Why is Lettuce Bad for Rabbits?

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Why is Lettuce Bad for Rabbits

Have you ever wondered why lettuce is bad for rabbits? If so, this article you will find the answer to that question. In this article, we explain the composition of lettuce and how that affects your rabbits. We also detail what other foods are toxic to rabbits and what they should be fed instead.

Why is Lettuce Bad for Rabbits?

Lettuce is bad for rabbits because some varieties contain lactucarium which can be harmful if consumed in large amounts, according to the RSPCA. However, it is important to note that only certain lettuce varieties contain this, most commonly, iceberg lettuce (Lactuca sativa).

Another lettuce variety known to contain this is Lactuca virosa, more commonly referred to as lettuce opium, owing to the putative sedative and analgesic properties it contains. In large quantities, lactucarium can be quite dangerous.

But based on the RSPCA’s guidelines (linked above), you can (and should) give your lettuce darker and leafy varieties.

Does Lettuce Make Rabbits High?

According to DailyMail, Lettuce may make rabbits high because of the substance that some lettuce varieties contain called lactucarium. This chemical works like an opium in that it has a sedative and painkilling effect, making rabbits lethargic and give them a euphoric high. 

Not all lettuce varieties contain this substance. It is known to be present in iceberg lettuce and Lactuca virosa. 

The effect of this substance on humans is negligible, but it can be quite dangerous when consumed in large quantities by rabbits.

What Foods are Toxic to Rabbits?

Certain foods are toxic or unhealthy for rabbits because of their special digestive system.  PETA has published a list of food items that are dangerous to your rabbits. These foods include yogurt drops, which may cause enterotoxemia, which is defined as a “toxic overgrowth of ‘bad’ bacteria” in the digestive tract according to rabbit.org. This case may result in the animal’s death.

Sugary foods with high carbohydrate content, including bread, pasta, and cookies may also be bad for your rabbits since the high sugar content and artificial ingredients can lead to stomach issues according to PETA. Same with avocados, which can actually be deadly.

Other foods harmful to your rabbits included on the list are cereal, which can lead to digestion problems and damage to their teeth; silverbeet, which can cause colic and bloating. Chocolates should never be fed to rabbits too as it can be poisonous for them. For a full list of foods that are harmful to rabbits, you may read this short article published by the Australian Agriculture Department.

Rabbits Eat Plenty of Grass and Hay

What Can Rabbits Eat?

Rabbits eat plenty of hay and grass, which should be the main part of their diet. These two are what rabbits in the wild eat, and domestic rabbits’ diet should be as similar as possible. Their meal should also include some portion of greens and pellets.

Many pet shops sell mixed dried leaves, which you may give your rabbits as treats. Other treats that rabbits enjoy are small chunks of fruits and vegetables such as carrots, apples, broccoli, and herbs. Do note that these treats should be given in moderation.

Another important thing to know is that you should provide your rabbit access to fresh water at all times.

Wrap Up

Certain varieties of lettuce can be harmful to your rabbits, such as iceberg lettuce and opium lettuce, which contain lactucarium, a substance that has sedative and painkilling properties, making your rabbits lethargic and high. A domestic rabbit’s diet should be similar to a wild rabbit, with lots of grass and hay, and an unlimited supply of water available.

To learn more about the effects of lettuce on rabbits, you may watch this YouTube video by StormyRabbits:

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