While rabbits may not be the first choice of meat for most people, they have been consumed since the ancient civilizations, particularly in the Mediterranean.1 Wild cats and dogs have also been known to prey on rabbits in places where they're most abundant.2,3 Today, domestic animal companions, including dogs and cats, may enjoy rabbit as a treat, meal topper or as a base protein for nutritionally complete homemade meals. But before you give this unusual meat to your pet, find out the nutrients and health benefits that it can offer.
Rabbit Is a Novel Source of Protein
If you're looking to widen your pet's choice of protein sources, then rabbit is a safe and healthy alternative you should consider. Since it's not a common ingredient in processed pet food, rabbit is considered a novel source of protein for animal companions. It's particularly beneficial for pets that have developed food sensitivities to common animal-based protein sources, such as chicken or beef, after eating poor-quality processed pet food for a long period of time.
Rabbit contains the essential amino acids that your dog needs.4 A hundred grams of cooked rabbit meat can provide around 32.88 grams of protein,5 which plays a number of important roles in your dog's body, such as helping to:6
- Build and repair muscles, tissues, cells and organs
- Promote the production of body chemicals like hormones and enzymes
- Regulate the synthesis of neurotransmitters
- Strengthen the immune system
Rabbit Provides Your Pet With Healthy Fats
According to an article published in the Foods journal, "rabbit meat offers excellent nutritive and dietetic properties." Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) were listed in this article as one of the nutrients found in rabbit at high amounts, along with amino acids.7 A hundred grams of rabbit meat contains 0.677 grams of PUFAs,8 which include both omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
Dogs and cats require polyunsaturated fats from their diet, as they can't produce these fats on their own. PUFAs are essential for energy production, brain function and cell growth. They also help modulate inflammation, promote healthy growth and development and improve the quality of your pet's skin and coat.9,10,11
Eating Rabbit May Help Improve Stool Quality in Cats
In a study performed by The School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, researchers investigated the effects of rabbit consumption on the occurrence of inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) in cats. After a week of eating rabbit-based diet, cats were found to experience "significant improvements in their stool quality based on a visual stool grading system."
Cats fed with rabbit had firm and non-odorous stools, whereas cats fed premium commercial pet food had loose and odorous ones. Rabbit meat was also found to be more palatable for cats than processed pet food, as they ate it "more rapidly and aggressively." The researchers also observed that rabbit-fed cats had better-quality coats.12 It's important homemade diets are formulated to assure your pet consumes the minimum nutrient requirements they need to thrive.
Health-Boosting Minerals Found in Rabbit
Aside from amino acids and healthy fats, rabbit also contains minerals that may help improve your pet's well-being, including:
- Potassium — Cooked rabbit meat provides 342 grams of potassium per 100-gram serving.13 Potassium is essential for the proper function of your pet's nerves, muscles and cardiac system, among others. Low levels of this mineral can also lead to hypokalemia.14
- Iron — A 100-gram serving of cooked rabbit contains 4.83 milligrams of iron.15 This mineral is involved in the transportation of oxygen in the hemoglobin as well as in energy generation.16
Rabbit also provides 129.4 milligrams of choline per 100-gram serving.17 This vitamin-like nutrient and its metabolites are involved in muscle function, memory, protein function and gene expression.18
How to Safely Offer Rabbit Meat to Your Pet
Limit the serving of rabbit meat to 10% of your pet's daily caloric intake if you're using it as a healthy extra to their main diet. If you're planning to give your pet cooked rabbit, make sure that you remove all bones beforehand, as they can splinter and cause choking or lacerations to your pet's gastrointestinal tract.19 You should also avoid using seasonings or flavorings when preparing rabbit meat.
Moreover, while rabbit is considered a novel protein source, it can still trigger allergies in some pets, especially those that have been fed processed pet food that contains exotic and novel proteins. If your animal companion has an allergic reaction to rabbit, stop feeding it to them and introduce a different source of protein into their diet instead.20
Give This Novel Protein Source a Try!
Adding rabbit to your pet's meals is a good way to add variety into their protein sources. With beneficial amino acids, fatty acids and minerals, this novel protein may help maintain your pet's optimal health and lower their risk of food allergies. You can feed rabbit to your pet raw, cooked, dehydrated or freeze dried. Whichever type of rabbit meat you give them, make sure to limit its serving to 10% of your pet's daily caloric intake if you're giving it to them as a healthy treat.