Can rabbits eat onions, leeks, chives or garlic?


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This question comes up again and again, when a rabbit is infested with internal (intestinal) parasites, skin parasites or has high blood glucose levels. Indeed, garlic's natural active ingredients are effective against intestinal parasites and repel external parasites such as ticks on the skin. But what is good and effective for humans is not always so for animals.

These various alliums are toxic to rabbits, which generally avoid eating them because of their pungent taste.

The sulfur molecules (disulfide and thiosulfate) contained in garlic, onions, leeks, and chives are highly toxic and can be fatal in rabbits. The lethal dose is approximately 3200 mg/kg.

Ingestion of these various alliums irritates the mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract and can cause gastroenteritis. Respiratory and cardiac problems can also occur in rabbits. In addition, several animal species (cats, sheep, dogs, horses, cattle) develop hemolytic anemia, which destroys red blood cells after ingesting onions. The fact that herbivorous animals develop a hemolytic reaction seems interesting in relation to rabbits. All these animals contain bacteria in their rumen and cecum. It is strongly suspected that these bacteria are involved in the development of the hemolytic reaction (as observed in sheep). Anaphylactic reactions have also been rarely observed in rabbits after ingestion of raw onions.

Onions also have an immunosuppressive effect on rabbits. The immune system is weakened and the animal becomes more susceptible to disease. This fact alone is a reason not to include foods from the Alliaceae family in a rabbit's diet.

Further information:

Chisty MM, Quddus R, Islam B, Khan BR. Effect of onion extract on immune response in rabbits. Bangladesh Med Res Counc Bull. 1996 Aug;22(2):81-5.

Selim HM, Yamato O, Tajima M, Maede Y. Rumen bacteria are involved in the onset of onion-induced hemolytic anemia in sheep. J Vet Med Sci. 1999 Apr;61(4):369-74.

Vyas DS, Acharya RP, Dadhich AP, Godhwani JL, Purohit VS. Effect of Allium cepa (onion) on immune response in rabbit. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1983 Jul-Sep;27(3):259-60.