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Can Rabbits Eat Soybeans?

We have seen a lot of questions recently about soy-related products for rabbits. If you are wondering whether you can feed soybeans (in any form) to your rabbit, there is some important information that you should keep in mind.

 I had a rabbit growing up, and while we ate plenty of Asian food that had soy sauce in it, we never thought about giving soy to our rabbits! While soybeans do have some interesting nutritional properties, there are a few important points that everyone should keep in mind.

Is It Safe to Give Soybeans to Rabbits?  

There are plenty of rabbit meals that list soy in some form next to their other ingredients. Usually, this is listed as soybean meal or soybean hulls. This doesn’t mean that it is safe to give whole soybeans to rabbits! There are a few points that we want everyone to know.

The Nutritional Facts Surrounding Soybeans

It is hard to find human diets that are completely devoid of soy; however, when it comes to rabbits, it is important to take a look at the health properties. Soybeans are native to eastern Asia, and soy is sold in many forms, including soy flour, soy protein, tofu, soybean oil, and soy sauce. Soybeans are a great source of antioxidants and phytonutrients that can have beneficial effects on certain animals, including rabbits; however, it is also important to have all of the information.

One serving (about 100 grams) of boiled soybeans contain:

  • 173 calories
  • 63 percent water
  • 16 grams of protein
  • 10 grams of carbs
  • 3 grams of sugar
  • 6 grams of fiber
  • 9 grams of fat, which includes 1.3 grams of saturated fat

Besides, soybeans are a healthy source of many vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Vitamin K, which plays a role in blood health
  • Folate, which plays a role in cell production
  • Copper, which plays a role in heart health
  • Thiamine, which plays a role in the nervous system

Clearly, soybeans are packed with numerous nutrients. This is why you might be wondering if they are healthy for rabbits. There are a few impacts of soybeans on rabbit health that pet owners should be familiar with.

The Concerns About Soybeans in Rabbits: Estrogen

The biggest concerns surrounding soybeans in rabbits have to do with estrogen. Estrogen, along with testosterone, is two hormones that are incredibly important to bodily processes. Some of the biggest roles surrounding estrogen include:

  • Reproduction
  • Gender differentiation
  • Cell signaling
  • Bone health

Many of the compounds found in soy have properties that mimic estrogen. This means that they can bind to certain receptors throughout the body that are typically reserved for estrogen. As a result, they might have significant impacts on the health and function of certain cells and tissues.

For those who breed rabbits, the biggest concerns related to soy are that they could lead to sterility. There have been multiple studies that show that soybeans could lead to sterility in rabbits. For those who own rabbits as pets, there are other concerns to note.

The Problem of Soybean Isoflavones (SBI)

Another major concern has to do with soybean isoflavones, which are often shortened to SBI. These compounds are pervasive in soybeans and could disrupt the endocrine system of rabbits, leading to issues related to:

  • Hormonal balance
  • Metabolism of other nutrients
  • Antioxidant capacity

One study was carried out looking at the impact of soybean isoflavones on close to two-dozen rabbits. The study took place over the course of 12 weeks. One population was fed a diet that was high in soybean isoflavones, and another group was fed a diet that was kept free from soybean compounds. The results of the study showed that the diet that was high in soybean compounds resulted in:

  • Plasma testosterone concentrations that dropped by around 20 percent
  • Iodine concentrations that spiked by close to 50 percent
  • Total blood plasma protein concentrations dropped
  • Antioxidant properties in the bloodstream increase

This study shows that soybeans have the potential to improve antioxidant concentrations in the blood, which is good because antioxidants are used to scavenge free radicals from the bloodstream. On the other hand, this study also shows that soybeans have the potential to induce a hormonal imbalance at certain levels. Therefore, soybeans should be used in moderation.

Other Considerations Involving Soybeans

In the end, soybeans are fine for rabbits in low concentrations. For decades, soybean meal has been a common component in numerous animal feeds, including those that are fed to rabbits. If soy was somehow poisonous for rabbits, it would have been removed from the feed. This is why many popular rabbit pellets and food mixes include soybean meal and soybean hulls as common ingredients.

At the same time, rabbit owners should try to avoid heaping handfuls of soybeans into the breakfast of their rabbits every morning. There are a few reasons why this should be avoided:

  • Studies have shown that soybeans can induce sterility in rabbits by interfering with estrogen and testosterone, which is a problem for rabbit breeders
  • Soybeans can lead to metabolic disruptions in rabbits at high concentrations, which could damage certain organ system throughout the body
  • Soybeans are packed with calories, which can lead to obesity in domesticated rabbits while also leading to joint problems, heart complications, and grooming issues
  • Soybeans are packed with carbs and protein while being relatively low in fiber, which could disrupt the GI tract of rabbits

These are a few of the considerations that rabbit owners should keep in mind.

Final Thoughts on Soy in Rabbits

In the end, soybean supplementation might be helpful for rabbits that are trying to gain weight; however, soybeans should only be provided to rabbits in moderation.

At high concentrations, the impacts of soybeans could be severe. Most rabbit owners should stick to the soybean meal and soybean hulls that are included in most rabbit feeds.

This provides rabbits with the nutrients they need to live a long, happy, and healthy life!