for the happiness, health and general well-being of your pet rabbit
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Herbal remedies for rabbits
I think many of us will consider herbal or natural remedies for minor ailments. But will we consider it for our rabbits?
I have already written about willow being a natural pain killer. However, many natural remedies can be used with
great success for a variety of rabbit ailments.
Before I start, I always get a bit of controversy when talking about rabbits eating tomatoes. Remember, the fact
that YOUR rabbit eats tomato without any ill-effects does not make it safe for all other rabbits. Also, rabbits
can eat small quantities of the tomato fruit’s flesh, but not the stems, pips or leaves. Why? Tomato plants con-
tain a poisonous alkaloid glycoside called Tomatine. This yields Tomatidine when hydrolyzed. This is very similar
to Solanine, which can be a gastrointestinal irritant and cholinesterase inhibitor (causing diarrhoea, weakness,
muscle twitching or involuntary defecation and urination). Also, Tomatidine is poorly absorbed and is usually of
low toxicity. It depends on how much is consumed.
Back to Herbal Remedies. You will notice that various herbs can help for the same condition. If you have access to
more than one of the indicated herbs, do not use all of them simultaneously. Use one, watch for improvement. If
no improvement, try the other. Remember rabbits try to hide their ill health. Watch them closely and rather go to
a vet if there is any doubt. We have a list of rabbit friendly vets here. On to the the list:
Apple - Great for digestion, apples are amphoteric, which means it works to either bulk up the bowels when loose or loosen them up if constipated. But no apple pips remember – the pips contain cyanide. Also, apples are high in sugar, so when not used for medicinal purposes, it should only be given as a treat.
Apple Cider Vinegar - two tablespoons (30ML) to a gallon (3.7L) of water. Will increase appetite.
Wipe the ears with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and olive oil to treat ear mites.
Baking Soda - use as a paste by mixing with a little water to relieve the pain of a nail cut too short, a scratch, or sore hocks.
Birch - pain relief, anti-inflammatory, diuretic.
Blackberry - Use leaves and fruit. Blackberry is soothing to rabbits – it helps to cool them increasing circulation. The leaf is a remedy for diarrhoea and upset tummies.
Fresh Blueberry - helps to relieve diarrhoea (tannins and pectin doing the trick).
Basil - Leaves can be rubbed on insect bites to reduce itching and inflammation. Leaves can also be taken as a warming and uplifting tonic for nervous exhaustion or any cold condition. Rabbits can react badly when changing home for instance when taken from a shelter to your house or when rabbits are introduced to each other. Helps reduce fevers and indigestion, relieves headaches and bladder trouble. Tonic for the kidneys.
Borage - mildly laxative, increases milk flow of nursing does, helps with fevers and reduces stress.
Carrot - Use cooked carrots (nothing added) to treat diarrhoea. When they’re cooked, carrots seem to soothe the digestive tract and control the diarrhoea while also providing nutrients that are lost. Carrots are high in sugar so in general, carrots should not be a regular food.
Celery stalks and tops only. Increases amount of urine being peed but and can also act as an urinary antiseptic. Chop the celery into small pieces.
Chamomile - Chamomile helps to relieve pain (the flowers), calms nervous animals, aid digestion, and as an external wash for weepy eye. You can feed the fresh flowers or dried herbs. Use chamomile when introducing rabbits to each other to help calm them down.
Chamomile for eye issues: Chamomile tea eye compress: Take a used tea bag and use as an eye compress on a particularly icky eye. Chamomile tea eye wash: Brew 1 tea bag in 1/4 cup of water. Add 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized salt (kosher, sea salt, canning or pickling salt) and let dissolve. Add a small teaspoon of honey and allow to dissolve. Use a standard 3cc syringe (or the like) and gently flush the eye with the solution.
Chickweed – Anti-inflammatory, healing of cuts, potent laxative. Can reduce rheumatic inflammation and stiff joints in animals (especially elderly rabbits).
Clover - great roughage fresh or dried, somewhat sedative, both the leaf and the flower can be fed, should not be given to young rabbits, and should be fed sparingly to prevent acidosis.
Comfrey - Very powerful healing agent. You can feed the root or foliage. It will stimulate appetite, and is generally good as a tonic. Contains Cholin which is a very powerful healing agent. Used to be called "knit bone" as it encourages the natural healing process and speeds up formation of new bone. Comfrey is not recommended for dwarf rabbits.
Corn flower Tonic and conditioning plant. Also used for skin troubles and bruising.
Coriander (Cilantro) Rich in antioxidants, minerals, such as potassium, calcium, and iron. Helps control heart rate and blood pressure. High in Vitamin A and can benefit the skin, vision, and mucus membranes. An antibacterial effect helps prevent urinary tract infections. Because of the calcium content, you need to check which other herbs you are feeding that also contain calcium (to prevent unhealthy calcium levels (milky urine is a sure sign of too much calcium).
Fresh dandelion - Use as an appetite stimulant or treat. Mix dandelion with other greens. The bitter milky sap stimulates the working of all glands, including the milk glands of lactating does. The plant has both laxative and astringent qualities and regulates constipation and diarrhoea. Good for blood purifying (flushing out toxins), respiratory ailments, anti-inflammatory, bladder infections, diarrhoea, milk flow of nursing does and simply a good treat for does after having a litter. Some rabbit respiratory problems (like pasteurellosis, characterised by nasal discharge), can eventually cause serious problems including head tilt, loss of balance and death. Dandelion is effective against pneumonia, bronchitis and upper respiratory infections. Use fresh leaves, flowers and the root. Do not feed in large quantities to Netherland Dwarfs and young rabbits.
Dill - increases milk production, increases appetite, increases intestinal health. Leaves work well and the seeds even better - sprinkle the seeds over the pellets. Dill as a fresh herb can be rabbit food but Dill seeds are used for medicinal purposes only.
Echinacea - Anti-inflammatory with anti-viral properties, increases production of interferon, is antiseptic and antimicrobial, increases the number of white blood cells available to fight bacteria and slow the spread of an infection. Use in low dosages to stimulate the immune system and in higher doses as a broad spectrum antibiotic. You can also make a weak tea from the leaves and mix with the drinking water.
As a tonic and preventative measure, feed the fresh leaves and chopped roots daily but use an on-off approach - feed Echinacea during the week for instance, but not on weekends.
Tea: 1 tea bag to 1/4 boiling water, let sit for 15 minutes. Add to 3/4 cup water. Allow rabbit to drink (put it in water bottles), and change daily.Fresh: The whole plat is edible and beneficial.Herbs: Add in with hey or pellets when dried. Capsules: Boil about 8 cups water, add 4 capsules of pure Echinacea. Mix 1 part herb water to 3 parts regular water, and allow rabbit to drink.
Elder Flower – good for respiratory expectorant, fevers.
Eucalyptus – Use as a flea repellent. Dry then powder and liberally sprinkle around bunny area to repel fleas.
Fennel – Aids with bloating / gas, indigestion and the milk flow of nursing does.
Garlic - Immunizes against disease, antiseptic, antibiotic, anti-bloating and anti-gas, a great dewormer, respiratory expectorant, as well as preventing shock. But rabbits hate the taste of garlic...
Ginger - Works well for diarrhoea.
Lavender – Lavender aids in circulation problems, nervous stress and exhaustion. The flowers are a mild tranquilizer, acting upon the heart in easing blood pressure rather than acting upon the brain as an anti-stimulant. Great for stressed out rabbits.
Lemon Balm – Anti-bacterial, antiviral, anti-bloating, anti-diarrhoea, and will reduce stress.
Liquorice – Good for gastric inflammation and coughs.
Mint - Should be harvested just before flowering. Dried or fresh mint will increase intestinal health. Firms loose stools. Avoid prolonged use, it can irritate the mucous membranes. Good herb for treating rabbit mastitis (infection of the mammary glands - the teat or teats are blue, swollen and painful, and in the acute form there is usually a discharge. The doe has little appetite but is usually very thirsty.) Do not feed to lactating does or kits.
Marigold (Calendula) - Helps for bruises, slow healing wounds, ulcers, skin diseases, and digestive problems.
Marjorim - Inflammation of mouth and throat. Digestive problems, uterine discomfort, calm nerves.
Nasturtium - highly antiseptic, both leaves and flowers are edible. Feed up to four leaves at a time.
Oats - Use Oats in your pellet feeder. Oats is low in starch and high in mineral content (especially K, P, Mg, and Ca). Feed very sparingly in summer. Good for digestive problems, diarrhoea, kidney and bladder problems. Warning: kits may not be able to swallow oats and may actually choke on it. Do not feed instant or flavoured oats.
Papaya - stimulates appetite and encourages a healthy coat and helps with hair balls. You can give a small piece of papaya every other day to prevent hairballs, or use dehydrated (and un-sweetened) pieces mixed with the pellets.
Parsley - rich in iron and copper, contains apiol which is useful in the treatment of urinary problems. Seeds, leaves, and roots may be used. The roots are used for constipation and intestinal obstruction. Good for the cure of inflammation of bladder & kidneys, digestive disorders.
Pineapple – Bromelain, the enzyme in the pineapple, is more concentrated in the stem of the pineapple. Fresh pineapple is recommended as Bromelain is destroyed when frozen or processed. Bromelain is good for diarrhoea as well. It will reduce intestinal fluid secretion and has mucolytic and digestive properties. It will dilate the mucus coating of the GI tract. Good for gut mobility and helping with hairballs.
Raspberry – High in fibre. Increases intestinal health. Contains very powerful antioxidants. Is mildly anti-inflammatory. High in sugar so cannot be a regular food.
Rosemary – very good flea killer if you can get your rabbit to eat it. Ideal for exhaustion, weakness, and listlessness in rabbits. The stems and leaves invigorate circulation. Use feed fresh or dried. Anti-inflammatory activity.
Sage –Dried and powdered and sprinkled will repel fleas. Also a digestive stimulant and a uterine stimulant. However, do not give to pregnant or lactating does. Anti-inflammatory activity.
Sassafrass – dried and powdered, and sprinkled to repel fleas.
Sorrel – soothing and cooling, increases blood flow.
Strawberry - Whole plant is antiseptic properties as well as cooling to the rabbit by increasing blood flow. Use leaves, roots, and berries. (The the leaves are rich in iron.)
Thistles – great to stimulate the appetite and great for intestinal inflammation.
Thyme – the stems and leaves are ideal as a digestive remedy and good for diarrhoea. Will also expel worms. Discard the woody stems. Anti-inflammatory.
Willow – the bark contains salicin which helps intestinal inflammation and general pain. A branch may be given to weanling babies every day to prevent diarrhoea. Willow leaves, bark and branches are an excellent source of roughage, iron, a natural form of analgesic and a big help in the treatment of diarrhoea. Pain-reliever and a natural coccidiostat. A coccidiostat prevents coccidiosis. Use twigs and leaves. You can dry the leaves in the oven till crisp and feed as a crunchy snack.
Normal rectal temperature for a rabbit is 100.5F or 38C. Normal respiratory rate is about 45 breaths per minute. Normal heart rate is up to 150 beats per minute.
Rabbits cannot vomit or burp. Bloat is thus very uncomfortable and painful to them (look for swollen and distended abdomen and stomach area, your rabbit being listless and hiding in a corner). If none of the natural remedies for bloat mentioned above is available, consider using Simethicone (a brand of infant gas relief drops). Give a dropperful into the rabbits cheek (never squirt anything directly into a rabbit's mouth). Give only a few drops at a time. Allow the rabbit to swallow the drops. Repeat until the dropper is empty. Give three times a day until rabbit's belly is no longer swollen.
Click here for rabbit diseases A-Z. To detect Illness before it's an emergency, see RabbitCare South Africa's health checklist. Ask your own question here.