Fish is a popular seafood product in the United States and worldwide. People eat fish for various reasons and, most importantly, because it’s a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus, and protein.
Cats and dogs are often fed different species of fish not just as a source of protein for these pets but also as an alternative to chicken. Some cats and dogs are allergic to chicken; therefore, fish can offer a healthy substitute.
Rabbits are herbivores, and they don’t eat meat. So, unfortunately, despite being a healthy and nutritious diet, fish is not meant for rabbits. It’s not a part of their natural or recommended diet, and therefore they won’t be able to digest it properly.
If you’re wondering whether rabbits can eat fish and what might happen if a bunny ends up eating a little fish, you’re in the right place. Here we are going to find out everything related to this topic, including why fish is bad for rabbits and what alternatives are available to fish for these furry friends.
So, let’s get started!
Why Can’t Rabbits Eat Fish?
A rabbit’s digestive system is not made to digest meat or anything that is similar in structure to meat. Not only will she end up having stomach problems, possibly diarrhea, or even gastrointestinal stasis, but the toxins and parasites present in most fish will cause further complications.
Here are some of the most prominent reasons why rabbits should never eat fish.
1. Presence of mercury in fish
All types of fish contain mercury, and some species contain a very high level of mercury, which is not safe for anyone. However, humans and other carnivores can get away with this because of their strong digestive and immune systems.
Rabbits, on the other hand, are very fragile. The mercury in fish can accumulate in their bodies and start damaging tiny organs.
2. Fish is not a complete diet
While fish contains reasonable amounts of beneficial fatty acids and other minerals, it is not a complete diet. If you want to feed your rabbit fish for nutritional benefits, be mindful that it will not happen.
There are other plant-based sources of protein and fat that you can feed your bunny. In addition to fresh hay like timothy and alfalfa, a limited number of pellets and some leafy greens are enough to offer the recommended daily dosage of all essential nutrients.
3. Fish is high in fat content
Rabbits, like other mammals, need fat in their diet to produce energy and to use fat-soluble vitamins. They don’t need any added fat to their diet because most foods contain enough fat to fulfill their needs.
Since fish is high in fat content, it may hurt their growth. Too much fat can cause obesity in these animals, which leads to heart problems and other complications. Because of this reason, it is advised to keep a check on a bunny’s diet and take steps to counter overeating habits.
4. Fish may cause poisoning in rabbits
Fish poisoning can prove to be lethal in rabbits because they are not supposed to eat fish. Early signs and symptoms of fish poisoning in rabbits may include loss of appetite, laziness, diarrhea or other stomach problems, trembling, and seizures.
You should immediately take the bunny to a vet if she suffers from any of these conditions after having fish. The vet will use several ways to flush out the toxins and may use anti-seizure drugs if needed.
5. Bones found in fish can get stuck in a rabbit’s throat
Most fish come with tiny bones that have sharp edges. These bones can quickly get stuck in a rabbit’s throat and cause discomfort and pain. They pose a choking hazard and may also cause difficulty in breathing and swallowing.
Alternatives to Fish in a Rabbit’s Diet
Fish is a natural source of certain minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Moreover, it contains omega-3 fatty acids good for balanced hormones in the body and for developing a robust immune system.
Fish is also considered a healthy diet because it is a source of lean protein. And finally, fish offers large amounts of vitamin D and riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2. All these vitamins and minerals together promote good heart and brain health.
But since rabbits cannot eat fish, where can they get all these nutrients from?
Let’s find out.
Calcium & Phosphorus
Both calcium and phosphorus should be essential parts of a rabbit’s diet. A growing rabbit is particularly in need of these minerals for proper growth and development. However, you should not try to supplement their diet with added calcium because too much calcium can cause kidney stones in a rabbit.
The pelleted diet comprising alfalfa and alfalfa meal provides adequate amounts of calcium and phosphorus. Grass hay is even better because it contains less calcium than alfalfa.
If a rabbit eats a high-quality diet, her need for all vitamins is met. The need for vitamin B complex is usually fulfilled by cecotrophy – an act of eating a soft fecal pellet to gain more nutrients.
While a rabbit’s diet must have some amount of vitamin D, she doesn’t need a lot of vitamin D. Just like mineral overdose, excess vitamins are also bad for rabbits. It can cause toxicity and must be treated.
Rabbits don’t need a lot of fat; therefore, their diet is usually composed of only about 3% fat. Fatty acids can be obtained from vegetable oils present in a rabbit’s natural diet. These fatty acids are important for rabbits as they make their coats shiny and silky smooth.
A rabbit fulfills her energy needs not just by consuming fat but also by having protein and carbohydrates. The natural diet recommended for rabbits offers all these nutrients in a very controlled amount. So, a rabbit usually doesn’t need any supplementary diet or not even fruits and other treats.
Essential amino acids that rabbits require from their diet include lysine, methionine, and isoleucine. However, rabbits also need non-essential amino acids to promote healthy cellular activities. Proteins are essential for their muscle growth and also for their coats and nails.
Again, cecotrophy can help bunnies get their required portion of protein. It is produced by the bacteria found in a rabbit’s colon. However, a rabbit should be fed more protein during pregnancy and lactation through pelleted diets, such as alfalfa.
The first concern for anyone who wants to raise bunnies is choosing the proper nutrition for these animals to stay healthy and happy in their new home. While meat is a good source of all nutrients, including protein, fat, essential minerals, and vitamins, it is not meant to be fed to rabbits.
Since most cats seem to love fish, some people think it’s OK to feed it to rabbits as well. However, that’s not true. Fish will not only cause an upset stomach in a bunny but will also cause other complications in her because of the presence of toxins and parasites.
Some rabbits may also develop an allergic reaction after eating fish. This reaction can be anything from a runny nose to a more severe condition. It is therefore not a good idea to feed fish to a bunny even if it is properly cooked.