Let us examine if rabbits can eat sweet potatoes, including vines, leaves, or skin? Are they safe for these pets or not?
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are one of the family Convolvulaceae (the morning glory or bindweed family) valued for its large edible, starchy, and sweet-tasting tuberous root, i.e., serves as a root vegetable.
Native to South or Central America, sweet potatoes popular in Africa, Asia, the United States, New Zealand, among other places where people eat them in different ways. Also, in some areas, its tender leaves and shoots are eaten as greens.
However, while they may have a similar name, potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) belong to the nightshade family. Don’t confuse these two since potato leaves are toxic to bunnies.
Can eat sweet potatoes
No. Rabbits shouldn’t eat sweet potatoes (raw or cooked). Yes, sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A (beta-carotene) and have considerable amounts of B vitamins (thiamine, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6) as well as manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Additionally, they are not toxic or poisonous to rabbits. All these make them seem like a perfect food for your furry critter. However, they are not the best choice since they are high in starch and sugar with little fiber.
Why is a lot of starch bad?
Carbohydrates are indeed the primary energy source for bunnies. However, their typical foods are high in fiber and low in energy or calorie like grassy hay. Fiber promotes a healthy gut and gut motility.
On the other hand, sweet potatoes are high in carbohydrates and low in fiber. Therefore, they are likely to overload your rabbit’s delicate cecum microflora balance resulting in enteritis, diarrhea or soft stool, gas, among other GI problems.
Also, carbohydrates inhibit motilin that helps stimulate smooth food movement in their gut. They may predispose your rabbits to obesity since they are high in calories and are not good for their teeth.
It is good to note that a small amount or piece of sweet potatoes, including its skin, isn’t going to harm your furry friend. However, make it a rare treat. If you alternatives, consider less starchy ones like
- Bell peppers
- Celery steams
Also, fruits like papayas, bananas, plums, apples, cherries, nectarines, mangoes, kiwis, pineapples, or others without pits or stones make perfect treats.
Finally, herbs like basil, dill leaves, parsley, lavender, oregano, lemon balm, marjoram, basil as well as flowers like roses, English daisy, calendula, dianthus, pansies, and marigolds and so on make delicious treats.
Can bunnies eat sweet potato greens or vines (stems and leaves)?
Yes. Rabbits can eat sweet potato vines (stems and leaves). Many studies have assessed their suitability, which proves their safety beyond any reasonable doubt.
They are nutritious with vitamin A, C, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and folic acid. Also, they have vital antioxidants with many health benefits to your bunnies.
One study notes that “sweet potato leaf extract was also observed in one of the rabbits that had a tumor which later disappeared and which was in agreement with (Hartwell, 1971) as a folk remedy for tumor of the mouth and throat.” This observation was attributed to enhanced hemopoietic activity.
When compared to alfalfa, sweet potato vines are also high in protein at about 22.1%, with similar fiber content, making them a perfect replacement of alfalfa hay to growing, nursing, or pregnant does. Discuss with your vet on the right amounts of the vines to feed your pet.
However, for usual feeding, sweet potato stems, and leaves, make them part of the leafy greens your rabbits eat. Therefore, give them two packed cups of 5-6 leafy greens with sweet potatoes being one of them per four-pound bunny and keep varying the various leafy greens or veggies.
Also, ensure the vines re safe (not treated with harmful fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides), wash them thoroughly under running water, and avoid any that have mold.
Finally, begin with a small amount to give your bunny time to adjust to the new food and check after a day if they cause any diarrhea, gas, or stomach upsets. If not, continue increasing the mount to what we have stated.
There is a temptation to feed your bunnies an unlimited amount of sweet potato vines. However, it is not a good idea as it will result in stomach upsets, diarrhea, gas, and bloating because they don’t have enough fiber like hay.
Also, they are higher in protein, raising the potential of them fattening your rabbits. Only give them slightly more if they are skinny.
Always stick to the right diet ratio. A good quality grassy hay should account for at least 80% of their diet, high fiber pellets 5%, and fresh foods 10-15%.
Fresh foods will include leafy greens that make the bulk part while fruits, flowers, herbs, and non-leafy veggies make part of treats. All treats, including commercial rabbit treats, shouldn’t exceed 5% of their daily calorific intake.