Lemons are fruits of an evergreen, flowering plant, Citrus limon and should not be confused with lemon balm, a plant that belongs to the mint family or with lemongrass or thyme.
This fruit, (often yellow but can be green) together with its juice is often used for culinary and non-culinary purposes (such as cleaning). The juice has a pH of about 2.2 and contains 5-6% citric acid that gives it the sour taste.
Nutritionally, lemons have various nutrients required by your rabbit including carbohydrates, proteins, vitamin C, and B Complex, fiber, as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. However, this alone does not qualify this citrus fruit to be suitable for these pets.
Can rabbits eat lemons?
No. We do not recommend lemon fruits for rabbit and most people have noted that bunnies do not like their sour taste. However, giving them this citrus fruit sparingly as an occasional treat may be ok.
There is no evidence of toxicity considering the various ingredients. Perhaps, the only thing that is high is the amount of citric acid with stands at 5-6%.
However, on the citric acid concentration, one research on the “Effect of Fresh Citrus limon Juice on Liver Histomorphology of Growing Rabbits” concluded that up to 75% of citrus limon concentration juice has no effect on their liver and stated this fruit can be fed to rabbits .
Similarly, another research on “Biochemical and Histological Alterations in Liver and Kidney of Growing Rabbits Fed on Overabundant Dried Citrus Limon” conclude that dried lemon is safe as a "growth additive in growing rabbits.” .
Therefore, if you intend to give your bunnies this fruit, consider giving them a small amount without pits or seeds. Do not give them more than one teaspoon per 2 pounds of bunny weight per day. This is the maximum quantity of treats (fruits and non-leafy vegetables) you can give your bunny daily.
Since it has carbs and sugars, like most fruits, excess amounts can result in enteritis. i.e., the sugars and carbs can cause a shift in the hindgut microflora by promoting the bad bacteria. Also, it can lead to weight gain and obesity.
Finally, only go for fresh lemon and do not remove the peels. Simply remove the seeds and chop it into smaller pieces. Some bunnies may like it while others may not like the sour taste.
There is still scanty information and researches on whether you can give these pet lemons and the possible effects of the citric acid they contain. This is our basis for not recommending it.
Instead, opt for other healthy fruit treats such as apples, melons, papaya, pineapples, plums, raspberries, strawberries, oranges, peach among others.
Also, stick to the recommended rabbit diet and also ensure they have unlimited amounts of clean, fresh drinking water.