Poisonous Plants for Rabbits

Rabbits are little gourmets: in nature, in meadows and cemeteries, in parks and vegetable gardens, they will find a versatile table setting. There they use the plants that they instinctively recognize as edible and appetizing. Rabbits kept as pets generally do not have this option. They depend on their keepers to offer them a safe choice of feed. Not everything that is edible and healthy for humans is also suitable for rabbits. Read here how you can recognize digestible green fodder and safely avoid poisonous plants.

How Do Rabbits Know What to Eat?

Knowledge of edible and inedible plants is a mixture of instinct, experience, and curiosity. Over many generations, rabbits have established a reliable knowledge of which plants are edible in their immediate vicinity. The mother’s milk already contributes to this: This gives the young animal relevant information about “good” taste notes, which it recognizes when it starts to consume solid food.

A good part of the knowledge also arises from observing conspecifics: what the mother likes is also consumed by the offspring and categorized as edible. In addition, their extremely fine sense of taste and smell help the rabbits to choose fodder plants. Rabbits are even able to selectively pick up herbs or bark from a range of herbs or bark that have a medicinal effect on certain minor ailments such as an upset stomach.

Unknown plants, on the other hand, carefully test the animals with a tiny test bite: Potentially poisonous ingredients are then absorbed in very small amounts, but the taste information provides the animal with information about tolerability. It is rare in nature for rabbits to poison themselves on plants. However, this instinctive selection does not always work. In particular, if the rabbit encounters non-native plants that it cannot recognize based on evolutionary instincts, harmful plant material can be consumed. Cultural areas such as gardens and parks, therefore, harbor dangers for hungry bums.

Even pets that are given their food by humans are dependent on only receiving harmless food.

Why is Poisoning in Rabbits So Dangerous?

There are situations in which even the strong instincts of rabbits reach their limits: If an animal is starved, eats out of boredom due to incorrect keeping, for example, individual housing, or if the plant and feed components are not served raw, but rather heavily processed the absorption of harmful substances is possible. This applies in particular to adding flavorings that confuse the animals’ sense of taste.

Poisoning in rabbits manifests itself through the following symptoms:

  • Increased salivation;
  • Noticeable thirst;
  • Digestive problems such as diarrhea or constipation;
  • Bleeding (for example, blood in the urine or nosebleeds);
  • Spasms: paralysis, cramps, muscle tremors;
  • Noticeably changed pupils;
  • Fever and drowsiness.

Poisoning is also favored by the fact that, unlike other animals, rabbits cannot vomit, so they do not give up poisonous food ingested by mistake in this way. If you notice any signs of poisoning in your rabbit, see a veterinarian immediately – any delay in treatment will make the situation worse and could result in permanent organ damage or death. If the animal is generally in a good constitution and is treated quickly, the chances of recovery are good. If you know what the animal might have been poisoned with, take a sample with you.

The veterinarian will determine which therapy is sensible through visual inspection, taking blood, urine samples, and, if necessary, neurological examinations. For some known symptoms of poisoning, there are suitable antidotes; if the cause is unclear, the doctor will first concentrate on eliminating symptoms and, for example, administer circulatory stabilizers as well as laxatives that accelerate the elimination processes.

Plants common in gardens and parks that can be dangerous to rabbits:

  • Arum
  • Henbane
  • Yew
  • Monkshood
  • Angel trumpet
  • Thimble
  • Autumn crocus
  • Nightshade
  • Oleander
  • Delphinium
  • Hemlock
  • Wonder tree
  • Bulbous plants (e.g. tulips, daffodils)

Of course, this list can only represent a small selection of common crops. Some of the plants mentioned are non-native ornamental plants and woody plants that pose a danger to animals, especially in gardens and parks, but also as indoor plants.

Even fruit and vegetables are not generally safe for rabbits:

  • Avocado: absolutely incompatible, must not be offered to rabbits.
  • Onions: contain sulphides that irritate the mucous membranes.
  • Legumes: can cause gas and indigestion
  • Beans: are poisonous when raw.
  • Cabbage: Some types of cabbage are difficult to digest for rabbits.
  • Raw potatoes: contain starch that is difficult to digest.
  • Radish and radishes: The mustard oils in the tubers are incompatible.
  • Rhubarb: is poisonous to rabbits.
  • Stone fruit: in large quantities, it can lead to diarrhea.
  • Exotic fruits like mango, papaya, or litchi can cause indigestion.

For many of the foods listed, the following applies: The dose makes the poison. Some substances are safe for the rabbit organism in small amounts, others should be strictly avoided.

Which Plants Do Rabbits Not Eat?

As a gardener and rabbit friend, the rabbits’ insatiable hunger can throw you into conflict, because the animals do not differentiate between “allowed” pasture and the loving planting of a flowerbed: Ornamental plants, which are potentially edible, are also eaten by wild rabbits or free-range animals. In these cases, use the animals’ fine sense of taste to outsmart them and plant decorative and non-toxic ornamental plants that rabbits do not like.

These include, for example:

  • lavender;
  • cloves;
  • phlox;
  • tagetes;
  • farm hydrangeas;
  • chili.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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