Rabbits are often known for munching on vegetables and different plants in your garden. But for your rabbit, it is important to know which vegetables it can and cannot eat. One of these vegetables in question is corn in all forms, including popcorn.
Popcorn and corn in all forms is bad for rabbits. You should not feed your rabbit popcorn due to its inability to digest corn. Other health concerns also may arise from feeding your rabbit popcorn including choking, gastrointestinal stasis, weight gain, impaction, and bloating.
You may be tempted to feed your rabbit a handful of popcorn or a few kernels. Odds are, your rabbit may actually enjoy it. But here’s why you should not feed your rabbit popcorn.
How Does Popcorn Affect a Rabbit’s Digestion?
The digestive system of a rabbit is made to digest high fiber foods, such as grass, and about 10-20% of a rabbit’s body weight is made up of their gastrointestinal tract. Food goes through a delicate and complex process that allows the rabbit to absorb nutrients.
Some foods, which are high in carbs or protein, or are too bulky, can cause problems within the digestive system of rabbits and block or slow food from traveling through the gastrointestinal tract.
When this happens, it is called gastrointestinal stasis. Gastrointestinal stasis is caused by blockage, and this most often happens when there is a sudden change in diet in the rabbit’s digestive system. This can destroy the healthy bacteria.
The hull of a corn kernel is made of a complex polysaccharide, which is a carbohydrate (number of sugar molecules bonded together) that is unable to be digested by your rabbit.
If your rabbit eats popcorn, the kernel may block or slow the food in the gastrointestinal tract, causing a blockage. It also can disrupt the bacteria of their intestines and be difficult to digest.
In addition, rabbits are unable to vomit, meaning whatever they ingest must pass through their system.
Gastrointestinal stasis causes painful bloating and symptoms can include small fecal pellets, no fecal pellets, loss of appetite, and a hunched position.
If untreated, this condition can lead to death. With the proper treatment of GI stasis and the severity of the condition, your rabbit can come back to health. Treatment includes motility drugs, IV fluids, pain medication, and syringe feeding.
These treatments soften the intestines and encourage movement through the digestive system, alleviate pain due to gas and bloating, and ensure that your rabbit is getting the nutrients it needs to recover.
It is important to note that your rabbit will not get gastrointestinal stasis after eating a few kernels, but feeding your rabbit popcorn or corn as part of its regular diet may lead to this condition. That being said, avoid any type of corn at all times.
What is Impaction and Does it Affect Rabbits?
Similar to gastrointestinal stasis is impaction. Impaction is hardened stool in a rabbit’s intestines, most commonly caused by eating foods that are not suited to a rabbit’s diet, and eating indigestible foods (such as popcorn). This constipation can also be harmful to the rabbit if untreated, as well as painful.
Impaction makes it difficult or impossible for the rabbit to poop, which is a vital part of not only the rabbit’s digestive health but also its nutritional health.
In the cecum, a rabbit produces cecotropes. This is partially digested food that the rabbit then reingests for nutritional value. If impaction causes severe constipation and your rabbit stops pooping, it may be lacking nutrition and movement in the digestive tract and may lead to gastrointestinal stasis.
If your rabbit eats popcorn and has not pooped within 24 hours, you will want to take it to the vet. It may have intestinal impaction. Other signs include a swollen stomach, if your rabbit appears to be in pain, and a loss of appetite.
To encourage your rabbit to poop, let it run around, loosening stool in the intestines. Give your rabbit plenty of water and hay, and avoid hard food such as pellets.
Is Popcorn a Choking Hazard for Rabbits?
Popcorn and corn can be a choking hazard, especially to smaller rabbits. Because a rabbit cannot vomit, small pieces of the kernel may become trapped in the throat, and the rabbit will struggle to dislodge a piece of popcorn.
Rabbits rarely cough, and usually it is done to remove something lodged in the throat or the rabbit has a viral infection. If your rabbit eats popcorn and begins to choke, you may need to help remove the lodged kernel.
Your rabbit may be choking if it is trying to breathe from the mouth, it won’t stop shaking its head, it walks backward on hind legs, and there is bulging around the eyes. If you want to help, hold the rabbit against your chest, supporting the head and neck.
To help a choking rabbit, massage the rabbit’s tummy with your fingers from the end of the tummy to the ribs, being sure not to apply too much pressure. A surge of air will go into the throat, dislodging the item that it is choking on. Videos are also available to teach you how to help a choking rabbit.
Popcorn is non-toxic to rabbits, but that does not mean it is not dangerous. Corn is a well-known hazard for rabbits. Just like you would not give your toddler or baby anything that could potentially be a choking hazard, you should not give popcorn to your furry pets.
What is Bloating and Does it Affect Rabbits?
If you intentionally fed your rabbit popcorn, or it got into some on accident, bloating is one symptom to watch out for! Because gases are not able to escape the digestive system easily, bloating may be caused by the gas buildup that comes from eating foods the rabbit is unable to digest.
Pent-up gases can be caused by normal fermentation and digestion, or harmful bacteria colonies that produce too much gas.
When there is nowhere for these gases to go, gastrointestinal bloating occurs and is a symptom of gastrointestinal stasis or compaction. You may notice that your rabbit’s stomach is large and swollen.
Popcorn causes bloating by disrupting bacteria in the intestines or blocking or slowing movement within them. These cause the gases to build up.
Other health complications associated with bloating include blood supply disruption as the stomach compresses blood vessels. If untreated and bloating continues in the stomach, a rupture could occur.
Bloating can occur within a few hours, and your rabbit may not want to move. They will generally not want to eat anything either. Take your rabbit to the vet immediately. Surgery may be required to remove any obstruction.
Of course, this is the worst-case scenario, and not feeding your rabbit any popcorn is a great start at preventing this condition.
Is Popcorn Nutritious for Rabbits?
Most of us enjoy junk food. And if we don’t eat junk food often, a snack or treat here and there will satisfy us. However, this is not the case with rabbits and popcorn.
Apart from the previously mentioned health concerns when it comes to popcorn and your rabbit’s delicate digestive system, popcorn is junk food for your rabbit.
Even though corn is a vegetable that has health benefits to humans, including antioxidants, it has no nutritional value for rabbits. In fact, feeding popcorn to your rabbit may have many more negative effects on their health and nutrition.
Feeding popcorn to your rabbit is the same as giving it empty calories. They are not going to help your rabbit grow healthy and strong. Calories are considered empty if the sugar, fat, or calories outweigh the nutrients gained by a food. This is what popcorn is to rabbits.
Rabbits have delicate digestive systems which are designed for getting the most nutrients they can out of food. They are called hindgut fermentors, meaning that they digest high-fiber food. Fermentation of food happens in the digestive organs of rabbits, which are simple and not very strong.
Because calories from popcorn provide the rabbit with fat and carbs, it could lead your rabbit to become overweight, and there are fewer nutrients to absorb, paired with the difficult digestion of corn hulls. Feeding your rabbit popcorn on occasion or often can lead to weight gain that leads to other health risks including heart and joint issues and obesity.
Popcorn itself is harmful to rabbits, but seasonings that may be on popcorn are also harmful to them. Sugar, salt, butter, and oil are all foods that are bad for rabbits or are also undigestable. The digestive system of rabbits is not designed for these types of foods and amounts of sugar and salt.
Rabbits gain the salt they need from their food and are also known for becoming sick from too much sugar in fruits.
What Are Alternative Snacks for Rabbits?
If you want to give your rabbit something special to snack on, or just want to know what you can feed your rabbit, there are alternatives to popcorn and corn. These snacks are okay for your rabbit to have and are much better for it too.
Hay– Hay is the most important part of your rabbit’s diet. Rabbits eat continuously, and in a healthy rabbit’s diet, about 80% should come from fiber. Hay is a great source of fiber and keeps things moving efficiently and smoothly in your rabbit’s digestive system.
Pellets- Pellets are also a large part of a rabbit’s diet and should be given in smaller quantities. Look for pellets that are high in fiber. Younger rabbits can eat pellets with alfalfa in them, but as they get older rabbits should be fed grass hay pellets.
Vegetables- Rabbits typically love vegetables, and they can be a healthy option that also provides variety to a rabbit’s diet. No more than 2 cups of vegetables should be given to adult rabbits. Vegetables that may be good to feed to your rabbit include carrot tops, green leaf lettuce, radish tops, Brussel sprouts, and some herbs such as basil or cilantro.
Avoid feeding your rabbit potatoes, corn, beans, seeds, or nuts. Also, avoid over-ripened fruit and veggies that can cause bacterial upset and gastrointestinal stasis in your rabbit.
Fruit- Fruit may be given to your rabbit only 1 to 2 times per week. Fruit is often high in sugar content. Fruit should be given slowly, in small portions, and one at a time. Fruits to feed your rabbit in small amounts include apples without seeds, bananas, peach, plums, and berries.
Water– Apart from making sure your rabbit has the food it needs, your rabbit also needs lots of fresh water. Sipper bottles can be used for water, but some rabbits and owners prefer bowls.
Be sure to clean and change the water often, and if using a bowl, make sure it is heavy enough to prevent it from tipping in the cage or hutch. Water is important to keep your rabbit hydrated and helps keep the digestive tract functioning. Water is also helpful if your rabbit is having trouble digesting certain foods.
Can Rabbits Eat Any Type of Corn?
The biggest health concern when it comes to feeding your rabbit popcorn is the indigestible hull of the corn kernel. But what about other types of corn including fresh corn, canned corn, and corn on the cob?
Typically, all types of corn products should be avoided by rabbits. It does not matter if the corn is popped and seasoned, unseasoned, canned, frozen, or fresh. Corn is starchy and full of carbohydrates in any form. To put it simply, corn is just not compatible with your rabbit’s stomach.
The health risks associated with corn and your rabbits are too risky and not worth it. To take care of your rabbit, avoid corn at all costs, and keep your rabbit happy and healthy.
Always be aware of your rabbit’s diet and be careful to notice any of the signs that your rabbit may be in distress. Taking care of your rabbit as soon as you notice any of the listed signs and symptoms may be vital in saving its life. Extra popcorn or corn should be disposed of and not in a place that is accessible to your rabbit.
If your rabbit eats popcorn, carefully monitor food intake, pooping frequency and amount, and bloating.
Additional Information On Animals Eating Popcorn
Are you curious about what animals can eat popcorn? Click here for an animal overview or click on an animal below to find out specific details: