Rabbits will eat begonias. But that doesn’t mean they should.
If you’re a gardener or someone who loves having lush plants, there’s a chance you might want to know whether rabbits eat begonias or not.
After all, rabbits can be a nuisance for plants, and beautiful begonias can potentially be in danger. In this article, we’ll discuss if rabbits eat begonias and what factors come into play.
The good news is rabbits generally don’t like begonias and tend to avoid them.
These flowering plants are considered rabbit-resistant, which means they are less likely to become a meal for these furry creatures.
However, it’s important to remember that when food sources are limited, rabbits might eat anything available, including plants they don’t usually prefer.
People, Rabbits, and Begonias
When I was about two years old, my parents took me to Grandma’s house. Grandma had a garden full of begonias.
I was fascinated. We did not have flowers like that on the drought-ridden dusty farm where I was growing up.
My uncle saw me making ooh and ah noises over the begonias and said, “They look good enough to eat, don’t they, boy?”:
So I ate one. Or maybe several. I do not remember.
My uncle picked me up and took me to my mother. I threw up on him. My mother thought this was justice.
Rabbits get sick when they eat begonias, too. But rabbits cannot throw up. Any toxin in the flower lingers in their digestive tract, making them sicker and sicker until the poison breaks down.
If begonias are toxic for rabbits, why do they eat it?
Why Rabbits Eat Begonias?
Rabbits are naturally curious and may be tempted by the colorful and vibrant blooms of your begonias.
We don’t really know what rabbits think, but when a rabbit hops up to a bed of begonias, it probably thinks something along the lines of “Alright! An all-you-can-eat buffet!”
Flower beds are very attractive to rabbits for several reasons.
The leaves, flowers, and stems are at the rabbit’s eye level. It can see its food while also keeping a lookout for potential trouble, such as aggressive dogs and cats and predatory wildlife.
Begonias grow in shade, where rabbits feel protected from hawks and owls.
But why would rabbits chomp down on this peppery plan?
Rabbits have an intense urge to chew. Chewing plant fiber keeps their teeth from growing too long. A rabbit that does not get enough fiber un its diet can have teeth that grow up into its face.
Fiber also keeps rabbits regular. Rabbits lick themselves to keep clean. They swallow hairs.
Rabbit hair can accumulate into a ball called a bezoar at the pyloric valve, the pit of its stomach.
This hairball is similar to the hairball in a cat. Unlike a cat, a rabbit cannot cough up the hairball, so it can remain in place, blocking thew flow of food into the small intestine.
In some cases, hairballs can grow so large that you can see lumps in its stomach.
Fiber has another benefit. Rabbits host a unique retrain of bacteria that can transform fiber into healthy fatty acids.
These bacteria need oxygen to do their work. That’s why a rabbit poops out fiber and bacteria and then eats its soft poops. The soft poops then travel to a different part of the colon where the rabbit extracts additional fat and nutrients.
Don’t assume that rabbits won’t eat your begonias just because there are other tasty plants nearby. Some rabbits won’t touch begonias, while others will devour them despite the stomach upset they cause.
The variety of begonia you plant has a lot to do with whether rabbits will eat it.
- Cane begonias are particularly attractive to rabbits. They nibble down the leaf to the stem.
- Rhizomatous begonias are particularly toxic for rabbits. The root concentrates the toxins in the plant. Rabbits enjoy uprooting this kind of begonia, so they can chew on the tough, fibrous roots.
- Wax begonias, on the other hand, are less attractive to rabbits
When it comes to begonias, wild rabbits tend to avoid them, as they are poisonous for rabbits. Consuming begonias can pose a threat to a rabbit’s health, so they usually steer clear of such plants. However, in cases of scarce food options, wild rabbits may still attempt to eat them, although this is not a recommended food source. Pet rabbit owners must always be cautious about what plants their bunnies have access to, ensuring that harmful plants, such as begonias, are kept out of reach.
Also read: 15 Garden Flowers That Rabbits Won’t Eat
What Is the Toxin in Begonias?
The problem chemical in begonias is calcium oxalate.
This chemical is partially responsible for the distinct tastes of spinach, almonds, tea, taro, kiwifruit, and rhubarb. It is very highly concentrated in sorrel and lamb’s quarters.
Humans don’t always mind the puckery taste of calcium oxalate in small amounts of these foods.
But no human will nibble on other high-oxalate plants such as dumb cane (dieffenbachia). Bite into dumbcane, and your mouth will be so puckered that you cannot talk.
People will also not eat high-oxalate elephant ears, agave leaves, or Virginia creeper vines. People will consume high-oxalate spices, such as cardamom and cinnamon, and also high-oxalate alfalfa sprouts, but only in small amounts.
Your rabbit’s drive to chew is so strong that it will eat any of these plants, especially if it does not have enough fresh, clean, dry timothy hay.
Symptoms of Begonia Poisoning in Rabbits
Rabbits that eat just a leaf or two of your begonia plants, or maybe just nibble on a flower, usually do not suffer any serious ill effects.
But rabbits that eat a whole begonia plant can get very sick. The Merck Veterinary Manual identifies these symptoms.
- Drooling. The calcium oxalate crystals in begonias irritate the rabbit’s gums and the lining of its mouth and nose. The irritation triggers a reflex that generates saliva and sometimes runny mucus.
- Irritation and redness inside the mouth. Calcium oxalate forms sharp, needle-like crystals. The calcium oxalate crystals in the plant scratch the gums and mouth. The effect is worse if the plant is dried out (which happens during drought, when other plants are hard to find).
- Abdominal sensitivity. Your bunny’s tummy will be sensitive to the touch. That is because the calcium oxalate crystals in the plant cut into the lining of the stomach and intestines.
- Reduced urination. Calcium oxalate forms kidney stones. By the time your rabbit gets kidney stones, it is very sick. It may also have trouble breathing and lose interest in food and water. Trembling, seizures, and death may follow.
Oxalate poisoning can be fatal in both rabbits and people. So, how do you treat it?
Also read: Can Rabbits Eat Beet Leaves?
Treating Begonia Poisoning in Rabbits
Soft, clean, dry timothy hay with all the water your rabbit wants sometimes works wonders when rabbits have gotten into your begonia bed.
When symptoms are mild, supportive care is best.
If the symptoms persist or worsen, it’s time to consult a veterinarian experienced in treating rabbits. The vet will likely provide supportive treatment, such as fluids and a special diet, to aid your rabbit’s recovery process.
Also read: Do Rabbits Eat Tomato Plants?
Begonias Are Not the Only High-Oxalate Plants That Are Toxic To Rabbits
It isn’t just begonias that can make your rabbit sick. Some other plants that produce similar symptoms include:
Caladiums are green, pink, or variegated plants with heart-shaped leaves. Depending on the variety, they may grow 1 to 8 feet (30 cm to 2.4 meters) tall.
These plants are also known as elephant ears.
The oxalate in caladiums causes almost immediate irritation to a rabbit’s mouth. The rhizomes are even more toxic than the leaves and stems.
Fortunately, only large rabbits nibble on full-grown caladiums. Protect the plants from rabbits when they start growing in the spring, and you will also protect your rabbits from your plants.
Every part of a calla Lilly (also known as an arum, starch root, or cuckoopint) is toxic to rabbits due to oxalate content.
When rabbits eat calla lilies, poisoning symptoms may not start right away. But as the chewed lily reaches the stomach, it will cause severe irritation, with no possibility that the rabbit can vomit it out of its stomach.
Dumbcane, Also Known as Mother-in-Law Plant
Dumbcane gets its name from the fact that biting into it leaves a human unable to speak. Rabbits that eat this plant develop severe mouth irritation, followed by diarrhea and dehydration.
These rabbits will not want to eat. They can develop liver problems in as little as 24 hours, as the liver attempts to use body fat for energy.
In the later stages of this kind of oxalate poisoning, a rabbit may develop difficulty breathing, trembling, and seizures. Sometimes, the first symptom is sudden death.
The bulbs of pathos are the part of the plant that can cause oxalate poisoning in rabbits. Fortunately, the first bite will be so painful that the rabbit likely will not get poisoned.
Every part of this popular houseplant is toxic to rabbits due to calcium oxalate.
A single nibble may cause your rabbit’s tongue to swell and gums to turn painful and red. Drooling and salivation follow.
Rabbits that eat more than a bite of philodendron develop muscle spasms and then have difficulty breathing. Death results from shutting down of the kidneys.
Schefflera, Also Known as Umbrella Tree
Schefileras concentrate oxalates in their leaves.
The first bite may not discourage your rabbit from taking another. Eventually, the oxalates cause enough irritation to the mouth of the rabbit that it will stop eating, but then the plant will cause stomach upset and diarrhea.
Fortunately, eating this plant is usually not fatal to rabbits.
If You Decide to Take Your Rabbit to the Vet
Rabbits often become beloved family pets. It is only natural to want to get the best possible treatment for them.
If you choose to take your rabbit to the veterinarian after it has eaten a begonia, take a sample of the plant for your vet to identify.
Once your vet has confirmed that oxalates are the source of the problem, your rabbit will probably start getting an IV to help it clear the oxalates from its body.
Treatment may involve an overnight stay in the animal hospital. This is a situation in which families are glad they carry pet health insurance.
In the United States, only Nationwide will insure rabbits.
Also read: What Human Foods Can Rabbits Eat?
Frequently Asked Questions About Rabbits, Begonias, and Other Poisonous Plants
Q. My rabbit got into the begonias, but does not seem very sick. What should I do?
A. Make sure you are not giving your rabbit alfalfa hay, alfalfa cubes, or alfalfa pellets. These foods are high in calcium oxalate, and would aggravate the problem
Put your rabbit on a diet of all hay and green leafy vegetables and unlimited water for a week. Take your pet to the vet if symptoms persist.
Q. Are there any veggies that are high in oxalates, the same way begonias are?
A. Swiss chard, spinach, parsley, and mustard greens are all high in oxalates, but not as high as begonias and other ornamental plants. There are also high concentrations of oxalates in beet roots, carrots, and beans,
It’s OK to give your rabbit a small amount of any one of these high-oxalate vegetables once a day. Avoid feeding high-oxalate vegetables or alfalfa to rabbits that have kidney stones or symptoms of poisoning from ornamental plants like begonias.
If your rabbit has a history of kidney or stones or bladder infections, you should avoid giving them these vegetables.
Q. Are begonias rabbit-resistant?
A. Begonias are not considered rabbit-resistant due to their toxicity. While rabbits generally avoid them, they might still damage or dig up the plants, especially when other food sources are limited.
Q. What animals are known to eat begonias?
A. Begonias are not a popular choice for many animals due to their toxicity, but it’s still possible for some animals to eat them. For example, some insects, like slugs and snails, might consume begonias. Your best bet is to take precautions in your garden to deter unwanted visitors and protect your begonias.
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