Rabbits are vegetarians who love to dine on a wide range of plant materials, including herbs. However, several herbs rabbits should never eat. Knowing which herbs to offer or withhold from a rabbit can make the difference between health and illness.
Rabbits Love Plant Materials, Even Toxic Ones
Vegetables, fruits, flowers, grasses and herbs are the mainstays of a rabbit's diet. And unfortunately, they will often taste a plant even if it's poisonous. Therefore, it's up to rabbit parents to ensure their little ones don't ingest anything that will make them sick. Herbs have many components, including leaves, seeds, flowers, roots, berries and bark, and some or all parts may pose a threat. Avoiding dietary use and making sure bunnies don't have access to gardens or yards with these herbs can help avoid ingestion.
Numerous Herbs Are Dangerous
Hundreds of herbs are dangerous to rabbits. Some of the more commonly found herbs on the exhaustive list includes agave (leaves), aloe, amaryllis, bloodroot, bluebonnet, blue-green algae, buttercup, belladonna, echinacea, elder, eucalyptus, hemlock, hogwort, holly, jasmine, lily of the valley, milkweed, mistletoe, nutmeg, oak leaves, poppy and ragwort. The Save a Fluff website, "a place for rescues, bunny lovers and rabbit info," has a more comprehensive list of toxic herbs and other plants.
Some herbs are safe for rabbits, and many are found in local stores or backyard gardens. These include basil, oregano, parsley, dill, cilantro, caraway, rosemary, sage, tarragon, lavender, peppermint, lemon balm, comfrey and clover. Clover, although not toxic, should be given with care, as it may cause some tummy upset or even bloat in rabbits with sensitive digestive tracts. Although these herbs are safe for rabbits, vegetables and grasses should take center stage in a rabbit's menu plan. Consider these herbal garnishes.
Signs of Poisoning
If you believe a rabbit has ingested an unsafe herb, it's best to visit a vet right away. If you're unsure about whether an herb is safe or not, ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center has round-the-clock availability to handle calls from concerned pet parents. Signs that a rabbit may have ingested a toxic or unhealthy herb include intestinal upset and inflammation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fever or low body temperature, seizures, lethargy, weakness and depression.
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Sarah Whitman's work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, websites and informational booklets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in nutrition, and her projects feature nutrition and cooking, whole foods, supplements and organics. She also specializes in companion animal health, encouraging the use of whole foods, supplements and other holistic approaches to pet care.