As humans, we’ve evolved to see food as a way to show love. So, it’s only natural to want to treat your pet rabbit to a special snack every now and then. However, rabbits have a very specialized digestive system that requires low fat, low sugar, and high fiber. This system can be easily upset by even the most innocent-sounding treat. That upset can go as far as death!
So, what foods can kill a rabbit? Sugary human foods such as candy and soda are harmful to rabbits. Bunnies should not eat chocolate, avocado, apple seeds, tomato plants, almonds, belladonna, foxglove, or wild carrots. Other dangerous foods include ragwort, wild peas, and bracken.
As if that list wasn’t long enough, there are quite a few more foods that are dangerous for pet rabbits. While wild rabbits naturally tend to avoid these things in the wild, your pet rabbit has come to depend on you for food. They depend on you to keep them healthy. That includes keeping dangerous food away from them.
Keep reading to find out more about which dangerous foods can kill your rabbit and what you can do to avoid them.
Food You Should Never Give To Your Bunny
The best things to feed pet rabbits include rabbit-specific pellets, grasses, and hays bought from reputable sources. But sometimes, people decide to give rabbits a little treat. Unfortunately, those treats are often dangerous or downright deadly to their fluffy friends. The following foods should never be given to a pet rabbit.
Bread, Tortillas, Muffins, and Other Baked Flour Goods
Rabbits need fiber, and a lot of it. They do not need high fats, carbs, or protein. Grains used to make flour usually have lots of fiber, but there’s a problem.
Breads, pastries, and other baked goods are almost always made with processed and bleached white flour these days. These flours have been stripped of most of their goodness and nutrients, including fiber, to make the fluffy, light baked goods modern humans have come to love. They’re made with fatty oils and added sugars, too.
For rabbits, that can spell disaster. These baked goods have no nutritional value for rabbits, but can fill their bellies quickly. They seem satisfied because their stomachs are full, but their bodies must then struggle to process the unnaturally high sugars and empty calories.
Without the fiber their bodies need, rabbits can end up with horrible constipation or worse. These foods can cause a toxic overgrowth of harmful bacteria that live in the gut. The condition is called enterotoxemia, and it can be deadly.
The bacteria love sugars and carbs, which is exactly what breads, pastries, and other baked goods are made of. Don’t be tempted to give your rabbit even a single nibble of this empty, dangerous food.
I know that we’ve all heard that avocado is supposed to be healthy. For humans, it really is. But for bunnies, it can be a death sentence. Remember, rabbits need a high fiber and low-fat diet. Even though avocados are the “healthy” fat for humans, any fatty food is bad for bunnies.
There is also the matter of persin toxins found in the avocado seed, leaves, and the bark of the tree. It can also leach into the flesh of the avocado, making even a small taste of guacamole dangerous for rabbits. It can cause cardial arrhythmia and death.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a novice rabbit-keeper feeding their bunnies iceberg lettuce. It’s certainly understandable, given the fact we’ve been told how healthy it is. But it’s dangerous to rabbits.
We’ve been taught that any fruits and veggies are good for us, and iceberg lettuce even shows up in supposedly healthy options at nearly every restaurant. The problem is that iceberg lettuce is mainly water; it has few, if any, nutritional values.
For rabbits, due to their small size, it’s easy to fill up on this pointless vegetable and not have enough room for truly nutritious choices.
Even scarier is the fact that iceberg lettuce contains lactucarium. This is a chemical that is harmful to rabbits. It’s known to have sedative properties and is sometimes referred to as “lettuce opium” because of this.
Other lettuce species also have this harmful chemical. It’s found in wild lettuce, too, not just domestic. It’s best to avoid light-colored species and stick with dark leafy greens instead.
Apricots, Peaches, Plums
These fruits’ seeds and pits contain the same cyanide compounds as apple seeds. The fruits themselves are extremely high in sugars. It’s best to simply avoid them and not take the risk.
Milk And Dairy
Rabbits lack the correct amount of lactase in their systems to properly digest dairy products. Avoid them at all costs. Ingesting dairy, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, can lead to severe gastric upset and life-threatening bloat.
This includes yogurt drops and yogurt covered fruits. While the fruits themselves may be safe, adding the dairy-heavy yogurt can cause many bunnies to fall ill.
Which Human Foods Can Kill Your Rabbit?
Many human-specific foods are deadly to rabbits. Even a small nibble could cause catastrophic organ failure or long-term, devastating poisoning. Be extra careful not to let your rabbit consume any of the following human foods.
Coffee or Coffee Beans
Once, I saw a woman let her pet rabbit take a quick sip of her coffee. I nearly jumped out of my seat to tell her the dangers she was putting her little bun-bun in. I managed to convince her after a few minutes of talking, but I was still worried that her rabbit had already consumed enough to cause major damage.
Coffee—either brewed or still in bean form—is toxic to rabbits. It contains methylxanthines and caffeine. These can cause a long list of gastric issues, but the ending is often the same. Death by heart arrhythmia or seizures. Before death comes, your rabbit would suffer extreme thirst, diarrhea, tremors, and confusion.
But that’s not all. Most coffee drinks are loaded with added sugars and sometimes cream. If you’ve read the rest of this article, you’ll know that sugar and dairy are bad for rabbits. Imagine all that fat, dairy, and sugar combined with the caffeine and methylxanthines. Yikes!
As with all pets, rabbits should be kept away from all forms of chocolate. Like coffee and coffee beans, chocolate contains methylxanthines.
Any kind of alcohol, and foods containing alcohol, are bad. They will impair your rabbit’s coordination, damage her central nervous system, cause breathing issues, and can cause coma or death.
Even the tiniest bit can cause major damage to a young rabbit. This can be a spilled drink or a small nibble of an alcohol-containing cake or meal.
Grapes and Raisins
Some rabbit owners swear grapes are safe while simultaneously saying raisins are dangerous. I think these people are confused. Raisins are only dried grapes. If raisins are dangerous, then so are grapes!
But are raisins and grapes actually dangerous for bunnies? They’re on this list, so, yes they are.
But they may not be dangerous for the reasons you think. While grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs, rabbits can usually safely eat a grape or two. The issue for rabbits is the incredibly high sugar content. Since they’re not designed to process sugars, too many grapes can be harmful.
I mentioned breads and baked goods earlier, but some people still think it’s okay to give raw yeast dough to rabbits. The danger of this food does not appear after the cooking process. It is always present.
Even raw dough can kill a rabbit, perhaps even quicker than baked foods.
Yeast is a living organism. It eats sugars and produces gasses, which is how bread rises. Raw yeast dough continues to rise in your rabbit’s gut. This causes painful bloating and incredible gas.
While it’s normal for rabbits to pass a little gas now and then, like most other mammals, too much gas is painful for bunnies.
It’s tempting to feed a cute bunny a few crackers and listen to them crunch away, but don’t. Crackers may not be made with yeast like other baked goods, but they are often made with bleached flour or other highly-processed grains.
Crackers are also often packed with hidden sugars, loaded with salt, and are extremely high in fats. There is literally nothing in any commercially-prepared crackers that is good for hungry rabbits.
This is another human food that seems tricky. We’re told that cereal is good for us, and it usually is. But for bunnies, it can be dangerous on many levels.
Let’s start with the grains. Just like the white flour mentioned above, most grains used in the production of cereals have been stripped of the healthy fiber and other important nutrients present in whole grains.
There is a ton of sugar in cereal, including the so-called “healthy” kinds. Any amount of sugar can be harmful to rabbits.
Then we have artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives present in most dry cereals. None of that is found in nature, and none of it is good for rabbits.
Each of these unhealthy things is bad for rabbits on their own. But imagine the difficulty a bunny would have digesting and processing all of these at once. Cereal doesn’t sound so good for rabbits now, does it?
Oatmeal is great for humans, but it’s a poor source of nutrition for rabbits. It’s not necessarily harmful for bunnies to eat a small amount of oatmeal, but it is not an ideal food for them.
That said, a rabbit fed a diet of only oatmeal for an extended time can die of malnutrition.
Can Herbs Kill Your Rabbit?
Some herbs can be harmful to rabbits, but some are safe. The problem is that most people don’t know enough about herbs to tell the difference.
Take, for instance, fools parsley. It gets its name because it looks so much like regular parsley, it’s tough to tell the difference. Fools parsley is toxic to rabbits, though. I feel it’s better to just avoid parsley all together, even though regular parsley isn’t dangerous to rabbits. I’d rather not take the chance.
The following herbs and spices are dangerous for rabbits:
- Agave leaves
This is not a comprehensive list, as there are hundreds of herbs and other plants that can harm your rabbit. However, it’s a list of some common herbs growing in many parts of the world.
What Common Garden Plants Are Dangerous To Your Bunny?
Rabbits are indiscriminate diners. They’ll often eat any plant matter they come across. Wild rabbits are naturally avoidant of dangerous plants, but domestic bunnies have never had to forage to survive. The following common garden plants can harm or you’re your rabbits.
Onion bulbs are dangerous to rabbits. Keep away from all onion varieties. Also, chives and garlic. All of these can cause major gastric upset that can lead to fatalities.
Tomato plants and leaves are toxic to rabbits. Wild bunnies usually stay away from these pungent plants, but domestic rabbits often don’t know any better.
Rhubarb leaves are toxic to bunnies, as are all bulb plants, including flowers. Cauliflower and chard aren’t usually toxic, but it can make bunnies gassy and uncomfortable. They can cause colic and painful bloating.
Parsnips contain psoralens which are poisonous to bunnies. The tops of potatoes are dangerous as are the eyes of the tubers. Stay away from eggplants, sweet potato plants, and the roots of mustard plants.
Truly, this list is incredibly long. It would take all day to read it, so I’ll simply say that if you don’t know for certain a plant is safe for your rabbits, do not feed that plant to your bunnies. It’s just that simple.
Can Other Pet Foods Hurt Your Rabbit?
Rabbits sometimes get into trouble and experiment with other pet foods in the house. It’s not likely that a nibble of dog or cat food will hurt your curious bun-bun, but it’s best to keep them out of reach. Some foods meant for other pets can be dangerous to rabbits.
Dog Food and Cat Food
Both dog and cat food contain high levels of protein and fat. They’re also heavily salted in comparison to more natural foods. The high protein, fat, and salt in these two common pet foods can spell disaster for your bunny.
Since rabbits are herbivores and cats and dogs eat meat, their foods are not suitable for the rabbit’s high fiber needs. Too much protein in a rabbit’s diet can lead to kidney damage.
Many pet owners believe they can feed their hamsters, gerbils, and rabbits the same diets. While it is true that the foods can be similar, hamster and gerbil food is not a suitable food substitute for rabbit food. Each of these animals has specific dietary needs, and one food will not sufficiently supply nutrition to all three animals.
It’s okay if your bun takes a nibble of something dropped by your bird, but don’t let her eat too much. This can cause diarrhea and other stomach upset.
Wild rabbits may snack on seeds every now and then, but it is not a normal part of their main diet. Bird food is almost always filled with a variety of seeds. This food is not suitable for rabbits of any age.
Are you shocked to see rabbit food on the dangerous food list? Don’t be fooled into thinking all rabbit foods are created equally. You need to understand your individual rabbit’s dietary needs and purchase the correct food for him. One rabbit food may not be good for all rabbits, so check the labels.
It’s also important to know how to spot dangerous mold on rabbit food. Yes, your bunny’s food could contain toxic molds! Check the packages carefully and don’t forget to smell them. If it smells musty and old, skip it.
Food That is Not Bad But Not Good Either
Not all dangers to rabbits come in the form of instant death. Sometimes, the poisoning is slow and subtle, taking its toll over time. Certain foods may not immediately kill your rabbit, but feeding these foods could cause irreparable, lifelong damage. AT the very least, they can make your bunny’s tummy ache.
Rabbits love apples, for example. And feeding a snack of apples now and then is a fun and tasty treat. However, apple seeds contain a natural substance that breaks down into cyanide once consumed. A small piece of a crushed seed is unlikely to kill an adult rabbit, but why take the chance? Remove all seeds before feeding apples to your bunny.
Rhubarb, spinach, and some mushrooms can be harmful, but not usually fatal. Again, it’s not worth the risk. There are so many healthy choices for rabbits, it’s best to skip anything that can cause even a little tummy upset.
My Rabbit Ate Something Bad, What Symptoms Should I Look For?
Rabbits are incredibly curious creatures. They like to explore and chew and try new things. That means they are prone to ingesting something that can be harmful or fatal.
If you feel that your rabbit has consumed anything on this list—or anything else dangerous—it’s best not to waste time. Your vet will need as much time as possible to diagnose and begin treatment.
Some signs to look for include:
Lethargy and Listlessness
Many toxic substances can cause rabbits to become lethargic or listless. They may not respond to your calls, may stop eating or drinking, and may seem to simply flop over and not be very active.
Sometimes this is a sign of simple tummy upset. Other times, it is a sign of very bad things happening. If your bunny is listless, lethargic, or floppy in your arms, get to the vet immediately.
Diarrhea And Constipation
There are two kinds of rabbit poo you should be aware of, anything that doesn’t match the following descriptions is abnormal and should be brought to the vet’s attention.
Cecotropes, or cecal pellets, are the first pellets your bunny will pass. These are not truly fecal matter and you should not be concerned if you see your rabbit eating these. They are doing exactly what nature intended. Cecal pellets are the first pass of their food through their digestive tract. The second pass is where they get most of their nutrients.
Fecal pellets are the dark pellets you see in your bunny’s litter box. These are normally small, dry, and raisin-like in appearance. If they look very wet, are strung together, or are matting on your bunny’s bum, there’s a problem. Rabbit poo should never be runny.
An empty litter box is also a major concern. So, if you see weird poo, wet poo, or no poo at all, get to the vet. Your bunny may have eaten something dangerous!
Loss Of Balance Or Head Tilting
Many rabbits who have ingested dangerous substances or poisonous foods lose their balance or tilt their heads. This is due to toxins building up in their systems and could indicate organs shutting down.
It’s worth noting that these symptoms can also point to other health issues. Either way, a vet trip is in order. If you’re lucky, it’s just an ear infection.
Some rabbits will begin to drool once they’ve eaten something bad. This can be a sign of gastric upset, swelling of the throat and mouth, or a number of other poisoning issues.
This can also indicate an issue with teeth, so don’t be scared. Stay calm and get bun-bun to the vet as soon as possible.
Sometimes a rabbit can have a sore and tender belly after eating something bad. If your rabbit usually loves tummy rubs but suddenly avoids your touch, it’s worth a call to the vet. This is especially true if she is showing any of the other signs on this list.
Difficult Or Labored Breathing
Many toxic substances don’t cause gastric upset at all. Some can cause labored breathing. When a rabbit has trouble breathing, you can usually see them working very hard to get a breath. This often comes with lethargy, so watch for both signs.
This symptom of rabbit poisoning may be tougher to notice, but it’s worth checking. If your rabbit’s heartbeat seems too fast, too slow, or it’s become irregular, she could have eaten something dangerous. Call the vet right away.
Seizures are never normal in rabbits. If you see your rabbit having a seizure, even if you believe it’s “just a small one”, get to the vet right away.
What To Do If Your Rabbit Eats Something Dangerous?
If your rabbit is displaying any of the symptoms above, or even if you have a gut feeling your rabbit may have eaten something bad yet has no signs, you can take some steps to improve his odds of survival.
First, try to find whatever your rabbit chewed on or ate a piece of. It could be a large piece left or just the wrapper of some chocolate, for example. Put on your eagle eyes and find the clues. Bring it with you to the vet’s office.
Check your rabbit’s mouth for any traces of the offending food.
Do not induce vomiting! You should never try to make a rabbit vomit. In fact, they are not physically capable of vomiting, no matter how hard you try.
Get your rabbit to the vet right away. There, she will perform a through physical examination on your bunny and run some blood tests. If the toxin is known, your vet will administer whatever medications are necessary. If the toxin is unknown, your rabbit may need to spend the night.
There are so many things in this world that can make your rabbit sick. By knowing which foods are dangerous and which are safe, you can help ensure your pet bunny lives a long, healthy, happy life.
But no matter how well prepared you are, sometimes rabbits just get into mischief. In those cases, it’s good to know what signs to look for and what you can do to help your bunny feel better faster.
Okay, I think that’s enough talk about scary things. How about a cute bunny video showing a healthy, happy rabbit enjoying some celery? Too cute!
Can rabbits eat almonds? No, rabbits should not eat almonds. While they can safely eat one or two almonds, they are not a healthy food for rabbits. In fact, they are incredibly high in fat which is difficult for rabbits to digest.
Can rabbits eat meat? No. Rabbits should never eat meat. They are strict herbivores, which means they only eat plant matter. Meat is high in protein and fat, which is bad for rabbits. Bunnies do not have the right digestive tract to safely digest meat of any kind.
Can rabbits eat peppers? Rabbits love bell peppers, and they are a good choice for rabbit food. However, it’s best not to overfeed bell peppers to your pet rabbit. They do have a slightly higher sugar content than normal rabbit foods, but they are a good choice for treats.
What treats can I give my rabbit? Rabbits like treats, just like people do. However, rabbits should never eat people treats. Bunnies like treats that include clover, celery, cilantro, carrot tops, basil, broccoli leaves, water cress.
Can rabbits eat tomatoes? Yes, ripe tomato fruits are safe for rabbits, but only as a treat. Rabbits should never eat tomato leaves, stems, or roots. These are toxic.