Can Rabbits Have Coriander?
Nutrition is hard. Even if we have the time and money we need to fill our homes with high-quality fresh foods, we can still find dietary questions to stress over; the Internet is full of all-out wars over whether carbohydrates or fats are healthier, whether or not plant proteins are adequate, and whether or not we should eat gluten. The only thing more stressful than constructing a healthy, enjoyable diet for ourselves and our families is constructing a healthy, enjoyable diet for our pets.
When we put together a meal plan for our kids, we can model it after our own. Once we have to feed a furry friend, however, we are forced to figure out how best to nourish a body that is completely different from our own. Humans and rabbits have vastly different digestive systems and nutritional needs, so our intuition isn’t a great guide. We can’t even feed our bunnies the same way we would feed a vegetarian human—their digestive systems are too finicky!
You may know that nuts, seeds, and fruits are usually not considered great food for rabbits, but what about our favorite herbs? Coriander is considered by many to be one of the healthiest herbs. So, does this hold true for our cotton-tailed companions? Can you give your rabbit coriander?
The answer is yes, rabbits can consume coriander, but only in moderation. Both the leaves and the fruits (often called seeds) are safe treats for your furry friend. This is one herb that does not seem to be remotely toxic to rabbits, so there is no real risk of toxicity—even if your bun overdoes it once or twice, they probably will not suffer from any serious or long-term effects. Like all herbs, however, coriander is best given in small quantities. If your rabbit eats too much of it, they may suffer from digestive problems and nutritional imbalances.
Though coriander seeds are generally considered safe, the leaves are the healthiest part for your rabbit. Coriander leaves are flavorful, which can help spice up your bun’s otherwise bland diet, but they are also loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients that can support a healthy mind and body.
Antioxidants, like those found in herbs such as coriander, are believed to improve overall health by protecting body cells from the harmful effects of highly charged, highly reactive metabolic waste products known as free radicals. These particles react with pretty much whatever substances they encounter. If they are floating around in your bun’s body, unfortunately, this means that they will react with the substances that make up your bun’s body cells.
These reactions often cause cell damage. Sometimes the damage is relatively harmless. Other times, free radicals can cause genetic mutations that eventually lead to diseases such as arthritis and even cancer. Many experts believe this is why there is such a strong correlation between increased antioxidant intake and decreased cancer risk.
Free radicals are natural and inescapable; they can show up in the body in a myriad of ways. Free radicals may come about as a result of contact with environmental toxins, like pollution or cigarette smoke. Unhealthy food is also thought to increase free radical activity. Unfortunately, even keeping your bunny inside a bubble will not protect them from free radicals—every biological process, from breathing to digestion, produces free radicals.
Things to Consider
Foods that are rich in antioxidants, like coriander, can help protect your rabbit. They do this not by preventing free radical formation, but by neutralizing existing free radicals. Antioxidants have the ability to stabilize free radicals without becoming unstable themselves, which turns them into harmless waste products that will not cause cell damage. So, while coriander definitely will not prevent or cure any disease, it may improve your rabbit’s chances of staying disease-free in the long term.
Coriander also makes an excellent treat because of its high fiber and low calorie content. Many of our bun’s favorite treats (even fruit!) contain too much sugar and too little fiber to be healthy, but coriander is both flavorful and healthy. If you’re concerned that your rabbit may be getting tired of eating the same things over and over again, try spicing up their diet with a bit of coriander.
As great as coriander is, it should still only be fed to rabbits in moderation. Most of your bun’s diet should consist of fresh, high quality hay, with herbs and other leafy greens serving as healthy side dishes. If your rabbit develops digestive problems, such as constipation, diarrhea, gas, or lack of appetite, after eating coriander, decrease the amount you are serving them and dial up the hay. If their symptoms don’t disappear within a day or two, consult a veterinarian. Like any other food, introduce coriander into your rabbit’s diet slowly to minimize the risk of upsetting their stomach.