What to Do If a Rabbit Eats Poisonous Plants or Toxins?

Rabbits have a very sensitive digestive system. So I am very careful about what I feed my little Thumper.

My rabbit has free rein to run, hop, and binky all over my backyard.

Thumper once ate quite a few of the yummy green leaves of a plant. I later saw that my bun was lethargic, didn’t have an appetite for food or water, and just looked sick.

Not knowing any better, I panicked as I rushed over to the vet.

What Should You Do if Your Rabbit Eats Poisonous Plants or Toxins?

If your rabbit has eaten some or all of a poisonous plant or another toxin, identify that your rabbit has eaten something they shouldn’t have or notice that they are sick.

If you don’t know what your rabbit has ingested, try to identify the plant or toxin and how much your rabbit has consumed.

Call your vet for further instructions, like keeping watch over your rabbit to see if symptoms appear or worsen, or take your rabbit for an emergency vet appointment.

Rabbits and Poisonous Things

Rabbits are curious animals. They’ll try anything that looks like food to them, whether it is a safe plant or an unsafe and poisonous plant.

Eating something that is poisonous or toxic can be fatal for a rabbit. Because of how their digestive system works, rabbits can’t vomit.

This means that they can’t easily get rid of the toxins they ingest.

Plus, because of their hind-gut fermentation digestive system, rabbits recycle toxic and poisonous compounds.

They eat the cecotropes their body produces, so if these contain toxic compounds, it can make its way through a rabbit’s body again before it’s excreted as normal rabbit droppings.

If your home isn’t rabbit-proofed, your rabbit will investigate foreign objects like houseplants, medications, household cleaning products, and human food that are within their reach.

In your yard, your rabbit will forage and ingest plants, fruits, and vegetables that look appetizing.

The good news is that rabbits are generally not easily poisoned by plants. A rabbit will need to eat quite a lot of the poisonous plant for it to be really harmful.

However, this also depends on how big your rabbit is.

A large or giant rabbit breed may be able to eat more of a poisonous plant and be all right.

A small or dwarf rabbit breed may only need to eat a few leaves for it to be fatal.

What Plants and Other Items Are Poisonous/Toxic for a Rabbit?

Wild rabbits have learned over the years that plants are poisonous to them. However, if they encounter something new, they might nibble or eat the whole plant.

Domestic rabbits don’t always have the same survival instincts as their wild counterparts.

But in general, rabbits don’t like plants that have prickles, spines, leathery leaves, or strong scents.

They also avoid plants that excrete a milky sap.

How toxic a plant or item is to a rabbit depends on its toxicity level.

For example, some poisonous plants may only later affect your rabbit, and then it may be too late. Others may have more immediate effects, so you can take timeous action.

Plants That Are Poisonous for a Rabbit

Not an exhaustive list, but here are poisonous plants you should preferably not have in your garden or house:

  • Nightshade – all species including Belladonna (deadly nightshade), black nightshade, red nightshade, bittersweet nightshade, climbing nightshade, and wooly nightshade
  • Hydrangea – all parts of the plant are toxic
  • Chrysanthemum – the leaves and stems are toxic if ingested in large quantities
  • Lilies – lily of the valley, calla lily, peace lily, may lily, and roots of the kaffir lily
  • Cannabis
  • Onion and all varieties – regular onion, shallots, green onion, and even garlic
  • Poppy
  • Hemlock – one of the most poisonous plants for rabbits and symptoms start quickly
  • Potato plants
  • Rhododendron
  • Tomato plants – tomato fruit is not toxic
  • Iris – yellow iris is more toxic than other irises, but best to avoid all kinds
  • Daffodil
  • Ivy
  • Hyacinth
  • Rhubarb
  • Foxglove
  • Buttercup – all species are poisonous
  • Yew
  • Wolfsbane and all related species
  • Holly

Other Toxic Substances

Other toxic substances you should keep away from your rabbit are:

  • Medication
  • Human food that isn’t healthy for a rabbit
    • Chocolate
    • Nuts, peanut butter, and nut butter
    • Avocado
    • Cereal
    • Cookies
    • Crackers
    • Bread
    • Pasta
    • Meat
    • Cauliflower
    • Potatoes
    • Apple seed
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Cosmetics
  • Human grooming and cleaning products
  • Pesticides and insecticides
  • Antifreeze
  • Rat poisons
  • Flea control products (for your other pets)
  • Household items that contain lead

Steps to Take If Your Rabbit Eats Poisonous Plants or Toxins

It’s quite a scary experience if your rabbit looks ill and you realize they’ve ingested a toxin or poisonous plant.

Here’s what you can do if your rabbit eats something they shouldn’t:

Step 1: Notice Your Rabbit Is Unwell

You can’t really do anything if you don’t notice your rabbit eating something they shouldn’t or if you don’t see your rabbit is sick.

You should know your bunny’s routine and what their normal behavior is.

Anything that’s different – from drooling, labored breathing, and twitching to a lack of appetite and weakness should be a cause for concern.

Step 2: Keep Calm

Don’t be like me and freak out.

Yes, having your beloved bunny looking and feeling sick is never easy for a rabbit owner but being panicked won’t help you.

So breathe. And calm down so you can help your rabbit.

Step 3: Identify What Made Your Rabbit Sick

If you think your bun ate something poisonous or toxic, look around or ask a family member to investigate while you look after your rabbit.

Look for plants that have been nibbled on or a plastic container with a chewed hole in it.

Step 4: Determine How Much Your Rabbit of the Poisonous Plant or Toxin

Some plants, if consumed in small amounts, don’t pose a threat to your rabbit. But this also depends on whether you have a dwarf rabbit breed versus a large rabbit breed.

For example, if your rabbit had a small nibble of a tomato plant leaf, they are likely to be okay and won’t even show symptoms.

But if your bunny ate lots of daffodils, then they’ll have a toxic reaction and it’ll only set in later on.

Step 5: Call the Vet

Once you realize your rabbit is sick and you know what your rabbit has ingested and how much, call your vet.

If your rabbit hasn’t eaten too much of the poisonous plant, your vet may instruct you to watch over your rabbit.

They’ll have you look for signs your rabbit is unwell (if the symptoms haven’t started yet).

Your vet will also let you know if you should bring your rabbit to them for an emergency appointment.

If your rabbit is having seizures, has difficulty breathing, has slipped into a coma, has a fever or diarrhea, it is best to just call your vet for an emergency appointment.

If you know what your rabbit has eaten and how much, you should inform the vet. And if you aren’t sure, let your vet know this too.

Also read: Can Rabbits Eat Red Cabbage?

How to Prevent Your Rabbit From Eating Toxic Plants

Prevention is better than cure, right? After the incident with my little Thumper, I made sure to get rid of all plants that are poisonous to rabbits.

I also double-checked my house so my bun couldn’t investigate and eat something he shouldn’t.

How can you make sure your rabbit doesn’t ingest poisonous plants and toxins?

  1. See if you have any plants that are poisonous to rabbits in your house or yard. Either remove these plants or make sure your rabbit can’t get to them.

This might mean moving poisonous household plants to a room your rabbit isn’t allowed in or fencing off part of your backyard to keep your rabbit away from poisonous plants.

If you ensure the houseplants are placed high on tables and shelves so your rabbit can’t reach, be aware that leaves from the plant can still drop on the floor where your rabbit can get to them.

  1. Rabbit-proof your house so your rabbit can’t access any toxins or poisonous items.
  2. If you are treating your dog or cat with flea treatment, keep them away from your rabbit. Your bun may lick your cat or dog if they are besties and accidentally ingest some flea treatment.
  3. Never leave your rabbit unsupervised in a park or new area where your bun isn’t perfectly safe.

Symptoms If Your Rabbit Has Eaten Something Toxic or Poisonous

If your rabbit has ingested parts of a poisonous plant or toxic item, some symptoms may present themselves fairly quickly while others take a while.

Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Unwillingness to drink water
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Drooling
  • Trembling, shaking, or twitching
  • Anemia
  • Mouth irritation and redness
  • Dehydration
  • Dilated pupils
  • Coma
  • Paralysis
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal tenderness or inflammation
  • Hunched posture
  • Labored breathing
  • Pain

Rabbits won’t show you they are feeling unwell. So it is up to you as their owner to be vigilant and notice that there is something wrong with your bun.

My little Thumper nibbled on the leaves of my beautiful chrysanthemums! The pyrethrins in the plant are commonly used in insecticides, and it is poisonous to rabbits.

I noticed that my bun was refusing to eat food and didn’t move around.

Last Words

When you get your rabbit or when you think about getting one, make sure your house and yard have been rabbit-proofed.

This ensures your rabbit won’t eat any poisonous plants, inappropriate human food, or other toxins.

If your rabbit ingested something poisonous or toxic, be sure to call your vet.

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