Rabbits are at risk of poisoning from toxic plants, topical products, such as shampoos, and chemicals commonly found in pesticides and pest control products. Here's an overview of the common causes, symptoms and treatment approach:
When rabbits are allowed to graze outdoors, they are at risk of ingesting poisonous plants in your garden. Plants that are poisonous to rabbits include daffodils, buttercups, amaryllis, rhubarb leaves and foxglove. Shampoos, ointments and flea treatments that haven't been specifically formulated for rabbits can cause respiratory distress, skin irritation and gastric upset. Your vet can recommend products that are safe for your rabbit. Organophosphates, which are typically found in pest control products, can damage your rabbit's nervous system, so be mindful of this when selecting slug bait or ant powder for your garden.
Symptoms of poisoning in rabbits include the following:
- Digestive upset
- Loss of appetite
- Organ damage
- Low mood, which may present as an unwillingness to be held or play
Your vet will diagnose poisoning by taking details of your rabbit's symptoms and analysing a sample of their blood for the presence of common toxins and inflammation, which is a sign your rabbit's immune system is fighting a foreign invader. If your rabbit has had diarrhoea, the vet will also test a sample of their urine to determine if they are dehydrated.
Once the vet has established the type of poison your rabbit has ingested, they will treat them with an antidote, if one is available. If no antidote is available, they will use one of the following treatment approaches:
Activated Charcoal - Activated charcoal binds with the poison in your rabbit's digestive tract and carries it out of their body when they empty their bowels. It is administered as a drink, but it can be given through a nasogastric tube if your rabbit is refusing to drink.
Gastric Lavage - This treatment is only an option if your rabbit receives veterinary care immediately after ingesting the poison, as it's not effective if the poison has entered your rabbit's intestines. The poison will be purged from your rabbit's stomach using emetic drugs.
Intravenous Fluids - In addition to treating dehydration, intravenous fluids can be used to support your rabbit's liver as it tries to process the toxins they have ingested, and high volumes of fluids can help flush the poison out of your rabbit's system.
If you suspect your rabbit has ingested a poisonous substance, consider it a vet emergency and take them in immediately. Early intervention can prevent permanent organ damage and save your rabbit's life.