Can rabbits eat honey, even in moderation? Well, though it is a yummy sweet treat for humans, honey can prove dangerous for rabbits. It is especially hard on their fragile digestive systems.
Maybe when you were a kid you enjoyed sticking your finger in the honey jar and eating the sweet, golden, syrupy treasure that was honey. Maybe you’d like your rabbit to enjoy the same pleasure that you did? No!
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So the question: “can rabbits eat honey”? The resounding answer is “no”.
This article discusses the reasons why rabbits should not eat honey.
How is Honey Made?
Honey is a mastermind of technology produced by bees from the nectar of flowering plants. Bees suck the nectar from the plant flowers through a long tongue which they store in a second stomach. While stored there, the nectar gets mixed with enzymes that prepare it for long-term storage. Back at the hive, one bee regurgitates the mixture into the mouth of another bee, a process that continues until the now mostly digested nectar is deposited into a honeycomb.
Still watery when first deposited in the honeycomb, the bees beat their wings to begin to evaporate the water out of the liquid. It then hardens so it can be used for food during the winter months by the bees. The honey color varies depending on where the bees primarily get their nectar. Clover honey is a common example of a popular honey.
So, why isn’t honey good for rabbits if it comes from plants that are otherwise good rabbit food?
Sugar, Sugar, Sugar,
Truth be told, honey is not poisonous to rabbits, but the fact that it is loaded with various types of sugars makes it murder on their digestive system. Plus, if given for the long haul, they can suffer obesity, which is also a health hazard.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 100 grams of honey is made up of the following:
It also contains miscellaneous vitamins and minerals in very small quantities.
So, with 5 different kinds of sugar, honey is a hotbed of sweet calories. In addition, it contains little fiber, which is essential for rabbits to have healthy guts.
A Brief Chat About Rabbits’ Digestive Systems’
Here is a quick overview of the rabbit’s digestive tract. Rabbits have one stomach, 2 sections of the small intestine, and 2 sections of the large intestine. They also have a colon that acts to divide the good from the bad, namely, retaining the good fiber necessary for a rabbit’s health. When they eat, a rabbit will typically chew their food 120 times before swallowing it. After passing from the stomach, the food passes into the small intestines where important nutrients are absorbed. It also neutralizes the acids formed from the food in the stomach. The entire time the food is in the small intestines is just 30 to 60 minutes.
Now for a key point: In the large intestines, good fibers and starches are broken down by good bacteria, which, if their level is changed, can lead to a fatal condition. The large intestine also separates digestible from indigestible materials. The indigestible material is then expelled as fecal balls.
An important fact about rabbit digestion is that they cannot vomit, which can lead to serious conditions such as intestinal blockages. The important elements to keep healthy digestion in your rabbit are proper exercise, little stress, and antibiotics.
Back to Honey
When rabbits are fed significant amounts of honey, they get little, if any, fiber, which causes a serious kind of constipation. This can be true even if they are getting fiber. But the bigger problem is this: Rabbits can handle the sugar fructose, which is found in fruits, but honey has a particularly high concentration of glucose, which causes unhealthy kinds of bacteria to grow in the intestines. With a high concentration of bad bacteria, the rabbit can become ill and develop diarrhea, a condition that requires immediate vet care.
Can You Add Honey to Other Rabbit Foods?
Although not directly toxic, honey is just not something you should feed your rabbit. It would be like a human eating a large number of sugar cubes. Also, like any other thing, feeding a rabbit lots of honey may turn him off to other, healthy foods.
What Foods Contain Honey?
Whenever you buy treats for your rabbit, be sure to read the labels, and though a small amount won’t hurt him, it’s better to just put the item back on the shelf. You probably wouldn’t feed these to your rabbit, but some foods you might not expect to may contain honey.
- Some cereals
- Some barbecue sauces
- Sweet and sour sauces
- Some salad dressings
- Some soups
- Some candies
- Some cakes and pastries
Instead of Honey?
Treats with fructose are good for rabbits, but not as their diet staple. Fruits contain fructose, and some good ones include the following:
- Apple (no seeds)
- Berries: blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries
- Cherries (no seeds)
However, do consider these fruits as a treat, and feed them just once or twice a week in relatively small quantities.
One fruit that must never be fed to a rabbit is the avocado. This fruit contains persin, a toxin found in the entire fruit and plant. What happens when a rabbit ingests persin is that the heart beats irregularly, fluid gathers in the salivary glands, and breathing may become hard. This condition can progress to becoming fatal.
Even safer for rabbits are some vegetables which can be fed to them every day. A list of these includes the following:
- Bell peppers
- Bok Choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Dill leaves
- Mustard greens
- Romain lettuce
- Spring greens
- Summer squash
- Turnip greens
- Zucchini squash
Dangerous Foods for Rabbits Other Than Honey
In addition to avocado, there are a number of other foods that are dangerous for rabbits to eat. These include the following:
- Chocolate, especially dark chocolate
- Fruit seeds and pits
- Raw onions
- Kidney and broad beans
- Iceberg lettuce
- Sweet Potatoes
- Processed foods
- Raw potatoes
It’s true that honey is a tasty luxury for us humans, but the bottom line is that it can wreak havoc on the fragile digestive tracts of your pet rabbit. Instead, there are many safe fruits you can give your rabbit as the occasional treat as well as many vegetables you can safely give your rabbit every day. So, the final word is to make sure to avoid giving honey to your rabbit.