Can rabbits eat sweet potato? Whether you’re trying to find new ways to spice up your bunny’s diet, or your rabbit got hold of some sweet potato without your permission, it’s important to know if this veggie is safe.
In small amounts, sweet potato is not toxic to rabbits. But, it is not healthy for rabbits, and should not make up a regular part of their diet.
Sweet potato is high in starch and sugar. Too much of this can cause digestive problems and obesity in rabbits. So, they should stick to high fiber foods instead, such as fresh hay and green veggies.
The vines, leaves and skins of sweet potato are better than the sweet potato itself.
Can Rabbits Eat Sweet Potato?
If your rabbit has eaten some sweet potato, it’s a good idea to watch them for any problems. Especially if it is the first time your rabbit has eaten this food.
But, in general, rabbits will be safe if they have eaten some sweet potato.
Sweet potato shouldn’t make up a regular or large part of your rabbit’s diet. Some rabbits may also be intolerant to sweet potato.
But most will likely enjoy the taste.
Ideally, you should give your rabbit other more nutritious treats. It’s unlikely that your veterinarian will ever recommend sweet potato for your rabbit, unless they need to gain weight.
Rabbits and Sweet Potato
For humans, sweet potato is a highly nutritious vegetable. They are high in starch and natural sugars, but also contain antioxidants and fiber.
However, just because they are good for humans doesn’t mean they’re great for our bunnies.
Rabbits are herbivores that thrive on a nutrient- and fiber-rich diet. In the wild, rabbits seek out nutritious plants and grasses. Generally, starch-rich foods like sweet potato aren’t common in rabbit diets.
And, too much starch and sugar can harm our rabbits – in single sittings and over long term periods.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and risks of giving your rabbit sweet potato.
Is Sweet Potato Safe for Rabbits?
In small amounts sweet potato is not likely to cause your rabbit any issues. It isn’t toxic.
However, it can cause digestive upset, including diarrhea, due to high levels of starch and sugar.
Rabbits do best on high fiber diets. Small amounts of starch won’t hurt, but one study recommended that starch levels should not exceed 14% of a rabbit’s diet.
This study found that increasing starch levels rather than fiber levels led to a higher mortality rate from digestive disturbances in rabbits.
So, it’s not a good idea to make sweet potato a regular or large part of your rabbit’s diet.
There are plenty of other more nutritious, and safer, treats that your rabbit will love.
Are Sweet Potatoes Good for Rabbits?
We now know that starchy foods like the sweet potato aren’t safe for rabbits in large amounts. But does sweet potato offer any nutrients that can help rabbits?
Sweet potatoes contain some fiber, which is great for our bunnies. But, there are plenty of other high-fiber alternatives that are much lower in starch and sugar.
It’s unlikely that your veterinarian will ever recommend sweet potato as a food for your rabbit. But, there are times when sweet potato can be great for our rabbits.
In particular, when a rabbit needs to gain weight.
The high levels of starch and sugar in sweet potato can help rabbits to gain weight if they are underweight. This won’t apply to the majority of rabbits and should only ever happen if your veterinarian recommends it.
Giving sweet potato to a healthy rabbit can lead to obesity, which brings its own problems and risks.
Are Sweet Potatoes Bad for Rabbits?
As we have just mentioned, the main issue with sweet potatoes is the high level of starch and sugar which can lead to obesity in bunnies.
Sweet potatoes can also cause stomach upsets if your rabbit eats too much in one go, or if they are not used to high-starch foods.
In general, it is best to avoid offering this treat.
If your rabbit likes the taste of sweet potato, they may fill up on this starchy treat and leave their regular food. This can cause nutritional imbalances, and can lead to health issues.
Rabbits need a lot of fiber, not only for their digestive systems, but also to help grind down their ever-growing teeth!
So, high-fiber foods like fresh hay, grass, and leafy greens are best for our bunnies, rather than sweet potato.
Do Rabbits Like Sweet Potato?
Rabbits generally enjoy eating sweet foods that are high in sugar, like the sweet potato. But, this doesn’t mean that these foods are good for our rabbits.
And, as we know, high starch and high sugar foods can lead to dental problems, gastrointestinal issues, and obesity in domestic rabbits.
So, even if your rabbit has enjoyed eating sweet potato in the past, it’s better to stick to healthier alternatives that are high in fiber.
Can Rabbits Eat Sweet Potato Skins?
Sweet potato skins are much higher in fiber than the rest of this vegetable. So, they are better for rabbits than the flesh of the veggie alone.
The main caution with sweet potato skin is the potential dirt and toxins on the skin. For instance, any leftover pesticides that were used when it was growing.
And, potato skin can still cause upset stomachs in rabbits. So, if you’re keen to let your bunny try this slightly healthier option, make sure it is only a small amount and that it has been cleaned properly.
Can Rabbits Eat Sweet Potato Vines?
Several studies have looked at feeding rabbits sweet potato vines as a cheaper alternative to maize or other foodstuffs.
Sweet potato vines are safe for rabbits to eat. And, since they are high in fiber and protein, they are a better alternative to the sweet potato itself.
However, you should make sure this foodstuff is prepared properly before offering it to your rabbit. Wash down the vines thoroughly to ensure there is no dirt or any residue of pesticides.
And, make sure you aren’t offering so much sweet potato vine that your rabbit stops eating their fresh hay.
Your veterinarian is the best person to guide you on portion sizes for your specific bunny.
Can Rabbits Eat Sweet Potato Leaves?
Similarly, many people are wondering if their rabbits can have sweet potato leaves as a tasty treat.
Studies have also looked into sweet potato leaves for rabbits as a cost reducing measure.
Sweet potato leaves are safe for rabbits to eat. But make sure you are preparing them properly by cleaning them thoroughly, just like you would with sweet potato vines.
Sweet Potato vs Regular Potato
One quick thing to note is that sweet potatoes are very different to normal potatoes. It’s important not to get the two confused, as the rules for giving them to your rabbit are quite different.
The plant, leaves, and flowers of a normal potato plant can be toxic to your pet bunny.
So, make sure you are certain that you are giving them sweet potato vines or leaves, and not a normal potato plant.
Can Rabbits Have Sweet Potato?
Sweet potato itself isn’t a good snack for our bunnies, because it’s high in starch and sugar. But, it can be good for underweight rabbits that need to gain weight, under your veterinarian’s guidance.
And, many rabbits will love eating sweet potato leaves, vines, and skins (in small amounts!).
What’s your rabbit’s favorite snack?
References and Resources
- Abonyi, F. (et al), ‘Effects of Feeding Sweet Potato (Ipomoea Batatas) Leaves on Growth Performance and Nutrient Digestibility of Rabbits’, African Journal of Biotechnology (2014)
- Shaahu, D. & Tiough, S. ‘Effect of Replacing Maize with Graded Levels of Sweet Potato Vine – Cassava Composite Meal on Growth Performance, Nutrient Digestibility, Carcass Characteristics and Economics of Production of Weaned Rabbits’, Nigerian Journal of Animal Production (2019)
- Perez, J. (et al), ‘Replacement of Digestible Fibre by Starch in the Diet of the Growing Rabbit. II. Effects on Performances and Mortality by Diarrhoea’, Ann. Zootech (2000)
- Rooney, N. (et al), ‘The Current State of Welfare, Housing and Husbandry of the English Pet Rabbit Population’, BMC Research Notes (2014)
- Mayer, J. (et al), ‘Survey to Investigate Owners’ Perceptions and Experiences of Pet Rabbit Husbandry and Health’, Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine (2017)
- Klinger, A. (et al), ‘Sweet Potato Vines as A Cost Reducer in Rabbit Diets’, Zootechnica Brasil (2018)
- Alves, J. (et al), ‘The Wild Rabbit (Oryctolagus Cuniculus L.) Diet on a Sand Dune Area in Central Portugal: A Contribution Towards Management’, Wildlife Biological Practices (2006)
- Stapleton, N. ‘The Chubby Bunny: A Closer Look at Obesity in the Pet Rabbit’, The Veterinary Nurse (2014)
- Bjarnadottir, A. ‘Sweet Potatoes 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits’, Healthline (2019)
- Meredith, A. ‘Rabbit Nutrition: An Overview’, Vet Times (2011)