Can Rabbits Eat Dock Leaves?

Can Rabbits Eat Dock Leaves?

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Rabbits love to hop around and munch on all things green and leafy. But some of those things may not be good for them to eat. Can rabbits eat dock leaves?

Can Rabbits Eat Dock Leaves?

Rabbits love to forage, and left to their own devices, they will spend all day hopping about in your garden nibbling on all sorts of yummy things. But can rabbits eat dock leaves?

Before responding to whether rabbits can eat dock leaves, the first question is, what are dock leaves?

Can Rabbits Eat Dock Leaves?
Dock Leaves

Dock Leaves

Dock leaves, also known as bitter, butter or broad-leaved dock, is a foraging food and weed whose known existence goes back three ice ages ago, in Britain. Its scientific name is Rumex obtusifolius, and it grows primarily in Britain, Ireland, and North America. Dock comes in two varieties, broad-leaved dock and curled dock. The broad-leaved variety has long, oval-shaped leaves while the curled dock’s leaves curl on the edges. Dock is not picky about its habitat and will grow on lawns, in fields, or wild and waste areas.

Uses of Dock for Humans

Dock is sometimes used to sooth Nettle stings.  Can Rabbits Eat Dock Leaves?
Dock leaves have been used by humans to cure nettle stings for millennia

Surprisingly nutritious plants, and loaded with vitamin C and minerals, they are used in different foods as well as for medicinal purposes. They are known for soothing the sting of nettles as well as insect bites and stings, burns, and blisters. Juice from the leaves is sometimes used to mend bruises, the seeds are used for colds and coughs, and the roots are used to treat liver problems, boils, constipation, and diarrhea.

Since these plants are so readily available, they were immensely popular during the Great Depression. People found them free and in great quantities and relished their lemon-like taste.

Dock and Animals

Goats love eating dock and it's not harmful to them - can rabbits eat dock leaves?
Dock leaves are a favorite of goats

Dock seed heads provide needed food for birds, rodents, deer, and other wildlife in the winter. Sheep and goats love eating dock. Cattle will also munch on it, and though not their favorite, it appears to reduce the incidence of bloat in cattle.

Dock and Rabbits

Back to the original question, can rabbits eat dock leaves? Simply put, no! Bunnies should not eat any part of dock plants: leaves, seeds, flowers, or stems. In fact, they should not eat anything that is a member of the Rumex genus because they are high in oxalic acid and may prove toxic to some animals. About 200 varieties of docks and sorrels are members of this genus, all of which rabbits should not be allowed to eat. Rumex is the genus for about 200 species of docks and sorrels, which are in the buckwheat family.

Buckwheat is of the same family as dock, and is also high in the potentially toxic oxalic acid.
Buckwheat, also potentially toxic for rabbits

The problem with these plants is that if rabbits eat it in large quantities, it could compromise their kidney function and the ability of their intestinal tract to absorb some minerals. If your money has ingested too much dock, you may see some or all these symptoms:

  • Refusal to eat
  • Exhaustion
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Seizures

The good news is that if your rabbit happens upon it and takes a nibble of dock leaves, chances are he will not stay around for a second bite because of the disagreeable taste.

How Can I Tell if My Rabbit Ate Dock?

The bad news is that unless your rabbit exhibits symptoms and you think it could be because he ate dock, you won’t be able to tell. Why? Rabbits are neat eaters. They can ravage a garden without leaving any jagged, ragged edges, so if he ate dock, you can’t tell by looking.

What If I Suspect My Rabbit Ate Dock?

If you have even a small inking that your bunny may have ingested some dock, immediately call your vet. Your vet may have you bring him in or instruct you on what to do and look for in the meantime.

How to Recognize Dock in Your Yard

If you want to let your rabbit hop around freely in your yard, it is important to know what’s growing there. Dock is opportunistic and likes to plant itself where there is room and a temperate climate. Some moisture is also a plus. Dock likes to hang around nettle plants, so if you have any of those in your yard, look closely for the dock.

How to Eliminate Dock from Your Yard?

Your best recourse is to keep dock mowed down as low as you can get it. In addition, to protect your bunny and other animals in your environment, purchase or make a natural herbicide. You can find recipes for safe, homemade weed killers on the Internet, as well as ready-made products that are also safe.

If Not Dock, Then What?

There are plenty of healthy, leafy, non-toxic plants rabbits can eat. Some of these include escaroles, raspberry, turning green, wheatgrass, watercress, spring greens, radicchio, endive, and dill leaves. Other healthy plants include cabbage, kale, broccoli, parsley, and mint If you don’t have these growing in your yard, you can always purchase them in a grocery store or farmers’ market.

Setting up a Safe Yard for Your Bunny

Let’s say your bunny’s normal habitat is inside your home, but you want him to get outside and have plenty of fresh air. Now you know dock is an issue, so you want to take steps to protect your rabbit from eating dock leaves. While you’re at it, you can implement some other safety steps at the same time to keep your rabbit safe while enjoying being outside.

  1. If you haven’t already done so, check for dock. Other harmful plants include holly, oak, ivy, and bulb originating plants and flowers.
  2. Make sure there have not been any pesticide applications recently.
  3. Keep your bunny away from any pets – dogs – as well as wildlife that may cause him to be frightened.
  4. If the weather is hot, set up a spot in the shade to keep your bunny cool, since rabbits can easily suffer from heat stroke.
  5. Unless you already have a safe, well-constructed bunny enclosure or cage in your yard, always be outside when you bring your bunny out. Besides eating something poisonous, there may be fox or raptors that would like nothing more than to feast on your precious pet.
  6. Even though you are outside with him, set up an area that naturally keeps him away from the garden or questionable weeds.
  7. Give him plenty of leafy greens to eat while he is enjoying his day in the sun.
  8. When you bring your rabbit back inside, check him carefully for ticks or any other bug that may have dug its way into his fur or skin.
  9. Finally – horror of horrors – check your rabbit for fleas!

What if My Rabbit Has Fleas?

There are good years and bad years when it comes to fleas, and if your rabbit has been outside during a bad year, and other animals have been outside in the same area where he’s been, it’s possible these pests have found a home on him.

How to Tell if He Has Fleas

It’s not too hard to tell if your rabbit has fleas. First, he’ll scratch more than usual. Then you’ll notice a lot of brown “dust” left on the floor where he’s been. Finally, upon looking in his ears, you’ll see a veritable party of fleas dancing around.

What Can You Do?

Fleas reproduce rapidly, so the sooner you get a handle on this, the better. First, take a fine-tooth comb, run it through his fur, and then dip it in soapy water to kill the fleas. If there are more fleas than this method can handle, talk to your vet about rabbit safe products.

Bunnies thrive on sunshine, fresh air, and tasty, leafy plants to eat. Just be sure to rabbit-proof your yard from dock and take other precautions to keep him safe outside.

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