Wild bunnies eat a wide variety of different green plants, roots and fruits, and so it’s no surprise that their domestic counterparts also need a range of veg in their diet. However, not all plants and vegetation are safe for rabbits to eat, and some can even be toxic. What’s more, bunnies won’t always be able to recognise which plants are safe for them and which are not, so it’s really important that their owners are clued up on any plants that could be dangerous for them.
This blog goes through some of the most common plants in the UK that are toxic for rabbits, as well as the unwanted signs they may cause if your bunny eats them.
Common poisonous plants
These attractive plants are toxic for rabbits and, when eaten, they can have serious effects on the heart and gastrointestinal systems leading to symptoms such as dehydration, diarrhoea and an irregular heart rhythm. Severe poisoning can also result in tremors and fits.
Iris plants are also toxic for bunnies and can cause gastrointestinal irritation and salivation.
Yew trees can be fatal if eaten by rabbits and cut branches are even more toxic than fresh ones. The tree can also cause gastrointestinal problems.
Lily of the valley
Despite their delightful aroma and appearance, these plants are toxic for rabbits and can cause heart and gastrointestinal problems.
The whole ivy plant, including the ivy berries, is toxic to bunnies. Ivy can cause skin reactions and heart problems, along with signs such as lethargy and diarrhoea and, in severe cases, fitting and paralysis.
Rhododendrons are toxic for rabbits and cause signs such as salivation and gastrointestinal irritation.
Elder is also toxic for bunnies causing salivation and gastrointestinal signs.
Unfortunately, the clue is in the name with this plant. Deadly nightshade causes heart problems and can be fatal for bunnies when eaten.
Woody nightshade is often mistaken for deadly nightshade, and both plants are fatal for rabbits. Woody nightshade causes a skin reaction in bunnies, as well as gastrointestinal signs. The difference between woody and deadly nightshade is that both the woody nightshade flowers and unripe berries grow in clusters, whereas the deadly nightshade produces singular berries and flowers. Also, when the berries are ripe, they are black on the deadly nightshade and red on the woody nightshade.
This plant is toxic for rabbits and causes salivation.
Privet plants are also toxic for bunnies and cause heart and gastrointestinal problems.
More poisonous plants
As well as the plants listed above, there are also many other toxic plants that rabbit owners should be aware of. Amongst the most poisonous are species such as: anemone, azalea, bittersweet, bryony, caladium, cyclamen, columbine, dog mercury, figwort, daffodils, bluebells, hemlock, spurges, kingcup, marsh marigold, monkshood, meadow saffron, mistletoe, St. John’s wort, Leyland cypress, fool’s parsley and hellebore. And your garden may also contain cultivated plants that may cause illness such as: dahlias, lupins, chrysanthemums, delphinium, tulips, morning glory, antirrhinums, fig, Jerusalem cherry, juniper, hyacinth, lords and ladies, philodendron, wisteria, clematis, holly and most evergreen trees.
There are also many other common plants that grow in Britain that have not been specifically proven to be poisonous in rabbits; however, because they are toxic for other small animals, we would strongly advise against feeding these to your bunnies. These include:
- Comfrey (similar to laburnum)
- Tomato plants
Most plants with bulbs and houseplants should also be avoided as these are likely to be poisonous for rabbits.
While this blog includes some of the main plants that you may find growing in the UK, it is by no means a complete list, and it’s always important to identify and research any plants that your bunny has access to. If you ever have any doubts about whether a plant is rabbit-safe, it’s crucial that you keep them well away from you bunny as a precaution as, if they are toxic for rabbits, the consequences can be severe or even fatal.
If your rabbit is allowed to run freely around your garden, it’s always best to have a really good look around to make sure you are able to identify all the plants your rabbit will have access to as being safe for bunnies. And always ensure you monitor your rabbit at all times to make sure they’re not nibbling on plants you haven’t noticed.
When to contact a vet
If you think your rabbit might have ingested a toxic or unidentifiable plant, or if they start to show any unusual signs, you should always contact a veterinary professional straight away.
NB: Information for this blog was kindly provided by Molly Varga Smith BVetMed DZooMed MRCVS RCVS Recognised Specialist in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. Reference sources: Cheeke (1987); Gfeller and Messonier (1998); Lang (1981a); Lorgue et al. (1996); Richardson (1999); Sandford (1996).Table 1.6 Significance of faecal output[MV1]