Rabbits are herbivores. It may be tempting to believe that they can eat any plant. However, there are actually many different types of foliage that are poisonous to rabbits. This is true of European plants that are native to a domestic rabbit’s original habitat and of many, many other plants from around the world.
Eating poisonous foods can be a danger to rabbits. They do not have the ability to vomit, which means rabbits don’t have an easy way to get rid of ingested toxins. Unfortunately, most domestic rabbits are not picky with what they eat. They will gladly go after anything they can get their teeth on. Whether it be potted house plants or the flowers in your garden, you’ll want to pay attention to everything your rabbit has access to.
The good news is that, in general, rabbits are not easily poisoned by plants. Most plants that have components that are poisonous to rabbits need to be eaten in large quantities to be truly harmful. So if your rabbit takes a couple nibbles of a flower that they shouldn’t eat, they’ll probably be fine, but if they eat the whole potted plant, then you may have to take action.
This is not a comprehensive list. There are many other plants that are not safe for rabbits to eat. You can’t expect your rabbit to turn their nose up at everything that will be harmful to them, since many times they will eat whatever is in front of them even if it is poisonous. It’s your job to be discerning and research every new food you give them to make sure it’s not poisonous.
Do not feed a plant to your rabbit unless you are completely sure it is safe for them to eat.
What to do if you believe your rabbit has eaten a poisonous substance
If you believe that your rabbit has ingested a plant or other substance that is poisonous, you should immediately call your vet for instructions. If the rabbit has only eaten a nibble or negligent amount, your vet will likely instruct you to pay attention to your rabbit’s behavior to look for signs that they are feeling unwell. It’s always best to call anyway because some substances are more poisonous than others and may require immediate medical intervention.
If you cannot get ahold of your vet, you can also call the ASPCA poison control emergency number: (888) 426-4435 (or visit their website for more information)
Nightshade plants have been used in medicine and poisons throughout history. In general, these plants are known to be deadly toward many animals. However they are usually less poisonous in herbivores than in carnivores. While rabbits may be able to eat small amounts without it being fatal, these plants are still poisonous to rabbits.
This includes black nightshade, climbing nightshade, red nightshade, bittersweet nightshade, and woolly nightshade among others. Belladonna, or deadly nightshade, can also be poisonous to rabbits, however there are some studies that rabbits have some ability to detoxify the plant after they consume it. It’s still best to avoid giving your rabbit access to these plants to prevent any potential for harm.
Consuming nightshade plants may cause drooling, and difficulty breathing. Other serious symptoms include an inflamed stomach, weakness, trembling, and paralysis.
All parts of a hydrangea plant, including the leaves, buds, and flowers, are highly toxic to rabbits. These plants have high levels of a compound called amygdalin, which breaks down to produce cyanide. This is a substance that is poisonous to most mammals. Because rabbits are so much smaller than other mammals, even a small amount of ingested hydrangea can cause complications in rabbits.
Wild rabbits (and other animals) will often stay away from hydrangeas, but our domestic rabbits tend to be less discerning. Ingesting a hydrangea plant could cause severe gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea.
The leaves and stems of most mum plants can be toxic for rabbits in high quantities. Outdoors, this is one of the plants that is most likely to be ignored by wild animals, such as deer or wild rabbits, because of the strong scent and fuzzy texture of the flowers. It’s still best to keep these plants out of reach of your rabbit, just in case they decide to nibble on your chrysanthemums.
The poisonous compound found in mums is high levels of pyrethrins. This is also a common ingredient in insecticides, so it is a good idea to check the ingredients of insecticides before spraying it on plants that are within your rabbits reach. The flowers of mum plants do not contain this toxicity. However, I would avoid giving a rabbit the flowers of any plant that is poisonous for rabbits, just to be on the safe side.
If a rabbit has been poisoned by eating chrysanthemum plants, they may suddenly exhibit anorexia and refuse to eat anything. They may also experience a lack of energy, twitching or seizures.
Most lily plants also have varying levels of toxicity toward rabbits. The roots of a kaffir lily are toxic, while lily of the valley, may lily, and calla lily plants are highly toxic and can cause severe gastrointestinal complications. Peace lilies are also toxic to rabbits in large quantities and should be kept out of reach. The flowers, leaves, and stems of these plants are toxic for rabbits and should be avoided, including the foliage of a lily of the valley bush.
Marijuana leaves might be toxic towards rabbits, but the flowers and stems are poisonous and should be avoided. The House Rabbit Society advises against feeding cannabis leaves to rabbits because of its unknown effect on rabbit health.
At the moment there is no evidence that eating marijuana leaves is fatally toxic toward rabbits, but other pet species have been studied and show negative health impacts from ingesting the leaves and inhaling the smoke. For this reason, it is best to keep any marijuana away from rabbits and avoid smoking in the same room as them.
All plants in the onion family are poisonous for rabbits. This includes all varieties of regular onion, in addition to greens onions, shallots, and even garlic. It’s also important to remember that this includes all parts of an onion plant, including the leaves, roots and flowers. Onions can cause rabbits to become anemic and weaken their immune system.
The good news is that most rabbits, even domestic rabbits, will instinctively avoid onion plants because of their strong smell. If a rabbit does manage to eat some onion, they may show symptoms of weakness and dizziness.
The opium alkaloids contained in poppy plants are highly toxic to rabbits. The entire plant contains elements that are toxic to rabbits, but the seeds are particularly deadly because of the high concentration of the opium alkaloids. Even a dried poppy plant can be highly poisonous to a rabbit.
Hemlock plants are poisonous for rabbits. They are one the most toxic groups of plants for rabbits and can cause death in a very short period of time. All parts of hemlock plants are toxic and should not be given to rabbits. Hemlock is poisonous to many other animals as well (including humans), so it’s best to keep it far away from all of our mouths.
If a rabbit ingests hemlock, even a small amount, the symptoms will quickly set in. It is usually fatal within a half hour time period. The symptoms include drooling, dilated pupils, seizures, and coma. If the rabbit manages to recover, there is a chance that their back legs will be permanently paralysed.
9. Potato plants
Unripe potatoes as well as their leaves and stems are mildly toxic for rabbits. These plants are related to nightshade plants and contain alkaloid compounds and solanine that are poisonous to rabbits. These compounds tend to be especially concentrated in the greener parts of the plant.
Small quantities of potato or a potato plant, will likely not be deadly to a rabbit, however large quantities can still be fatal. Rabbits who are experiencing toxicity from a potato plant will have symptoms that include drooling, difficulty breathing, trembling, paralysis, and an inflamed stomach.
Rhododendrons, including azaleas, are beautiful plants that are highly toxic for rabbits. This applies to all parts of the plant, including the flowers, leaves, stems, and roots. Even honey that is made from these flowers can be toxic for rabbits.
Wild rabbits are often known to avoid rhododendron plants, but of course domestic rabbits don’t always have the best instincts for what is good for them. Even if your rabbit only eats a small amount, it’s best to get advice from your vet because these plants are so highly toxic to rabbits.
11. Tomato plants
Tomato plants are also related to nightshade, and many parts of them are toxic to rabbits. The leaves and stems contain solanines and are poisonous to rabbits in large quantities. Tomato fruit, however, is not toxic and can be given to rabbits as a treat.
Like potatoes, if your rabbit only gets ahold of a small amount of tomato plant, they will likely be just fine and not show any symptoms of toxicity. However, if they manage to eat a good portion of a tomato vine, the rabbit may experience difficulty breathing, drooling, and inflamed stomach, or even paralysis and death.
Yellow irises are highly toxic and should definitely be avoided. This includes all parts of the yellow iris plant: the leaves, flower, roots, and stem. Other irises, however, are not so highly toxic. The plant juice of other species of iris may cause some irritation, but they are unlikely to cause a severe toxic reaction.
Flowers with bulbs are all potentially poisonous for rabbits. This includes plants such as daffodils, tulips, bluebells, orchids, and many more. Unless you know otherwise, you should assume that the entire plant, not just the bulbs are toxic to rabbits. The flower as well as the leaves stems and roots should be kept out of reach of rabbits.
Some bulb plants can be especially dangerous because they can cause delayed symptoms in rabbits. Rabbits can eat daffodils, for example, and appear fine for a little while, and then have a toxic reaction later on.
Ivy is mildly poisonous to rabbits. These plants contain a large concentration of saponins in the berries and leaves. High concentrations of this compound can destroy the red blood cells of a rabbit, causing anemia.
Interestingly, many foods that are safe for rabbit consumption do contain a small amount of these saponins. Alfalfa and spinach, for example, are safe for rabbits since they would not be able to eat enough for them to have a toxic effect. Ivy, on the other hand, can be poisonous to rabbits if it is eaten in very high quantities. If a rabbit gets poisoned by ivy they may experience weakness and diarrhea, or seizures and paralysis in severe cases.
Hyacinth is another mildly poisonous plant. It is another plant that contains alkaloid compounds that are dangerous when consumed in large quantities. The entire plant is potentially poisonous, including the flower, roots, stem, and leaves. It should be kept out of reach of rabbits.
The water hyacinth, on the other hand, is a different plant that is not toxic to rabbits. You still want to be careful about where these plants are grown though. Water hyacinths can absorb toxins from the ground they are growing in, so if you don’t know where it was grown, it’s best not to offer it to your rabbit.
The leaves of a rhubarb plant are poisonous in large quantities. These leaves contain very high levels of oxylic acid that can be detrimental to a rabbit’s health. Other parts of the plant can also be an irritant for rabbits, but are less likely to have a toxic effect. Other leafy greens that rabbits eat also contain oxylic acid. However they are safe for rabbits because the levels are not as high as they are in rhubarb.
Rabbits that have been poisoned by rhubarb usually recover. Their symptoms include diarrhea, lack of energy, dehydration, and mouth irritation and redness.
Foxglove plants are highly toxic to rabbits. These plants contain cardiac glycosides, which have a negative affect on the heart and kidneys. The entire plant is toxic to rabbits and should be avoided. Even a small amount of a foxglove plant is enough to cause negative effects in rabbits.
Rabbits suffering from foxglove poisoning will experience diarrhea, stomach pain, dehydration, weakness, and an irregular heartbeat. Severe cases can also cause seizures in rabbits.
All buttercup species are poisonous to rabbits. This includes the flower, leaves, stem, and roots. For the most part, buttercup plants are not highly dangerous to rabbits unless consumed in very large quantities. They most likely will cause digestive problems or inflammation in a rabbit’s mouth. Celery-leaved buttercups, however, produces a juice that is highly toxic to rabbits.
Yew foliage and berries are highly toxic for rabbits. You should not give your rabbit yew branches, even if they have been cut from the tree for a few weeks and dried. This actually causes them to become more toxic. Yew is very dangerous and contains chemicals that can cause sudden death in rabbits. In mild cases a rabbit may experience difficulty breathing, an inflamed stomach, or shaking.
All wolfsbane and related species are toxic for rabbits. They contain alkaloids that can cause severe digestive upsets and heart problems. In severe cases even a small amount can cause their heart to slow down and eventually stop completely. The entire plant is toxic and should be kept out of reach of rabbits. The only good news is that this plant has the tendency to taste very bad, meaning a rabbit will rarely choose to eat it.
- Bergstrøm, Camilla. “Toxic Plants.” MediRabbit. http://www.medirabbit.com/EN/GI_diseases/Food/Tox/Tox_en.htm.
- Harcourt-Brown, Francis. “Plant Toxicity.” https://www.harcourt-brown.co.uk/articles/free-food-for-rabbits/lant-toxicity-the-problem-with-lists.
- “Marijuana and Rabbits.” House Rabbit Society. October 26, 2016, https://rabbit.org/marijuana-and-rabbits.
- Moore, Lucille. “Rabbit Nutrition and Nutritional Healing.” 2017. Accessed: https://dontdumprabbits.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/RabbitNutrition.pdf.
- “Poisonous Plants.” House Rabbit Society. February 10, 2013. https://rabbit.org/poisonous-plants.
- “Poisonous Plants.” Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund. https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-diet/poisonous-plants-rabbits.
- “What is Poisonous to Rabbits?” RSPCA. https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rabbits/health/poisoning/common.