Potatoes are starchy tubers that grow underground and are used in various forms of cooking. While potatoes of all varieties are okay for people to eat, they shouldn’t be fed to rabbits. Potatoes aren’t toxic to rabbits, but they don’t eat them in the wild as part of their diet (unless they’re starving), and they don’t provide essential nutrients. Potatoes can even be dangerous for rabbits, so we recommend never feeding your bunny any part of the potato plant.
Are Potatoes Safe for Rabbits to Eat?
Potatoes that you find in the store are the tubers of the potato plant and may not be toxic for rabbits to eat if eaten raw. The potato tuber itself contains no harmful chemicals or substances (unless green), so a rabbit could eat a small amount of potato and be fine.
However, that doesn’t mean potatoes are safe to eat. Rabbits have sensitive digestive systems that evolved to process high-fiber diets, mainly of grasses and hay. Potatoes are incredibly dense, starchy, and full of (naturally occurring) sugars; rabbits cannot handle this amount of starch and sugar and can suffer some potentially fatal gastrointestinal effects.
Rabbits and Starch
Rabbits can eat and digest a moderate amount of starch in their diet. Starchy foods like potatoes are full of calories and energy, and rabbits could eat small amounts if they could not locate other energy-dense foods in the wild. However, rabbits need a large amount of fiber in their diet, and they cannot digest too much starch. Any excess starch travels down to the cecum (a large part of a rabbit’s intestine that contains digesting bacteria and enzymes), causing an often-fatal disruption in the delicate balance of bacteria.
The lack of digestible fiber in starchy foods usually results in digestive problems, including a condition called gut stasis or gastrointestinal (GI) stasis. A disruption in the gut bacteria can cause GI stasis, and it can release toxins into the rabbit’s body that can become fatal very quickly.
For this reason, feeding your rabbit any portion of potato is not recommended. It’s not toxic, but there’s very little nutrition your rabbit will gain from it, and it can cause them to have devastating
Potato Plants and Solanine
Another vital fact to know about potatoes is that the part of the plant commonly known as the “potato” is the tuber of the larger plant. The potato plant sports stems and large leaves that poke out of the ground, and you might wonder if the greens can be fed to your rabbit much the same as other veggie greens and leaves can be. Although potato plants aren’t typically considered poisonous, they’re related to the nightshade plant.
Potato leaves and stems should never be fed to rabbits (or other pets) in any amount, as they contain a toxic chemical called solanine that can be fatal to these animals. Solanine is a glycoalkaloid substance that can gather in the potato plant’s leaves, stems, and green tubers. Solanine causes several adverse effects in humans and animals, and it’s found most concentrated in green potatoes, potato eyes, and the stems and leaves of the plant.
Solanine toxicity in a rabbit can cause digestive signs of intestinal inflammation, central nervous system issues like seizures, and potentially, death. Luckily, a large amount of solanine would need to be ingested to produce severe signs of toxicity. Still, the greens and leaves of the potato plant can be tempting to a hungry rabbit, so caution is always needed.
Luckily, a large amount of solanine would need to be ingested to produce severe signs of toxicity. Still, the greens and leaves of the potato plant can be tempting to a hungry rabbit, so caution is always needed.
Can Rabbits Eat Potato Products?
Rabbits have very sensitive digestive systems, so they shouldn’t be given anything that isn’t hay and grasses, healthy leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits. Potato products such as chips, fries, and other potato-based foods can cause digestive upset due to the fat, sugar, and salt commonly included. Eating these foods can cause a rabbit to develop diarrhea, cramps, gas, and pain. If a rabbit doesn’t feel good, they often stop eating altogether. Gut stasis can develop if the rabbit stops eating, which can quickly become very serious.
Can Rabbits Eat Cooked Potatoes?
Rabbits can’t digest any cooked foods, including cooked potatoes. They have evolved to digest raw foods and fiber; they need these to keep their digestive tract working and the contents moving along. Cooked potatoes lack fiber and are high in starch. They will cause stomach upset, which can have dangerous consequences, such as GI stasis.
Are Sweet Potatoes Healthy for Rabbits?
Sweet potatoes are starchy vegetables that are not suitable for rabbits. They are just as carb-filled as regular potatoes and contain sugars and starch that will cause gastrointestinal issues in rabbits. Sweet potato vines and leaves can be fed to rabbits, and they contain some useful nutrients. However, do not confuse them with toxic potato vines and leaves.
Rabbits shouldn’t eat potatoes. Potato tubers aren’t toxic, and a small portion is unlikely to cause harm, but the potential for digestive upset makes feeding potatoes to your rabbit risky. Never allow your rabbit to eat green potatoes or the vines and leaves of the potato plant; they contain a toxin that can cause digestive upset, central nervous system depression, and death. It’s best to feed your rabbit fibrous foods like hay, grass, and leafy greens like bok choy.