Is It Safe to Give Watermelon to Rabbits?
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As summer approaches, we often look for watery and refreshing fruits to help cool us down. One of the most popular summer fruits is watermelon, an ancient fruit believed to have been first domesticated in northeast Africa over 4,000 years ago. This large, round fruit has a green rind and bright red flesh, and is packed with nutrients, including antioxidants and vitamins A and C. The health benefits of watermelons have led many pet owners to question whether rabbits can eat them.
The following AnimalWised article tells you everything you need to know about how to feed rabbits watermelons.
Is watermelon good for rabbits?
Before explaining whether watermelon is a good fruit for rabbits, we must make an important observation about their diet. Rabbits are herbivores whose diet must be based on three basic elements:
- Hay (80%)
- Pallets (5%)
- Fresh fruits and vegetables (15%)
The fresh food portion should consist mainly of green leafy vegetables. However, a small amount of fruit may be offered occasionally. That said, rabbits can safely eat watermelon, as it offers certain nutritional benefits and contains no toxic substances. Moreover, rabbits are usually great lovers of this fruit. It is a sweet and refreshing snack that they rarely refuse.
However, the fact that they enjoy the taste of this fruit does not mean that they can consume it regularly or in large quantities. We will explain in the following sections how much, how often and in what form watermelon should be fed to rabbits so that they can benefit from its properties without harming them.
Hay is an essential part of the diet of rabbits, and that is why it is so important that we choose the best hay for our rabbit. This can be difficult as there are many types and brands. Read this other article to learn how to choose the best hay for your rabbits.
Benefits of watermelon for rabbits
Watermelon is a very refreshing fruit, rich in water and salts. In fact, it is the fruit with the highest water content (95% of its weight). For this reason, the consumption of watermelon in the diet of rabbits helps them stay well hydrated (especially on very hot summer days) and favors the proper functioning of the urinary system.
The fact that it contains so much water means that it provides very little energy. The inclusion of watermelon in the diet of rabbits does not significantly alter the energy value of their ration, which is beneficial for maintaining the body condition of the animals.
Watermelon is not a particularly nutrient-dense food. It does contain significant amounts of vitamins A and C, as well as minerals such as calcium and potassium. The most remarkable of its nutritional composition is its content of carotenoids, among which stands out lycopene, a compound with a great antioxidant capacity.
Among the benefits of watermelon is also its excellent taste. It's no big secret that all rabbits have a taste for sweet things, and the rich, juicy flesh of watermelon is a treat they are sure to enjoy. Therefore, it is one of the fruits that can be used as a reward for rabbit training. Small pieces of watermelon as a reward are a great incentive for learning new tricks and commands.
Rabbits are easily frightened animals and can quickly lose their trust in us if we discipline them inappropriately. On the other hand, rabbits, like all pets, must learn to behave. Read this other article to learn how to properly train and discipline your rabbit without compromising its trust.
How to give watermelon to my rabbit?
When it comes to offering watermelon, some questions often arise among caregivers. Is watermelon rind good for rabbits? Can rabbits eat watermelon seeds? To dispel these doubts, we will answer each of these questions in detail.
Although humans are accustomed to eating only the flesh of the watermelon, rabbits can eat both the flesh and the rind. This is because the rind has a high fiber content, which is an important nutrient in the diet of rabbits. It is always advisable to offer the pulp along with an appropriate portion of the rind. To prevent your rabbit from choking on the harder and greener skin of the watermelon (skin or rind), cut it into smaller pieces.
Watermelon seeds, on the other hand, are not suitable for rabbits because they are difficult to digest and can cause intestinal blockage. Therefore, if we offer watermelons with black or brown seeds (so-called diploid watermelons), it is critical to remove all the seeds from the portion before giving it to our pet.
Finally, we must point out that watermelon should only be offered fresh and at room temperature. It is not recommended to give it frozen or directly from the refrigerator.
Watermelon dosage for rabbits
Fruit should generally be a very small part of the diet of rabbits, since its high sugar content can have fatal consequences for health. Watermelons have no significant health benefits for rabbits. Their relatively low nutrient content and high sugar content make them a treat that should be served very infrequently.
As much as most rabbits love watermelon, it is not a particularly nutrient-dense food. This means you should use it as an occasional treat rather than a daily food.
You can safely add watermelon to your rabbit's diet every week or two. A cube of about 3 cm x 3 cm (including pulp and peel) is enough to satiate a medium-sized rabbit without any negative effects on its health.
It is important to provide your rabbit with the right vitamins and nutrients to maintain its health. For this reason, we have prepared this article to help you learn which are the best vegetables and fruits to include in your rabbit's diet.
Side effects and contraindications of watermelon for rabbits
As we have explained in this article, watermelon is a suitable fruit for rabbits. However, if it is fed improperly, it can have a number of negative health consequences:
As mentioned earlier, watermelons contain a high amount of sugar. Too much sweetness can alter the bacterial balance in the digestive tract, promoting the proliferation of harmful bacteria in the digestive tract. It can also cause gas accumulation in the digestive tract, also known as tympanism.
The tantalizing taste and juiciness of watermelon can ultimately lead to a significant dietary imbalance in rabbits. Fruits are generally more palatable than dry foods (hay and pallets) for rabbits, which may cause them to reject these foods.
The seeds can cause intestinal blockage. And since rabbits cannot vomit, they can choke on watermelon seeds. Therefore, you must be careful to clean the seeds of watermelon before feeding them to your rabbit.
Due to the high sugar content of watermelon, weight gain may occur. Obesity in rabbits is not uncommon and is mainly caused by too much food and lack of exercise.
Contraindications of watermelon for rabbits
Even though watermelon is generally a suitable fruit for rabbits, there are certain situations in which its administration may be counterproductive:
- Food allergies or intolerances.
- Sensitive digestive organs (especially in baby rabbits).
Gastrointestinal disorders in rabbits can have many causes, but not all of them show obvious symptoms. If you notice that your rabbit has diarrhea, that is a sign that there is probably a health problem. Keep reading this other article to learn what might be causing such a problem and whether it is serious.
If you want to read similar articles to Is It Safe to Give Watermelon to Rabbits?, we recommend you visit our Healthy diets category.
- Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA). Watermelon, Citrullus lanatus. Available at: https://www.mapa.gob.es/es/ministerio/servicios/informacion/sandia_tcm30-103024.pdf