Having a pet bunny sounds exciting and fun. But, adopting or rescuing one is a big responsibility because you have to provide high-quality food, a hygienic environment, play with them, love them unconditionally, and so much more.
Every so often, after getting a bunny, especially a baby bunny, most people will provide milk. Because you know, milk is rich in nutrients and can have great health benefits for mammals.
But the big question is, can rabbits drink milk? The quick answer is that it depends on the type of milk. In this article, we will walk you through everything you need to know about rabbits and milk.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
Can rabbits drink milk?
Let’s talk about cow’s milk and how it affects both baby and adult bunnies.
Newborn bunnies should completely depend on their mother’s milk for the first 18 to 19 days. They are allowed to nurse until they are about 4–5 weeks old. However, what happens in situations where the mother cannot feed the kittens or if the kittens are orphaned at a young age? Can you offer milk instead?
You should not offer cow’s milk to kittens. Contrary to what we think, milk can be a potentially toxic drink for bunnies. Cow’s milk has nutrients to help and support baby cows and is very different from rabbit’s milk. Rabbit’s milk is much more concentrated than cow’s and contains about three times more protein and fat – this explains baby bunnies’ rapid growth in weight.
Also, there are so many more various minerals needed by baby rabbits for bone formation that are not present in cow’s milk. To be on the safe side, cow’s milk should not be provided as an alternative.
Can adult rabbits drink cow’s milk?
Once they reach adulthood, rabbits are lactose intolerant, which means they cannot digest milk or other dairy products (cheese, ice cream, etc.). Milk can cause problems in the digestive system.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Adult rabbits do not need high amounts of protein, calcium, or fat in their digestive system due to their complex system. Cow’s milk is caloric and is loaded with protein and fat.
All of these nutrients are hard for an adult bunny to digest.
On top of having a small and delicate stomach, did you know that rabbits are one of the few mammals that cannot vomit? Their stomach anatomy is designed to only move things in one direction: towards their stomach. That means if they take milk, they cannot digest or vomit it. As a result, they may develop health problems such as gastrointestinal (GI) stasis.
What would happen if a rabbit drank cow’s milk?
If you have been feeding your bunnies milk before you bumped into this article, you might want to stop now.
If your bunnies mistakenly take a small amount of milk, they will not die for having it once. Regular amounts of milk, however, can cause indigestion, bloating, and diarrhea.
You might notice that they are depressed because they are trying to digest the milk. Provide water and keep an eye on their appetite and poop.
Other types of milk to avoid feeding your bunny
- Rabbits should not drink almond milk. It does not contain lactose or cholesterol, but rabbits cannot digest it. A few drops of it can make your rabbit sick.
- Oat milk should be avoided as well. It is not ideal for them because it does not contain any nutrients that can help them.
- Evaporated milk is just as dangerous because the digestive system cannot handle it.
- Soy milk contains high protein and fat content, which could cause obesity. A few drops are not harmful, but you should monitor the quantity.
- Coconut milk, either cold-press or heat-press, can harm rabbits’ health. It contains an average of 23% fat, which is relatively high and can cause obesity and other stomach issues.
What types of milk can rabbits drink?
Luckily, rabbits do not react to all kinds of milk. Baby bunnies get milk to get essential nutrients and minerals. So, if you have to feed a kitten, here are the best bunny milk substitutes.
- Goat’s milk: Unlike cow’s milk, goat’s milk has less sugar and lactose content. It also has less protein and fat, which makes it easier to digest. So, it’s less likely to cause an adverse reaction.
- Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR): This is the best type for baby bunnies. It is a special formula that contains balanced proteins, vitamins, probiotics, carbohydrates, and fat. You can find it at many pet stores or at your local vet’s office. It’s important to note that this formula differs from kitten milk for baby cats. It’s just that both baby cats and baby bunnies are called kittens.
What other liquids can you offer your rabbit?
Here are a few other liquids you can offer your bunny.
Water is the best drink and is crucial to a rabbit’s health. Water is required for their bodies to function properly, including regulating temperatures, getting rid of waste, etc.
Always provide fresh and clean water throughout the day, in a water bottle or bowl, whatever your rabbit likes.
If your rabbit is not drinking enough water, you can make it more appealing by adding a few drops of apple juice, pineapple juice, or unsweetened carrots. This will add a sweet flavor and encourage them to drink more.
Rabbits can drink some herbal teas occasionally as long as the herb itself is safe for their consumption. Safe herbal teas include:
- Chamomile tea
- Rosemary tea
- Oregano tea
- Peppermint tea
- Lavender tea
- Lemon balm tea
Teas that contain high levels of caffeine, such as black tea and green tea, should be avoided altogether. Before giving any tea, ensure it’s cool and does not contain milk and sweeteners.
Yogurt drops can be served as a treat for your rabbit. However, this is a bad treat because it can upset your bunny’s stomach and, if taken in significant amounts, can cause tooth decay.
Although we do not recommend it, yogurt diluted in water can help rabbits suffering from intestinal bacterial problems such as diarrhea because it helps preserve the endemic bacterial flora and allows it to grow.
We strongly recommend that you offer healthy alternatives as treats, and consult with your vet if you encounter intestinal bacteria issues.
Our final thoughts
Milk is necessary for rabbits’ growth and development. However, not all types of milk are safe for consumption. Rabbit milk is the ideal milk for your bunny.
When it comes to what your bunny can drink, ditch cow’s milk because it can potentially harm your rabbit’s health. Rabbits are lactose intolerant and have very sensitive stomachs.
If you have to take care of a kitten, use goat’s milk or Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR). These options are much better than cow’s milk or the other types of milk.