Oranges are rich in the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for a healthy diet. Rabbits can eat a wide variety of fruits, though many owners may be unsure which ones are safe for their pets to consume.
You can feed rabbits oranges in moderation. Oranges provide a wide array of nutrients, including vitamin C and dietary fiber. Due to the high sugar and ascorbic acid content of oranges, it is advisable to reserve this fruit as an occasional treat. You can also give rabbits tiny amounts of orange peels and orange juice as occasional treats.
Oranges are not the only citrus fruit a rabbit can consume. Rabbits can also eat small portions of mandarins, tangerines, clementines, satsumas, and grapefruit. Keep in mind that all citrus fruits are highly acidic, which can be harmful to a rabbit’s digestive system when given in excess. Also, consuming too many sweet foods can lead to obesity in rabbits.
How Healthy Are Oranges?
Oranges offer many health benefits that extend beyond their rich vitamin and mineral contents. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the higher your average daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower your chances are of developing cardiovascular diseases in the future.
Researchers also discovered that certain fruits and vegetables were more likely to contribute to this benefit. This includes citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, and their respective juices. Not much is known about rabbits’ cardiovascular health, although it may not hurt to slip in bits of citrus into your rabbit’s treat rotation occasionally.
Oranges and other citrus fruits also contain large amounts of pectin, which is a soluble fiber that aids digestion. Soluble fiber is fully digested and can help to relieve constipation, lower cholesterol levels, and improve blood sugar levels. Rabbits’ diets should mainly consist of all kinds of fiber to aid their digestion and maintain good health.
Michigan State University states that out of all the fruits and vegetables that contain pectin, citrus fruits have the highest concentration.
Oranges offer rabbits essential nutrients. The following nutritional values are based on a 100-gram sample of each type of orange and have been recorded by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture):
|Water||86.75 g||86.7 g||86.34 g||85.17 g||86.58 g|
|Carbs||11.75 g||11.8 g||11.89 g||13.34 g||12.02 g|
|Protein||0.94 g||0.91 g||1.04 g||0.81 g||0.85 g|
|Fat||0.12 g||0.15 g||0.3 g||0.31 g||0.15 g|
|Dietary Fiber||2.4 g||2 g||2.5 g||1.8 g||1.7 g|
|Sugar||9.35 g||8.57 g||Not listed||10.58 g||9.18 g|
|Vitamin C||53.2 mg||59.1 mg||48.5 mg||26.7 mg||48.8 mg|
Oranges and other common variants have high water and vitamin C content. Most humans will find that eating around just 100 to 200 grams of oranges daily will satisfy their recommended daily intake of vitamin C, which can better support your immune system if you get a cold.
Rabbits do not require the same vitamin or nutrient levels as their owners. This then begs the question: can rabbits eat oranges?
Can Rabbits Be Given Oranges?
Rabbits can be fed oranges, but only in small quantities. While a rabbit will benefit from the vitamin and mineral content, oranges are also high in sugar. This can cause an imbalance of good bacteria and fungi found within the rabbit’s cecum. This can disrupt how it absorbs nutrients in the digestive tract.
Rabbits do not make their own vitamins, so giving them foods that are vitamin-rich is crucial for their health. However, while rabbits may benefit from small doses of vitamins at a time, an excess of vitamins can actually do more harm than good.
An overload of vitamin C in a rabbit’s digestive system, for example, can cause significant kidney damage. Thus, oranges’ high vitamin C content may not be suitable for a rabbit to safely consume on a regular basis.
Can You Give Rabbits Mandarin Oranges?
According to Huazhong Agricultural University, the mandarin orange is one of the progenitors of the common orange. This means that the orange fruit that you know today is a hybrid between the original mandarin fruit and the pomelo. Thus, while mandarins are considered a citrus fruit, they are not technically oranges at all.
That being said, you can feed mandarins to rabbits. They contain 7 grams of sugar, which is slightly less than the common orange and its other variants have. Still, it is easy for a rabbit to overindulge in sugary treats, so it is best to only give it thin slices of mandarins occasionally.
There are other citrus fruits sold in stores that are often mistaken for oranges, too. Other members of the mandarin family include:
- Tangerines (including the Dancy tangerine, a hybrid between Ponkan and another mandarin variant, and the Bang Mot tangerine)
- Tachibana orange
- Kishu mikan
Can You Give Rabbits Orange Peels?
Some vets will debate whether it is safe to give rabbits orange peels. This is not due to the peel’s nutritional content, however. Orange peels on their own contain a surprising amount of nutrients, including:
- Water: 72.5 grams
- Carbohydrate: 25 grams
- Protein: 1.5 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
- Dietary Fiber: 10.6 grams
- Total Vitamin C: 136 milligrams
What veterinarians are more concerned about is the fact that the orange peel may contain some lingering pesticides, which can make a rabbit sick. Even washing the fruit may not fully remove these harmful chemicals enough for a rabbit to tolerate.
If you still want to feed your rabbit a bit of orange peel as a treat, make sure it comes from an organic orange that is sure to be pesticide-free. Better yet, it may be a good idea to avoid giving your rabbit orange peels at all.
Is Orange Juice OK for Rabbits?
It is best to give your rabbit a small amount of orange juice to sip on at a time. You should not ever substitute a rabbit’s water supply with orange juice or other similar citrus juices.
Orange juice and other types of citrus juice contain high amounts of sugar content. This simple sugar not only comes from the fruits themselves, but also from the various other sugars and additives mixed into the juice’s formula. Sucrose, the main sugar substitute added into orange juice, is not tolerated well by rabbits.
According to The University of Western Ontario, orange and grapefruit juice decreased the cholesterol excretion in rabbits who suffer from high cholesterol by 44-48%. Researchers theorize that the flavonoids found within the juice (and within citrus fruits as a whole) are the main contributor to this cholesterol reduction.
Keep in mind that these citrus juices were given to lab rabbits under stringent testing conditions, and that all these rabbits had high LDL cholesterol levels to begin with.
Are Rabbits Allowed to Eat Satsumas?
Satsumas are a member of the mandarin family. They are a lighter orange color and tend to be very sweet and juicy. These citrus fruits are also seedless, making them perfect for rabbits. Satsumas are often confused with tangerines and clementines due to their similar size, shape, and fragrance.
Like mandarins and their many variants, rabbits can have tiny portions of satsumas as a treat. They are also easy to peel, so you can feed your rabbit bits of the satsuma peel if they are organic.
What Citrus Fruits Can Rabbits Eat?
Rabbits can eat many different types of citrus fruits. Given many common citrus fruits found in local grocery stores are closely related to either the common orange or the mandarin, this should come as no surprise. These citrus fruits’ individual nutrient contents will vary from one another:
|Water||88.98 g||88.26 g||90.89 g|
|Carbohydrate||9.32 g||10.54 g||8.08 g|
|Protein||1.1 g||0.7 g||0.63 g|
|Fat||0.3 g||0.2 g||0.1 g|
|Dietary Fiber||2.8 g||2.8 g||1.1 g|
|Sugar||2.5 g||1.69 g||6.98 g|
|Total Vitamin C||53 mg||29.1 mg||34.4 mg|
You might notice that all these citrus fruits have a much lower concentration of sugar than common oranges or other orange variants. These are still acidic fruits, and adding too much acid into your rabbit’s diet can prove to be harmful to their health.
Why Are Acidic Fruits Harmful To Rabbits?
All substances fall along the pH scale, which means something can be either acidic, alkaline, or neutral.
The scale runs from 0 to 14, with 0 being highly acidic, 14 being the highest level of alkaline, and 7 being the true neutral point where a substance is considered neither too acidic nor too alkaline. Acids can help break down foods in the stomach whereas alkaline can improve overall health. Water is one true neutral substance that can benefit your rabbit’s health.
Another name for vitamin C is ascorbic acid, which means that foods that have high vitamin C content also tend to be quite acidic. This includes oranges and other citrus fruits, which tend to have an average pH level of around 3 or 4.
Adult rabbits’ stomach fluids already have a resting pH level of 1 to 2, which means that giving them more acidic foods could upset the already delicate acid-base balance within their digestive systems. In fact, feeding a rabbit a more acidic diet could prove to be dangerous or even fatal.
Rabbits’ urine should be more alkaline in nature (around a pH level of 8 to 9) due to their vegetable and fiber-rich diets. The Journal of Nutrition found that rabbits exposed to a low alkaline diet are more susceptible to getting metabolic acidosis, which is when the acid-base balance within the body is skewed more towards the acidic side. This can cause severe health issues, such as:
- Cardiovascular damage
- Weight gain or obesity
- Kidney stones
- Immune deficiency
- Osteoporosis and joint pain
- Aching muscles and lactic acid buildup
- Low energy and chronic fatigue
- Slow digestion and elimination
- Yeast or fungal overgrowth
- Lower body temperature
- Depressive tendencies and excess stress
- Inflammation of the corneas and eyelids
- Loose and painful teeth
- Inflamed, sensitive gums
- Mouth and stomach ulcers
- Excess stomach acid
- Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
Acidic foods clearly do not do your rabbit any favors. Rabbits may be able to handle a small sliver of citrus or similar acidic foods on occasion, but you should refrain from handing them out in excess or as a daily treat. Instead, you should look into feeding your rabbit a more alkaline diet.
How Much Orange Can Rabbits Eat?
The recommended daily amount of fruit for adult rabbits ranges from 1 to 2 teaspoons per 5 pounds of bodyweight. Considering oranges’ acidic content, you may also want to lower this amount slightly.
However, rabbit nutrition needs differ based on age, gender, and species. You may need to adjust this ratio to better suit the needs of your rabbit.