Feeding the house rabbit 4: Fruit and Berries
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Rabbits have a taste for sweet food. While fruit contain sugars (mainly fructose), they are a good source of minerals and vitamins, especially for rabbits suffering from health disorders. Most rabbits digest well a variety of fruit from a young age on, while a handful will suffer the production of watery fecals and/or gas. Since this is individual to every rabbit, it is the task of the owner to experiment with the amount given, and to keep to this. As a rule, all seeds and pits should be removed in advance. Some contain toxic molecules that may be harmful.
Fresh pineapple and papaya contain enzymes (bromelain and papain) that help break down particles of food and mucus (proteins, fats and sugars) that bind together fur in the digestive tract (“hairballs” or trichobezoar). These enzymes can be used during molts to reduce the development of fur-related blockages. Only fresh papaya and pineapple contain these enzymes.
Although anecdotic, banana is said to help rabbit who suffer light digestive disorders and soft fecal production. This fruit also help a rabbit keep on weight when suffering a major health problem. The rabbit seen at the end of this page, a black Flemish giant, ate one whole banana per day, aside hay, pelleted food, fresh vegetables and herbs.Banana contains fructo-oligosacharides, which are sometimes referred to as prebiotic (not probiotic = enteric bacteria found in products such as e.g. Benebac, Probios, Protexin). These prebiotics help the proliferation of the regular bacteria of the intestine, and inhibit growth of pathogen bacteria in human beings and in rabbits. This action helps stop watery feces or diarrhea. In other animals, fructo-oligosacharides contribute, moreover, to an increased absorption of nutrients in the intestine, e.g., iron, calcium or magnesium. More information on fructo-oligosaccharide digestion in rabbits can be found in The Nutrition of the Rabbit, by de Blas and Wiseman, 1998, 2010).
Not all sugars are thus bad for rabbits; some help restore the bacterial balance in the digestive tract.
Some fruit that rabbits like to eat