Bread is a food that many of us find ourselves eating quite frequently. This diverse food can be eaten alone, used to make a sandwich, or even hollowed out to act as a bowl for soup! Not only is it tasty, but it's also a great source of protein, calcium, fiber, iron, and several other essential vitamins and minerals. So, with all of the benefits that come with bread, you may be wondering: Can rabbits eat bread?
In short, yes, rabbits can eat bread, but they shouldn't eat more than a rare piece. Bread won't harm a rabbit in small amounts, but it certainly isn't a very nutritious food for them. There are much more beneficial foods that you can feed your rabbit.
What Do Rabbits Eat In The Wild?
In order to better understand why rabbits aren't really able to eat bread, it helps to understand what they eat naturally in the wild. Rabbits have been kept as pets for a while, but they've also been roaming around North America, South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, Sumatra, Japan, and Africa for thousands of years. During this time, they've eaten roughly the same foods, so their digestive systems have become optimized for digesting those foods.
This is why it's so important to match your rabbit's diet to the diet that they'd eat naturally -- their bodies are designed to run off of certain foods!
Rabbits are classified as herbivores, meaning that they only eat different variations of plant matter. While quite a few foods fit within a herbivore's diet, a rabbit only eats a small variety of different foods. Wild rabbits have diets that primarily consist of wild grass, forbs, and leafy weeds.
Rabbits are grazing creatures, meaning that spend a good portion of their day simply eating. This results in grass making up about 80-90% of a rabbit's diet, giving them most of the essential nutrients that they need. The rest of the food in a rabbit's diet varies depending on the location of the rabbit and the current time of year, but they all eat roughly the same kind of food. To make up the rest of their diet, rabbits eat a mixture of weeds, clovers, wildflowers, and vegetable plants.
Health Benefits Of Brown Bread
After looking at the diet of a wild hamster, it's quite clear why bread wouldn't make a good addition to their diet. Yes, bread is made from grain which is plant matter, but it's not very similar to the grass and weeds that rabbits most frequently eat. So, will small amounts of bread hurt a rabbit? Most likely not. Should it be fed to rabbits? Once again, probably not.
Now, brown or whole grain bread does have quite a few health benefits that come with it. Whole grain kernels are made up of three different parts, and those are the germ, endosperm, and bran. All three components have some excellent health benefits for most living creatures.
Whole grains do a whole lot more than just act as a nutritious part of a creature's diet. They also work to reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and stroke, in addition to helping prevent cancer. These are all benefits that have been observed in humans, but not much research has gone into whether or not they carry over into rabbits. Regardless, many owners are split about whether or not brown or whole grain bread is healthy for rabbits.
Knowing the health benefits of brown bread, it may help you decide whether or not you want to feed your rabbit bread at all. With the tiny amounts of bread you can feed your rabbit, though, these benefits will be marginal.
Dangers Of Bread For Rabbits
While whole grain bread may have some health benefits for rabbits, it can also be dangerous, as can white bread. While many breads are tasty, they're tasty for a reason, and that reason is usually the presence of a lot of sugar -- something rabbits cannot have a lot of.
Looking at the natural diet of a rabbit, you won't see many foods that have a high sugar content. Sure, they may eat the occasional vegetable that contains sugar, but their daily sugar intake is still very low. Due to this, rabbits' bodies simply can't handle excess amounts of sugar, which is something that they'd surely get from most breads.
Not only is bread sugary a lot of the time, but it's also loaded with starch and complex carbohydrates. Rabbits have very fine-tuned digestive systems that do a great job dealing with the excess amounts of cellulose that they eat, but not so much starch and carbs. Therefore, they can experience serious indigestion and intestinal distress when eating bread.
Most bread is also lacking in health benefits. Some bread, such as whole grain, does make for a healthy food, but this is the minority. Most bread for rabbits will simply be empty calories as they don't give rabbits the nutrients that they need to live. Therefore, you're fattening your rabbit up and risking their health for almost nothing.
How To Properly Feed Your Rabbit Bread
It should be clear now that bread isn't a very healthy food for your rabbit to be eating. Their bodies aren't designed to process it, and they gain almost no health benefits from it. However, some owners still do opt to feed their rabbits bread, but they do so in a responsible way.
Rabbits should only eat brown bread, as the sugar in white bread must be avoided. A rabbit can eat a small piece of bread, about an inch long, once per week. Your bunny may be able to eat more than this, but it's always better to be on the safe side of things. Additionally, if your rabbit is getting a lot of grain and carbs through other foods, bread should be avoided entirely.
If you still do want to feed your rabbit bread, you first need to ensure that their dietary needs are being met. Some bread is actually quite healthy, but it's nowhere near as healthy as a dedicated, quality rabbit food. Because of this, it should never be used as a staple in your rabbit's diet.
Any healthy rabbit has a diet that's primarily made up of a high-quality hay. This hay should be available for your rabbit 24/7, and it works to provide them with most of their essential nutrients as well as keeping their teeth a proper length. Hay will make up about 80-90% of a rabbit's diet. Once you make sure that your rabbit is getting quality hay, then you can focus on supplementing their diet with some fresh greens and the occasional tiny piece of bread.
Good Bread Alternatives For Rabbits
Your rabbits may love to eat bread, but that doesn't make it a healthy snack choice. Sure, a tiny piece given every now and then shouldn't hurt a rabbit, but it's nowhere near a healthy snack. Fortunately, there are some phenomenal, healthy rabbit snacks available that are much better than bread. Below are two of our favorite rabbit snacks.
Emours Natural Bamboo Teeth Chews
This is more of an unorthodox rabbit treat, but one of the most loved treats available by far.
They're sweetened from a natural sugar known as xylose, making them irresistible for rabbits.
The bamboo is durable, meaning that one stick a day promotes excellent jaw and dental health.
Oxbow Simple Rewards Veggie Treats
Oxbow is a very prominent brand in the small pet space, and these are their best rabbit treats.
Made from only a few natural ingredients, these treats are very healthy and close to a rabbit's natural diet.
There's no fillers, with the first 3 ingredients being timothy meal, pearled barley, and oat groats.