Pet Consider

Can Rabbits Eat Clover?

Can Rabbits Have Clover?

Those of us who have shared our homes with pets are well-acquainted with the wide range of foods that they like to eat—and, when those pets eat diets similar to our own, we can’t help but sample the foods we purchased for them. Nearly every dog parent has given into temptation and eaten peanut butter flavored dog treats, puppy ice cream, or brightly-colored corn treats pressed into fun shapes. When we read the ingredients, we are usually horrified, but our curiosity gets the best of us in the end. The fact that certain dog treats smell delicious does not help matters.

Other companion animals live on foods that are less appealing to our people palates. Rabbits, who eat large quantities of what appear to be lawn clippings, tend to have some of the least appetizing diets inside the pet kingdom. After all, when we find our friends eating mountains of cellulose, we disdainfully refer to their meals as ‘rabbit food’! The contents of our rabbits’ bowls look like they came straight out of our lawn mower. Grass, hay, and weeds make up most of their calories. So, what about everyone’s favorite weed, the clover? Clovers grow abundantly in our front yards, which would make them very practical treats for our pets. But is it safe?
Can you give your rabbit clover?

There is some debate over whether or not clover is safe for rabbits, but the general consensus appears to be that they are safe in small quantities. Many rabbits love the flavor of clovers, so they may work well as treats—they are high in nutrition and fiber, yet low in calories, so they are not as likely to cause weight gain or digestive problems as other common treat options. However, some pet parents have put forth anecdotes of rabbits becoming very ill or even dying after consuming clover once. If your rabbit has already consumed clover and appears to be okay, there is probably nothing to worry about. The important thing is to make sure that the clover you give your bun is fresh, pesticide-free, and only fed in moderation.

Health Benefits?

cloverTechnically a weed, clovers feature heavily in folklore; many of us spent time as children searching for the elusive four-leaf clover. Their whimsical, oval-shaped trio of leaves often make a not-entirely-unwelcome appearance on our front lawns in the springtime, and their unique, spiky white flowers remind us vaguely of dandelions. The flowers, leaves, and roots of clovers are generally considered edible, so there is no part of the plant that needs to be kept away from your bunny.

Clover does have some nutritional benefits, including its high protein content. The protein in clover provides many of the essential amino acids that are required for your rabbit to grow strong, healthy, and fit. Western humans often think of meat as the ideal protein source, but, as vegetarians, bunnies get all of their protein from plant food.

We tend not to think of rabbit diets as being rich in protein, but without enough protein, your rabbit could become very ill. Rabbits pull amino acids from the foods they eat to maintain most of the structures in their body, from their heart and their hopping legs all the way to their fur and nails. Protein deficiency in rabbits is relatively rare, but buns who may be a bit low may be able to benefit from protein-rich weeds like clover.

Thanks to the same chemicals that give it its rich color, red clover is considered even more nutritious than its white cousin—red clover is rich in calcium, magnesium, Vitamin C, potassium, and a range of other antioxidants. Like other colorful vegetables, clover may be able to reduce inflammation, protect against free radical activity, and lower your bun’s risk of developing chronic or life-threatening diseases like arthritis and cancer.

Things to Consider

Even though it’s nutritious, clover should not make up a large part of any of your pet’s meals. Clover is low-calorie, but it is still higher in sugar than most ideal rabbit foods, so it can cause digestive problems in large quantities. Rabbits have difficulty expelling gas from the body, so too much clover can cause severe bloating and pain. In severe cases, too much clover (and too little hay) can cause a condition called gastrointestinal stasis, which can be life-threatening.

Final Thoughts

In sum, there are some scary stories about clover online, but most sources seem to agree that it is a safe food for rabbits in moderation. If you give your bun clover, make sure that it is fresh (never give them lawn clippings!) and pesticide-free. It is always a good idea to give your pet a small amount of a new food and wait 48 hours to see how they handle it. This and all weeds should be thought of as treats or dietary supplements—your rabbit should eat mostly hay.

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1 Comment

  1. Kendra

    April 21, 2019 - 3:21 pm

    The picture you have close up of “clover” is actually wood sorrel. Completely different, but so tasty!

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