription medicine to cure its diarrhea and restore a healthy digestive tract.
What Is the Healthiest Diet for a Rabbit?
Rabbits require a well-balanced diet to stay healthy, which sadly does not include cheese. The bulk of your rabbit’s diet should come from hays and grasses, accounting for up to 75% of the total diet. About 15% of your rabbit’s diet should come from high-quality pellets, while another 10%-15% should come from green, leafy vegetables. Lastly, only about 5% of your rabbit’s diet should come from sugary foods like treats and fruit.
Keeping your rabbit healthy is easy as long as you keep your rabbit on a well-balanced diet of grass, hay, and high-quality pellets. Cheese should not be a part of your rabbit’s diet. While cheese is not toxic for rabbits, ingesting cheese could disrupt your rabbit’s digestive tract. Cheese contains high fat, lactose, high protein, and little fiber, making it difficult for your rabbit to digest. Luckily, the worst that can come from a rabbit eating cheese is an upset stomach and diarrhea. Constantly monitor your rabbit if it becomes sick after eating cheese and seek medical advice from a veterinarian if symptoms or diarrhea worsen.