Carrots and other root vegetables are counted as the high-carb (or sugary) part of a rabbit’s diet. These should be fed to rabbits sparingly. Thankfully, the greens and the leaves that we throw away are much healthier.
Vegetable tops, such as carrot greens, radish greens, spinach, fennel greens, celery leaves, and spring greens are safe and healthy for rabbits to eat. They are low in carbs and sugar. They are also rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
Cruciferous vegetables and their leaves (such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower) are unsuitable for rabbits with sensitive stomachs, causing uncomfortable gas and bloating. The leaves of nightshade vegetables, such as tomato, eggplant, bell pepper, cayenne pepper, and potato are toxic for rabbits and should be avoided.
Why Rabbits Should Eat Vegetable Leaves and Tops
The leaves and tops from leafy green provide moisture. Rabbits require plenty of water to maintain their kidney and bladder function.
Keeping hydrated helps prevent urinary tract issues, bladder stones, overheating, and dehydration among rabbits. You can also increase your rabbit’s water intake by serving leafy greens very wet.
Rotating different types of greens also adds variety in texture, taste and general nutrition for rabbits.
Nutritional Value Information
|Nutrients per 200g||Radish leaves||Beet Greens||Turnip Greens||Spinach Leaves|
|Vitamin A||660μg||766 μg||900 μg||1000 μg|
Your Rabbit’s Diet Explained
Even though grass hay should make a large portion of your rabbit’s diet, it still needs a variety of fresh foods and pellets for its overall health and wellness. A rabbit’s diet should be made up of:
- 80 to 90% high-quality hay
- 10 to 15% fresh foods
- 10% pellets
The majority of fresh food should include leafy greens. Your rabbit’s fresh food must be made up of:
- 75% leafy fresh food
- 15% non-leafy vegetables (such as carrots and radishes)
- 10% low-sugar fruits (offered as treats)
Can My Rabbit Eat Carrot Tops?
Most people may avoid these bitter greens, but rabbits can benefit tremendously from eating them.
Carrot tops have 6 times more vitamin C than the root, and contain lots of calcium, potassium, fiber, and phytonutrients.
Some of the health benefits of carrot tops for rabbits include:
- Chlorophyll. This is the chemical that gives plants their green color. Chlorophyll has excellent anticancer, antioxidant, and kidney detoxifying properties.
- Fiber. Carrot tops are packed with fiber that helps stimulate bowel movement, improve nutrient absorption and prevent loose stools. Fiber is also digested in a rabbit’s stomach to release important vitamins and minerals.
- Potassium. Carrot leaves are high in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease in rabbits.
- Magnesium. Together, magnesium and potassium strengthen muscle tissues, boost metabolism and increase energy levels in rabbits.
- Antioxidants. Carrot greens are rich in lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin. These compounds improve/protect skin and eye health.
- Calcium. It improves bone mineral density and reduces the risk of arthritis in rabbits.
Low in Oxalic Acid
Oxalic acid (oxalate) is not a toxic substance like pesticide or poisonous plants, such as tomato plants, potato, and eggplant.
Oxalates are naturally-occurring food toxins, or antinutrients, found in some vegetables and leafy greens.
When consumed in high amounts, oxalates can cause itchy skin and hinder a rabbit’s urinary tract.
Carrot tops fall in the list of rabbit-safe veggies that are low in oxalic acid. Veggies that are low in oxalic acid (such as arugula, fennel, and mint) can be combined with veggies that are higher in oxalic acid and still nutritious for rabbits (such as spinach, swiss chard, and kale).
Can My Rabbit Eat Spinach Leaves?
Rabbits can eat spinach leaves, but in much smaller quantities compared to other leafy greens. It is high in oxalic acid.
Spinach is also rich in calcium, magnesium, and other minerals. While these minerals are good for rabbits, they combine with oxalic acid and become insoluble. This reduces the possibility of rabbits using these minerals to improve their bone structure and muscle strength.
Furthermore, the high calcium content might accumulate in the bladder and cause bladder stones in rabbits.
Avoid combining other high-oxalate veggies with spinach when feeding your rabbit. Examples of high-oxalate vegetables include:
- Swiss chard
- Beet greens
- Mustard greens
- Radish tops
Oxalates may also be found in celery, cauliflower, turnips, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, and berries. However, these vegetables contain oxalates in much smaller amounts.
The one vegetable that’s not recommended, even in tiny amounts, is rhubarb because of its very high oxalic acid content.
Despite the above considerations, the benefits of spinach outweigh its negative effects. Therefore, spinach should be included in a rabbit’s diet. Just make sure it is rotated with other leafy greens that are lower in oxalic acid, such as carrot tops and fennel.
Nutrients in Spinach
Spinach leaves are high in the following nutrients:
- Water. Spinach largely consists of water (91%), which keeps your rabbit hydrated, prevents urinary tract disorders and keeps its weight under control.
- Vitamin A. Required for healthy teeth, bones, skin, and vision.
- Vitamin B9. Research published in the Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine suggests that rabbits should consume enough folic acid to prevent heart disease and maintain their health.
- Vitamin K1. A natural anticoagulant that prevents blood thickening and maintains proper organ function.
- Magnesium. According to Nutrition Research, magnesium deficiency may lead to the buildup of plaque around the heart (atherosclerosis).
- Iron. Transports oxygen throughout the body, prevents anemia, and boosts the metabolism.
- Calcium. Promotes healthy teeth and bones.
Spinach, when consumed with its stems and stalks, offers plenty of fiber. Fiber is critical for the rabbit’s digestion and nutrient absorption.
When giving spinach leaves to your rabbit, it’s advisable to cut the roots off because they’re higher in sugar and stored energy.
Your aim should be to feed 3-5 types of leafy greens per day. Avoid feeding the same greens all the time throughout the week as this increases the risk of a mineral or oxalate overload, which can be dangerous.
Spinach works well with watercress and rocket for the same day. You should feed approximately 1 cup of greens for 2 lbs. of your rabbit’s body weight. Divide this into multiple feedings per day.
Spinach is best fed once a week (twice at most). If you overfeed spinach, avoid it the next week.
The oxalic acid content can vary according to season and the type of soil the vegetable is grown in. Feeding spinach in the fall is better than spring or summer as it reduces the amount of oxalate your rabbit consumes.
Can My Rabbit Eat Radish Leaves?
Radish leaves are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus.
However, radish leaves are also high in oxalates. This means even though they’re safe for rabbits to eat, they should only be offered once a week.
Your rabbit can consume three different types of leafy greens a day. When giving a leafy green that’s higher in oxalates, such as radish greens, you want to make sure the remainder of the feedings includes low-oxalate veggies, such as fennel, parsley, or dandelion leaves.
Can My Rabbit Eat Celery Leaves?
Even though the stalk is the more attractive part of the celery plant, its leaves have many nutritional benefits as well, especially for rabbits.
Celery leaves are low in sugar and high in fiber, making them very healthy for rabbits. They’re also packed with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that boost immunity, heart health, bone health, and much more.
Can My Rabbit Eat Cauliflower, Broccoli and Cabbage Leaves?
Vegetables in the cabbage family, also called cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, Brussels, collard greens, cauliflower, and cauliflower greens) are considered safe for rabbits. However, in some rabbits, cruciferous vegetables can cause painful gas.
If you have recently given your rabbit a serving of cruciferous vegetables, keep a lookout for any signs of bloating or tummy pain. If your rabbit shows signs of sensitivity towards cruciferous vegetables, it’s best to avoid them and their greens completely.
Moreover, many of these vegetables and their greens are high in calcium. Too much calcium in the body can accumulate in the kidneys, causing bladder sludge or kidney stones.
Kale and turnip greens are also high in calcium, but they’re safe when consumed in small amounts. You should rotate high-calcium greens with low-calcium greens.
Are Eggplant, Tomato, Rhubarb, and Potato Leaves Safe for Rabbits?
Eggplant leaves, tomato leaves, and potato leaves contain solanine. Solanine is a compound released by some plants that can be toxic for rabbits. Keep your rabbits away from these plants if you grow them in your yard.
Rhubarb and its leaves are dangerously high in oxalates, which can lead to many health complications in rabbits. Therefore, you should avoid rhubarb altogether when feeding your rabbit fresh food.
It is preferable to purchase organic produce, if possible. Pesticides and fertilizers can be harmful to rabbits when consumed in large quantities.
To reduce the chemicals on a plant, soak it in cool water for at least one hour before feeding your rabbit.
When collecting wild food, such as dandelion greens, make sure you source them from a pesticide-free area.
Before introducing fresh food to your rabbit, it’s recommended that it consumes grass hay for at least 2 weeks. Grass hay ensures that a rabbit’s GI tract motility and gut flora are working so that it accepts new foods more easily.
When introducing a vegetable leaf/top to your rabbit’s diet, do so gradually. This allows the gut and its microorganisms to adjust to the new food.
Ideally, you should not introduce more than one new food every three days. This will help you keep a lookout for any unusual symptoms (such as changes in stools) and identify the culprit.
Although it’s rare for rabbits to have digestive disorders following a hay diet, if you do notice any loose stools that continue for a few days, remove the new food completely.