Most rabbits LOVE their veggie snacks and it’s just so tempting to give them people food that you are snacking on. However, there are some foods that are safe for humans but can be harmful to your pet bunny. Corn and corn on the cob are often in question: Can rabbits eat corn cobs and corn kernels safely?
Dr. Jess explains the answer below:
Check out whether rabbits can eat tomatoes here!
What Are Rabbits?
Rabbits and bunnies are small mammals that hop around from place to place.
They are commonly seen as pets with their sweet eyes, floppy ears, furry faces, and cute whiskers.
Rabbits come in many colors, shapes, and sizes, most commonly seen in shades of white, brown, black, and patches or combinations of those colors.
They can be seen with a large ear for their body size and even have long-eared varieties with even larger drooping ears.
Rabbits have long incisors (front teeth) that are constantly growing and needing to be filed either naturally or by the help of some intervention, both discussed further into this article.
What Do Rabbits Need From a Healthy Diet?
A well-balanced rabbit diet will need to deliver a multitude of things to the bunny ingesting it.
Just like humans, rabbits need the right combination of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and water to keep their organs working and functioning properly.
However, the daily nutritional requirements for a rabbit differ quite greatly from that of a human, and that is reflected in the common diet that most healthy and happy pet rabbits eat.
What Does a Typical Rabbit Diet Consist of?
An adult rabbit’s main source of food in their diet should come mostly from high-quality hay.
Hay is a forage that is low in calories and high in fiber, easy on the rabbit’s digestive system.
Other pieces of the rabbit’s diet may include commercial pellets and/or treats and snacks such as fruits and vegetables.
However, not all fruits and vegetables are safe for your bunny to have.
Let’s Talk Corn Cobs and Corn Kernels:
In order for this entire article to make sense, we first need to talk about the ins and outs of corn.
Let’s start by focusing on the nutrition of corn itself.
Corn has many well-known health benefits associated with them. But let’s start with their nutritional profile. According to Wikipedia corn contains:
“Raw, yellow, sweet maize kernels are composed of 76% water, 19% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and 1% fat (table). In a 100-gram serving, maize kernels provide 86 calories and are a good source (10–19% of the Daily Value) of the B vitamins, thiamin, niacin (but see Pellagra warning below), pantothenic acid (B5) and folate (right table for raw, uncooked kernels, USDA Nutrient Database). In moderate amounts, they also supply dietary fiber and the essential minerals, magnesium and phosphorus whereas other nutrients are in low amounts (table).”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maize
Good Source of Vitamin B:
Corn has a nice amount of vitamin B in them – a vitamin that helps with the protection of important body systems that keep the body running and functioning appropriately.
High in Sugar and Starches:
Too many calories can lead to weight gain – that’s a well known fact. So if you have an overweight bunny, keep this in mind.
Corn is a good source of the antioxidants carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which promote eye health
Helps Digestive Function:
Contains fiber to help aid in digestion.
As hindgut fermenters, rabbits need a large amount of fiber in their diets to keep their gastrointestinal tract healthy and moving and digesting food appropriately.
Do Rabbits Eat Corn Cobs?
Most rabbits will eat corn and will nibble on corn cobs when offered. Corn is full of sweet sugars – so most rabbits will eat corn if offered as a sweet treat.
But should you be offering your rabbit corn? I’ll discuss this in a moment.
In a veggie garden, most rabbits will chose vegetables like peas, beans, beets, and carrots.
But just because rabbits DO eat corn does not necessarily mean that this is the best or safest choice for your pet.
Can Rabbits Eat Corn? Is it Safe?
There are some foods that us humans can eat that are actually toxic to your rabbit and need to be avoided all together.
There are some things that make corn and corn cobs toxic to rabbits, even in small doses. That’s right – problems may arise that I will discuss further down in this article.
Rabbits should be munching on grass, commercial feed pellets, and hay, along with a bowl of clean, fresh water.
You see, rabbits are lagomorphs and need a diet which is high-in fiber and low in sugar and fat.
They get their fiber supplied in the form of plants, such as hay which is a roughage that contains a lot of fiber.
This fiber is beneficial for two reasons:
- Dietary fiber keeps the rabbit’s digestive system running smoothly (it’s the same reason why some people take a fiber supplement like Metamucil!).
- The physical roughage (hay) helps keep the rabbit’s teeth healthy and worn down as their teeth are continually growing and need to be filed in order to prevent overgrowth.
Lagomorphs also need a low sugar diet. Unfortunately, corn is very high in sugars and starches.
So, long story short- no! Rabbits should not be fed corn. There are also reasons why you should not feed your pet bunny corn cobs, and I’ll get to this list of reasons here in a minute.
You do not want to feed corn or corn cobs, potentially making your furry friend unintentionally sick.
More on Lagomorphs Digestive Systems:
Lagomorphs, which are rabbits, hares, and pikas, are hindgut fermenters.
What the heck does that mean?
Well, just as the name suggests…. these mammals digest by fermenting in their hindgut, or the lower section of their digestive system.
Let’s dig in a little more so the rest of this article makes a little more sense….
Lagomorphs require a bulky fiber-rich diet that would be incredibly difficult for most other mammalian digestive systems to break down, digestive, and absorb.
Food is digested in the stomach and broken down nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine, just like most other mammals digestive systems.
Certain fibrous foods get transported further down the digestive tract, to a section called the cecum.
The cecum is a blind-ended pouch that contains yeast and bacteria that can help breakdown these fibrous cellulose-rich foods.
These fibrous foods are then transformed and turned into sugar, a process known as hindgut fermentation.
The process is somewhat like the fermentation process of other products that you may be more familiar with.
Can Rabbits Eat Corn Cobs?
Rabbits should never be fed corn or corn cobs. Corn cobs are dangerous for rabbits for a few reasons.
Here are some of the reasons why bunnies should not be offered corn cobs:
- Corn cobs have very little nutritional value for your rabbit.
- Corn cobs are highly regarded as being choking hazards to many animals, including rabbits.
- Con cobs can be swallowed and become stuck in many different places in the rabbit’s gastrointestinal (digestive) tract.
Can Baby Bunnies Eat Corn Cobs?
Compared to their adult counterparts, baby rabbits have much more sensitive gastrointestinal systems.
Avoid feeding baby bunnies any kinds of fruits and vegetables until they reach 12 weeks of age to allow their stomachs to mature with them. This does NOT include any form of corn or corn cobs!
Can Rabbits Eat Corn Stalks?
Yes, rabbits can eat the corn stalk – but monitor the rabbit while they nibble away, as it can be a choking hazard.
Do not confuse the corn stalk with the corn cob. The corn cob should not be given to any rabbit of any age or size.
How About Corn Husks?
There’s no reason that bunnies can’t enjoy chewing on corn husks unless they just don’t like the husk at all.
They love having little things in their mouths to chew on and to keep them occupied and entertained throughout their busy days!
Remember that the corn husk is the green leaf-like structure surrounding the corn on the cob when freshly-picked.
Remove the husk from the corn itself and take off any straggling silky hairs that can get caught in their mouths and cause choking.
Also – make sure that the husk is cleaned of debris and pesticides before offering it to your rabbit.
Feed only the husk and not the actual corn cob, corn kernels, or the silky hairs!
But just like anything else that they can stick in their mouths, these can be a choking hazard so monitor your piggie while snacking on these husks.
Can Rabbits Eat Cooked Corn?
Do not give your rabbit any cooked corn.
Any cooked or processed corn is not recommended since your rabbit is an herbivore and they rely on raw foods to get their nutrients.
Everything a rabbit needs can be provided in fresh and raw form. Your rabbit’s stomach is just not made to handle cooked food, including corn.
One big advantage with offering raw vegetables is that it’s not only healthier for your rabbit, but it is much less effort on your part!
Can Rabbits Eat Canned Corn?
Nope – canned corn is just like fresh corn – unhealthy for your rabbit to eat.
On top of that – canned corn usually has preservatives added to it so that it has a longer shelf-life, all of which is not healthy for your bunny to ingest.
Medical Concerns of Feeding Corn to Rabbits:
There are many circumstances where corn cobs can be quite bad for your pet rabbit.
Yes, some of the common issues seen with feeding corn cobs to rabbits include:
- High Sugar and Carbohydrate Content: Too much sugar and carbs are incredibly detrimental to rabbits – so don’t feed too much to your bunny! It is very hard for your rabbit’s digestive system to digest sugars due to the way that the gastrointestinal system is setup, such as in cecal dysbiosis – discussed in more detail, a few bullets further down this list.
- Weight Gain: Many small pets, including rabbits, can have issues with being overweight or obesity. High sugar and low nutritional value of corn, make it a definite culprit to any weight gain if it is fed to your pet.
- Decreased Digestive Motility: Corn can help cause a slowdown or stopping of the movement of food through a lagomorphs digestive system. This can cause your rabbit to become very ill and even can cause death if not treated and let go long enough.
- Cecal Dysbiosis: When a diet high in sugar and/or starches reaches the cecum, an area of the rabbit’s digestive tract, it comes into contact with a colony of yeast, that go crazy over the extra added sugar. This sets off an unbalanced ratio of yeast to bacteria in the rabbit’s gut. This imbalance causes digestive upset and nutrition issues, as the gut’s bacteria can not properly work correctly and digest food properly. Usually, adding a normal, healthy, high-fiber, low-sugar diet into the rabbit’s life, or a course of medications, can help jump start this imbalance back to the right proportions.
- Mycotoxins: Corn can have a fungus, or mycotoxin on it that can cause some major health issues in any human or animal that eats it! [source]
- Pesticides: Corn should always be washed to make sure they are free of any pesticides or chemicals that could be harmful to rabbits.
- Parasites: Corn should be checked over for parasites that can lead to potential parasite problems with your rabbit
- Overly Ripened: Avoid rotten fruits and vegetables that can cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset.
- Baby Bunnies: Baby bunnies have a more sensitive digestive system than their adult counterparts do, and therefore you shouldn’t give your rabbit friend any fruits or vegetables until they reach around 12 weeks of age.
How To Feed Corn Cobs To A Rabbit:
Trick question… but you don’t. Do not feed your rabbit or baby bunny corn of any kind.
There are too many issues and potential harmful effects for corn to be worth feeding it to your pet.
How Much Corn to Feed:
Zero amount…. hear me – do NOT feed corn to your bunny.
If you do mistakenly end up feeding your rabbit corn, look out for any adverse reactions.
Common Signs of Adverse Reaction:
- diarrhea/loose stool
- excessive or increased itching/scratching/licking of skin or paws
Rabbits can not have corn of any kind or form. There are just too many potential medical concerns for corn and corn cobs, to be worth feeding to your pet.
Corn can cause a multitude of health problems for the bunny. It’s not worth it!
If you have concerns regarding feeding your rabbit corn or corn cobs, contact your local veterinarian.
- Oglesbee B. The 5 Minute Veterinary Consults Ferret and Rabbit, Blackwell 2006
- Rabbit Care
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.