Pet Consider

Can Rabbits Eat Basil?

Can I Give My Rabbit Basil?

Most Americans have a basic understanding of nutrition as it pertains to the human body, yet we still struggle to juggle our diets (and the diets of our kids) in a way that is both healthy and enjoyable. It’s little wonder that pet owners have an even harder time figuring out what their furry friends are supposed to eat—now we have to deal with juggling health and pleasure for another species! Dogs, who are omnivores like us, are pretty easy. Rabbits, however, can be tricky.

Anyone who has wandered through a pet store or read a children’s book has a basic idea of the bunny diet: they eat carrots and other vegetables. But a diet of carrots, hay, and pellets is bound to get boring, so we may try to include more interesting, flavorful veggies.  For this, many of us turn to herbs. And one of our favorite herbs is basil. This powerful, flavorful vegetable is often added into the mix with every other leafy green, so our intuition would suggest that it was bunny-friendly. After all, there isn’t a big difference between leafy greens and herbs, right?

Well, not necessarily. Though leafy greens are a key part of a perfect rabbit diet, many herbs are toxic to our cotton-tailed companions. Herbs like aloe, agave, buttercup, holly, mistletoe, jasmine, and even nutmeg are considered poisonous to our precious pets.

But back to the herb in question.
Can rabbits have basil?

The answer: yes, rabbits can eat basil in moderation. Basil happens to be one of the herbs that does not contain any substances that are toxic to rabbits. It also tends to be fairly well digested, so you can safely add it in to your rabbit’s leafy green rotation. This powerful herb can add both flavor and nutrition to your bunny’s diet, which will keep them happy and healthy in the long term.

Health Benefits?

basilIf your bunny seems to enjoy herbs, basil is a great one to add to the mix. This herb contains large amounts of Vitamin K, which is thought to play a large role in the important blood clotting process. This key vitamin can ensure that blood clots quickly, which will reduce the chances of severe bleeding as a result of injuries or surgical incisions. Rabbits who eat a healthy diet are rarely deficient in this nutrient, but basil may be an excellent way to boost their intake if they’re on the low side.

Basil is also loaded with flavonoids, which are thought to protect cells from being damaged by metabolic waste products. By preventing cellular damage, the flavonoids in leafy greens like basil can head off the DNA damage that may lead to diseases like arthritis and even cancer.

This helpful herb has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, too. Several studies have found that basil slows the growth of potentially harmful strains of bacteria like listeria, staphylococcus, and even e. coli. Studies performed in 2004 led some to believe that adding basil to salads may reduce the risk of illness caused by food poisoning, but more research is needed to know whether or not it would be truly effective.

Basil, when combined with other anti-inflammatory foods, may help alleviate the symptoms of inflammatory illnesses like inflammation of the bowels or arthritis. By bringing down inflammation, these foods may be able to reduce pain levels and improve joint mobility in animals suffering from arthritis.

Though leafy greens are an important part of the rabbit diet, it is important to remember that the majority of your bunny’s diet should consist of hay and high quality rabbit pellets. Hay is crucial to rabbit health—it provides the nutrition and the roughage that they need to minimize the risk of hairballs, blockages, and gastrointestinal stasis. Rabbit digestion is very fragile, and introducing too many greens at once can cause serious digestive problems.

Things to Consider

If you want to incorporate more greens into your rabbit’s diet, start slowly, and only introduce one new food at a time. Treat each new herb as an experiment. Begin by feeding your rabbit a very small amount of basil, then wait several days to see if they tolerate it well. If there are any changes to your rabbit’s stool or eating habits, try giving them a smaller amount. If problems persist, opt for other types of herbs that are better tolerated. Though most rabbits thrive on similar diets, some of them have a more difficult time digesting certain foods than others.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, basil can be a great addition to your rabbit’s diet in moderation. It is high in vitamins, flavonoids, and anti-inflammatory compounds that can support a healthy, active rabbit. Just remember to use basil (and all leafy greens) as side dishes—hay should be the mainstay of your bunny’s diet. When introducing your furry friend to any new food, take it slow and watch them closely for any adverse effects.

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