Are Plum Leaves Toxic to Rabbits?
by Brooke P
The Black Plum
"Are Plum Leaves Toxic to Rabbits?"
This was a question asked by Brooke in Australia and I decided to answer it
in a bit more detail than I would normally as it has been quite a common one
Brooke went on to say...
"I have read that plum leaves are toxic, but my rabbits
can't resist them. They are free range and help themselves when the plums are
I haven't seen any ill effects yet, but I have no idea how to prevent it yet
still allow them their freedom."
I continue with this response...
Thanks for your submission about Plum tree leaves.
Don't worry your bunnies will be fine. The leaves are only toxic in large quantities,
however please try your best to stop them eating any more.
Rabbits that are experienced foragers have a good sense of taste and know
when something is good for them or not.
Closer Look at Diet
However, a hungry bunny staved of nutrients tends to eat everything in sight despite
the dangers. I'm not at all saying your rabbits are starved of nutrients but if
your bunnies are eating these leaves with a fervour, it may mean you need to look
at their diet a little closer and perhaps add more fresh greens and fresh grass
to their daily food intake. Or it may be something else that could be missing
When a bunny is not 'hungry' for greens they will enjoy a much more balanced
diet and not crave foods that tend to be bad for them.
Perhaps you could have a closer look at their pellets, if they have them,
and check the roughage, protein and carb levels. Some pellets actually cause
more problems then they solve. Some lack certain compounds and trace minerals
that are vital to rabbit health. For example if your bunny is drinking, sipping
or licking their own urine it is usually a sign that something is lacking or
missing in their diet and they are attempting to gain much needed minerals while
they these nutrients are on their second time round and we know rabbits are
very skilled at getting the very most from their diet!
I have have seen much advice on the Internet about plum leaves and many people
correctly say to avoid giving your rabbit plum leaves, (and indeed other leaves
from stoned fruit trees), but they don't explain why.
There are many varieties of plum and some are actually quite beneficial. For
example, there is variety of plum known as Java plum that has been used to treat
diabetes and reduce the presence of glucose in urine. There are other varieties
that have extremely beneficial bark. However, there are also side effects to
eating large quantities of the fruit such as increased oxalate levels effecting
calcium absorption. If the digestive system is not healthy to start with, then
this can be very dangerous.
The eating of Jamun leaves (the black plum), can actually be good (in small
quantities) for treating digestive related disorders and for treating of diarrhoea
and ulcers. Jamun leaves have also been used to prevent liver diseases in humans,
such as necrosis and fibrosis. Due to presence of bio-chemical and phytochemical
substance like polyphenol, the black plum acts like as anti-cancer substance.
Then there are oral benefits associated with the leaves of the black plum.
There are antibacterial properties used for strengthening teeth and gums. The
leaves are astringent, considered good for throat problems too.
Of course these benefits are all gained in a controlled environment where
a 'dosage' is given. Rabbits, like us, get cravings for certain foods. When
their bodies tell them something is not right or they are lacking some kind
of nutrient in their system, they will actively seek out the ingredients and
nutrients they need.
An inexperienced rabbit with a craving may not be so 'controlled' and while
they instinctively know something good is to be gained in eating such leaves,
they may not know when they have had sufficient!
Prevention is Better than Cure!
What is important to remember here is that, unlike us, rabbits don't wait
until they are poorly to seek out what they need. They use ingredients found
in certain plants, flowers, barks, woods etc as a preventative solution.
This 'preventative' approach is something that we actively learn from! We
have all seen dogs and cats eating certain types of grass. It's most unusual
behaviour and many consider it to be a mystery, however there is in fact a very
simple reason for this somewhat strange behaviour.
They need the properties within the grass to do their body a service. Most
animals read the signals BEFORE they get poorly.
A dog will eat 'hairy' grasses for emetics (to stimulate regurgitation or
vomiting) and couch grass as a purgative (to rid the body of parasites and worms
further down the intestine).
This is most likely to be a self-medication strategy passed down from their
wild ancestors. We know wolves eat grass on a daily basis, all year round. They
use it like an internal scouring system, ridding their insides of roundworms
and other parasites.
Tigers have also been observed eating grass, just like our now domesticated
cats. Wild Indian tigers droppings have been found with huge quantities of grass
in them and usually with a tape worm or two hidden amongst the grass laden faeces.
Traditional herbalists have used purges and scours for thousands of years
as a method of worm control, finding it easier and safer than chemical based
remedies. All animals are exceptional at understanding the benefits of using
Natural is Best
This is why foraging is vital to rabbit's health and well-being. They learn
to smell, detect and seek out the nutrients, vitamins and minerals etc that
are vital to their diet for the best internal and external health and wellness.
However foraging must be observed and regulated, especially in gardens where
plant species are unknown.
toxic plant guide book may help identify some of the unknown toxic plants,
bulbs, shrubs and trees that are in your garden or yard.
Cause and Cure
So, in conclusion, instead of just taking away the source of their craving
as is suggested by so many rabbit experts, perhaps a better solution would be
to find out the cause of them craving these leaves in the first place.
Generally rabbits that are used to foraging don't eat substances that are
bad for them.
Find out what it is that they may be lacking or they will become ill, and
not from eating the plum leaves but from the side effects of their system needing
something. I believe your bunnies are telling you that they need something extra
in their diet by craving the plum leaves.
Like the dogs and cats eating grass, there is a reason why your rabbits would
want to eat plum leaves in the first place. I have never seen a non-hungry animal
eat anything they don't like and plum leaves don't particularily taste nice
to rabbits. If they are eating them there will be a reason.
I hope this information has been of some help and if you need any further advice
about a rabbit's diet please
take a look at this page...
Please let me know how you get on.
All the best,
Just Rabbits Limited
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