is popcorn dangerous for rabbits?

Is Popcorn Safe for Rabbits? Kernels + Popped Popcorn

Popcorn is a health hazard for rabbits. The same can be said for fresh corn and corn kernels. There are many risks, making popcorn a food for rabbits to avoid. Letting your rabbit eat popcorn can be equated to giving it empty calories that may lead to life-threatening conditions.  

Not only is popcorn unsafe for rabbits to eat, but all forms of corn are bad for rabbits. Popcorn can pose a choking hazard in smaller rabbits, as well as health issues in rabbits of all sizes. Being indigestible to rabbits, popcorn can cause impaction and gastrointestinal stasis. Since it’s high in carbohydrates, popcorn can also cause weight gain.

All of these health issues can lead to secondary problems. Severe cases of stasis can have fatal results. With that said, if your rabbit has found a few pieces on the floor and eaten them, you don’t have to go to the vet. So long as it isn’t choking, there is a good chance that your bunny may pass the popcorn without issue. Introduce extra grass hay and water into its diet to keep its digestive tract moving.

Can Rabbits Eat Popped Popcorn?

A rabbit will eat popped popcorn if presented with some tempting morsels. However, a rabbit should not be fed popcorn. Owners should bar their rabbits from access to munching on some, even by accident.

Popcorn is harmful to rabbits in every form. It doesn’t matter if it’s popped, unpopped, seasoned, unseasoned, and so forth. Fresh corn, cooked or raw, is just as dangerous for rabbits.

As such, it shouldn’t be a treat or an addition to your rabbit’s meal. Even if it munches on kernels infrequently, that won’t safeguard it from the negative effects. This is because popcorn is:

  • Full of empty calories
  • The hulls of the kernels can’t be digested
  • Seasoned popcorn is high in sugar and salt

Rabbits get no benefits from eating popcorn. It’s junk food. However, unlike human junk food, it can have immediate impacts on your rabbit’s health.

This, of course, depends on the case. If your rabbit does eat a stray piece of popcorn from the floor, you don’t need to panic. The kernel may pass through the rabbit’s digestive system without issue. Just keep an eye on the rabbit and supervise it for symptoms.

Is Popcorn Dangerous for Rabbits?

Popcorn – and corn as a whole – is not toxic to rabbits. With that said, it’s dangerous for your rabbit to eat. It doesn’t matter how the popcorn is flavored or prepared.

This is mainly because rabbits cannot throw up. If a rabbit eats something it shouldn’t, it has no choice but to allow the item to pass through its system. This scenario is best avoided. Popcorn may be unable to pass, which will snowball into many other health problems.

can rabbits eat popped popcorn?

Why Is Popcorn Bad for Rabbits?

Rabbits have specific diets, of which grass hay makes up 80%. Rabbits have evolved digestive systems to handle very specific foods. These foods can also include certain herbs and vegetables. Corn on the cob, or raw corn, is classed as a vegetable. However, it is not a vegetable that rabbits can eat.

This is because a corn kernel is a grain. Rabbits should not be fed grains, as their digestive acids are not strong enough to break down the tough exteriors. The sharp hulls of the kernels may even cause damage to the stomach and intestines.

There is some talk that rabbits can not only digest grains, but that it helps rabbits grow faster. A study in the Journal of Animal Science disproves such a claim. Many reputable information sources also explicitly state that corn and popcorn should never be fed to a rabbit. Corn, popcorn, or corn kernels are bad for rabbits for the following reasons.

Gastrointestinal Stasis

As noted in Vet Record, gastrointestinal stasis is common in domestic rabbits. This disorder is when food matter ceases or slows in moving through the gastrointestinal tract. It is usually not caused by an obstruction, but by a change in the delicate gut flora inhabiting the rabbit’s digestive tract. An obstruction can also cause this, when the food matter stagnates and decays in the gut.

Corn in any form, including popcorn, can be both the obstruction and the cause of bacterial upset. Since it’s difficult for rabbits to digest this food, blockages can form in the gut or cecum (the part of the gut that forms cecotropes). Blockage or not, if the popcorn is included in the rabbit’s diet on a regular basis, it can cause an imbalance of gut bacteria as well.

This disorder has a snowball effect if left untreated. Rabbits will cease eating when in stasis. That causes the stasis to worsen, as no dietary fiber is ingested to get things moving again. While corn does have a degree of fiber, a rabbit cannot efficiently digest the corn to extract the fiber.

Gastrointestinal stasis can be fatal. Relieving stasis involves drugs to stimulate the digestive system, fluid injections, medication, and proper diet. Signs of gastrointestinal stasis include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Malformed or small fecal pellets
  • Teeth grinding (a sign of pain)
  • No fecal pellets
  • Visible bloating
  • Hunched posture (keeping its abdomen off the ground)
  • Lethargy

Whether or not your rabbit has eaten popcorn, if you see any of these symptoms, take your bunny to the vet as soon as possible.

Bloating

One symptom of gastrointestinal stasis is bloating. Rabbits can’t throw up, or even burp. As such, when matter is blocking the intestinal passage, the gasses build up. These gasses are:

  • Those that normally occur as by-products of fermentation and digestion
  • Harmful bacteria colonies that have grown out of control and are producing excess gas

Depending on the severity of the stasis or blockage, these gasses may literally be unable to pass through the rabbit’s body. They will continue to build to the point of severe pain, and won’t dissipate until the stasis is resolved.

Impaction

Popcorn, corn, and corn kernels can all cause impaction. Rabbits have a unique digestive system that allows them to digest one meal twice. A portion of this is called the cecum, which creates cecotropes. These are what the rabbit eats in order to get all the nutrition it can from its food.

Since corn is indigestible, it causes all sorts of impaction problems in the intestines. This can lead to gastrointestinal stasis. Improper diets or eating indigestible matter are leading causes of impaction and stasis. Depending on the severity of the impaction, surgery may be required.

No Nutritional Value

Popcorn doesn’t offer rabbits any kind of nutrition benefits. While corn does contain fiber, there isn’t nearly enough there to help a rabbit. Even if there was, a rabbit’s digestive system is unable to extract the fiber anyhow.

Popcorn is also relatively high in carbohydrates. A rabbit doesn’t need nearly as many calories a day as a human. Regularly feeding your bunny popcorn will cause it to gain weight. This can lead to heart issues, joint issues, or obesity, which causes many issues of its own.

Even as small treats, popcorn can cause your rabbit to fatten up. There are treat alternatives that are far better options, perfectly healthy to offer a rabbit in moderation.

Sugars, Salts, and Oils

Aside from unseasoned, air-fried varieties, popcorn is usually cooked in butter or oil and then seasoned. All of these are going to cause problems.

Sugars will cause weight gain, and may also upset the gut flora to the point of GI stasis. A rabbit can experience both of these things from eating too much fruit, let alone from eating pure sugary seasonings. Fresh corn is also quite sweet, which comes from its natural sugars.

Salts are another issue. A rabbit doesn’t need salt licks, like some other animals. When fed a proper diet with quality food, a rabbit will receive all the salt it needs from its food. Salty popcorn will provide your rabbit with far too much salt. If fed this type of popcorn even semi-regularly, health issues from too much sodium will develop.

Oil and butter are a category of their own. Rabbits cannot digest either of these foods. As such, stasis or other digestive issues are almost certain.

Can Rabbits Eat Popcorn Kernels?

Kernels are perhaps the riskiest of all forms that corn comes in. The hard outer shell of the kernel, the pericarp, is part of what makes corn so difficult for rabbits to digest. Uncooked popcorn is almost certainly going to remain whole as it passes through the digestive tract. That is, if it passes through the tract and doesn’t cause a blockage.

Another part of the outer shell is the tip cap. Although not always the case, this tip can be slightly sharp and cause internal damage. Small rabbits may choke on unpopped corn kernels too.

Do Rabbits Like Popcorn?

Rabbits can be quite picky about food. Others will happily eat whatever you put in front of them, or whatever they can find. Popcorn may be one of the foods that a rabbit will eagerly gobble up.

Worryingly, there are a number of cases of people feeding their rabbits popcorn. This leaves unsuspecting owners to believe that rabbits can, and should, be fed popcorn or corn. They cannot, even if they appear to like it.

Rabbits are usually fond of sweet foods, which corn is. Even though rabbits shouldn’t eat popcorn, you can safely assume that they would enjoy it.

can rabbits eat popcorn kernels?

What To Do If Your Rabbit Eats Popcorn

So, what if you’ve mistakenly fed your rabbit popcorn? What if it snuck a few pieces from your bowl on movie night? Here’s how to take action:

  1. Before anything else, stop the problem from escalating. Remove any remaining popcorn from the rabbit’s reach.
  2. Then, try and give your rabbit some fresh grass hays. This should help your rabbit’s digestive tract hurry along.
  3. Over the next few days, introduce some extra dietary fiber into the rabbit’s diet. This will encourage it to pass the popcorn.

Over the next week, you should closely monitor your rabbit, its poop, and how much it eats. Any variation in the following should warrant an immediate trip to the vet.

  • How much your rabbit eats
  • The size and shape of its poop
  • The amount of poop (or the lack of any)
  • Uneaten cecotropes
  • Its posture for signs of pain
  • Bloating

During this week, you should also ensure that the rabbit is still drinking and eating plenty of hay. This will make passing the popcorn easier. Since the pericarps are indigestible, you may even find them near-whole amongst piles of fecal matter. Remove these from the enclosure immediately.

Rabbits’ digestive system is almost constantly in action. It will pass hundreds of pellets every day. A rabbit should pass any eaten popcorn relatively soon after eating it. Still, it is best to continue monitoring the bunny for anywhere between 3 days to a full week for any issues.

Does Popcorn Kill Rabbits?

Popcorn can kill rabbits. This food poses several hazards and no benefits, making it important to avoid.

Corn in any form (including fresh, popped, and kernel) is indigestible. It can potentially cause gastrointestinal stasis, impaction, weight gain, and other health issues. Gastrointestinal stasis, when left untreated, can lead to severe bloating and organ failure.

Beyond these issues, popcorn and the kernels can be a choking hazard in smaller rabbits. So, altogether, popcorn – and corn in general – should not ever be fed to a rabbit.

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