Mealworms provide many health benefits to most rodents, such as hamsters. It helps them grow and keeps their organs healthy. For this reason, it might make sense to try and feed rabbit mealworms as well. They are both rodents and are smaller prey species, but does it make sense?
Unfortunately, rabbits can’t handle mealworms the same way other rodents are. Despite being in the same animal category, they have vastly different digestive systems.
Giving a rabbit a mealworm can cause many health problems and is not recommended at all.
Keep reading to learn more about why rabbits can’t eat mealworms, and what to expect if they do manage to get their paws on some.
Why can’t rabbits eat mealworms?
It is pretty common to give other rodents mealworms. Usually, it can help them get the protein they need and maintain healthy weights. While they don’t eat many, having a couple on hand is always a good idea.
Unfortunately, with rabbits, it doesn’t work the same way. Most rodents tend to be omnivores.
This means that, though they favor plants as food, they sometimes eat insects or meat if they have access to that. Rabbits, however, are not omnivores.
There are two main reasons why giving a rabbit mealworms is a bad idea.
Rabbits are herbivores
Instead of being an omnivore, rabbits are herbivores. A herbivore’s diet consists of only plants.
They have differently designed stomachs to help them break down plants better than omnivores and carnivores can.
For example, a cow has four stomachs to help them break down a plant cell wall and gather the most nutrients it can.
A rabbit isn’t quite as extreme, but they are unable to handle much meat or insects without finding themselves with a lot of stomach problems.
When a rabbit is eating plants, they may ingest a bug or two that is on the leaves, but it is rare, and it isn’t many at a time.
Most of the time, rabbits aren’t even attracted to meat and won’t try to eat it.
There are a few rare cases that domestic pet owners have reported, but for the most part, they stay away from meat or people that are eating it.
To keep a rabbit healthy, they should stick to vegetables and hay as their primary food source, with a few pieces of fruit and some pellets for treats and supplemental nutrients.
This leads us to our second reason that rabbits shouldn’t ever be given mealworms.
Mealworms are high in protein and fat.
Rabbits are pretty finicky to take care of and need a specific diet. Even giving them too many pellets can cause gut imbalances and an issue known as GI stasis.
This is where a rabbit’s digestive tract stops or slows down, and food starts to sit in its intestines.
GI stasis can easily kill a rabbit, so it is essential to give them the right food so they can pass stool properly.
Usually, rabbits need a lot of fiber. For the most part, a rabbit’s diet can consist of the right vegetables and as much hay as they can eat.
Pellets are an easy way to give them the nutrition they need, but usually, more than ¼ of a cup is too much and leads to GI stasis or other health problems.
This is because pellets are high in fat and protein. This is good for young rabbits, but as it ages, a rabbit needs more fiber and less of the other two.
This is also why mealworms are bad for a rabbit. Mealworms are both high in fat and protein and may contain enough to pose health issues as a rabbit cannot digest the nutrients they have in their system.
What to do if my rabbit eats mealworms?
If a rabbit only eats a couple of mealworms, there shouldn’t be any problems.
If it hasn’t yet eaten its pellets, you may be able to take those away for the day, so your rabbit isn’t eating any extra protein and fat.
Rabbits do occasionally eat insects in the wild as they go to eat other plants, so one or two mealworms really won’t hurt them.
They shouldn’t get them all the time, but even their weak stomachs should be able to handle it without a problem.
If they do eat a lot of mealworms, it might lead to some problems with their intestines. The two most common issues are:
|Health issues from eating mealworms||Symptoms|
|GI Stasis||Not eatingNot drinkingLess poopIrregular poopLethargyTeeth grindingWeight loss|
|Fatty Liver Disease||Not eatingNot drinkingDepressionLethargyLess poopIrregular poopWeight loss|
The symptoms for both of these health problems are very similar, and they are both very bad for your rabbit.
No matter the issue, if your rabbit doesn’t eat for more than 24 hours, you will want to take your rabbit to a veterinarian immediately, even if that requires taking your rabbit to the emergency vet.
How to make sure your rabbit is okay after eating mealworms
To best take care of your rabbit, you should give them plenty of food and water after ingesting a few mealworms.
This should help them flush out the mealworms and have enough fiber to keep their digestive system working properly.
The best food to give them during this time is hay. It is highly fibrous, and your rabbit can eat as much hay as it wants without any issues.
It may be worth not giving them pellets for a day or two, even if it makes your rabbit grumpy. Pellets are also higher in fat and protein, and you don’t want to add any more unnecessarily.
Keep an eye on their stool.
Rabbit stool should always be pretty uniform. They eat the same thing daily, and their bodies don’t handle changes very well.
If your rabbit’s stool starts looking too different or stays different for too long, it may signify a stomach imbalance.
Usually, if they have issues, it will be something like too little poop or smaller-sized poops. However, the wetness and color-changing can also indicate something is wrong.
Will my rabbit be alright if it accidentally ate a mealworm?
Most of the time, the rabbit will be fine. Your rabbit may have an upset stomach for a day or two but should overall be healthy and able to pass the worms with minimal trouble.
If they ate quite a few, there might be tummy trouble for a few days.
As long as your rabbit is still eating and drinking like normal, your rabbit should be pretty healthy.
Rabbits have a very fast digestive tract. This is one of the reasons they have to almost constantly eat and why they can suffer health problems from not pooping and eating regularly.
If your rabbit’s poops stay irregular for a few days, it is worth taking your rabbit to the vet. Even if they are still eating regularly, it could be a sign that something is wrong.
If your rabbit shows any other symptoms or strange behavior, even if they aren’t signs of the health issues listed above, it is another reason to take your rabbit to the vet.
Something could be much more serious than you realized and could be causing a lot of internal harm to your bunny.
Why can other rodents eat meat but not rabbits?
Most other rodents tend to be omnivores. This means that even if they primarily eat plants, they can eat meat and insects. However, rabbits themselves are herbivores.
They have a specialized stomach that is much different from omnivores, and they cannot handle digesting certain foods.
Instead, they can only eat plants and have a very specific diet and percentage of nutrients they need to maintain a healthy gut.
Mealworms have a lot of protein and fat, which rabbits’ stomachs aren’t able to easily digest.
For the most part, rabbits don’t want meat either. They are curious enough to want to try something once, but even that is very rare.
Many rabbit owners report their rabbits tend to hide when meat is cooking and don’t reappear until the smell is gone.
Rabbits are very fragile creatures, especially when it comes to their stomachs. They need a fairly specific ratio of fat, protein, and fiber.
Deviating too far from that can cause health problems such as fatty liver disease and GI stasis.
Mealworms have too much fat and protein for a rabbit to process. By giving a rabbit a mealworm, you risk giving their stomachs many problems. It is best to avoid giving your rabbits any meat or insects.
If your rabbit somehow gets hold of mealworms, it is vital to watch their eating habits and stool carefully to make sure they continue to eat and drink and that their poop remains similar.
If something does change, it may be worth paying your vet an emergency visit.