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Pet Rabbits and Toxins

Sometimes pet rabbits eat or chew on things that can make them sick. Below are listed some of the more common toxins we see rabbits exposed to. Please note that if your rabbit is exposed to a toxin, time is of the essence and you should seek veterinary care immediately. None of these situations can be treated at home, and adopting a “wait and see” approach can lead to the death of your pet.

Household and Yard Toxins
Lead toxicosis is common in pet rabbits. Lead paint used in houses built prior to 1974 is the most common cause, and rabbits that chew on baseboards or walls of older homes can easily become poisoned with lead. Other common lead-containing items include golf balls, linoleum glue, metallic objects, and lead soldering. The most common clinical sign of lead toxicosis is loss of appetite. Other symptoms include seizures, weight loss, loss of balance, and blindness.
Organophosphates are potent insecticides used to treat kill outdoor ants and other insects in lawns and on plants. There are a large number of different organophosphate insecticides available, including malathion, diazinon, and acephate. Rabbits that graze outdoors in treated areas can easily become poisoned. Symptoms include drooling, uncontrolled urination, and muscle weakness. Rat poisons are made to be palatable and are therefore attractive to rabbits. If your rabbit ingests one of these products be sure to bring the packaging with you to the vet, as there are a number of different poisons used to kill rats, and each requires its own treatment.
Food Toxins
Avocado is delicious to humans but very dangerous to rabbits. The toxic ingredient persin is present in the fruit, leaves, and seeds. Persin damages the heart muscle in rabbits, causing cardiac arrhythmias
and death.
Onions and Garlic All plants in the Allium family, including onions, garlic, leeks, and chives, can cause
severe anemia if ingested. Symptoms may take several days to appear. Clinical signs often include depression, brown urine, weakness, exercise intolerance, and rapid breathing.
Chocolate The toxic compounds in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine. Clinical signs usually occur
within 6 to 12 hours of ingestion. Initial signs include increased water consumption, diarrhea,bloating, and restlessness. Signs progress to hyperactivity, difficulty walking, tremors, and seizures. Death is generally due to cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory failure.
Moldy Feed Aflatoxins are poisonous and cancercausing chemicals produced by certain fungi which
grow in decaying vegetation, hay, seeds, grains, and nuts. Rabbits are reportedly one of the most sensitive species to aflatoxins. Ingestion of this toxin causes anorexia, weight loss, liver damage and death. Treatment is often unrewarding, so prevention is the best strategy; feed only fresh, high quality food that has been properly stored. It is incumbent on us as pet owners to make sure our rabbits stay safe. If your rabbit has been exposed to one of these toxins, or you have a question about something your rabbit has eaten, please call us right away at 831-475-0432.

Call us to make an appointment for your rabbit.

Written By: Dr. Hilary Stern, DVM