The current recommendations for rabbits’ diets state that rabbits should eat a diet that mainly consists of fresh hay, plus pellets. 15% of their diets should include fresh vegetables and fruit, and leafy greens are the best choices because they resemble the plants and grass rabbits eat in the wild. So, can rabbits eat lettuce? Yes, they can.
The problem is that not all lettuce is good for rabbits. If you want to avoid the risk of feeding something poisonous to your rabbit, read the article below.
What Lettuce Can Rabbits Eat?
The safest types of lettuce a rabbit can eat are those with dark leaves, like romaine and lamb lettuce. Iceberg lettuce is poisonous for rabbits because it’s packed with a chemical called lactucarium.
Here are the types of lettuce that your rabbit can eat:
- Romaine lettuce (also known as Cos lettuce)
- Gem lettuce
- Lambs lettuce
- Round lettuce
Don’t overdo it with these leafy greens either. Moderation is key with all vegetables and fruits you offer to your fluffy pet.
Lettuce is a good occasional snack for rabbits because it contains:
- Fibres. Rabbits are grazing animals and they’ve specialized in digesting fibres, so any snack that’s packed with them is a food option.
- No carbs. Rabbits can’t digest complex carbs and sugar, and lettuce doesn’t have them.
- Antioxidants. Rabbits are prone to reproductive cancer and other chronic illnesses. Antioxidants fight free radicals and reduce inflammation, therefore decreasing the risk of these diseases.
- Vitamin A is responsible for good eyesight and the good functioning of your rabbit’s internal organs.
- Vitamin K prevents blood clots and ensures that the blood can transport all micronutrients where they belong.
- Folic acid boosts the immune system and fights against anaemia.
- Phosphorous makes sure that calcium gets to your bunny’s teeth and bones.
- Potassium accounts for heart health.
- Magnesium keeps anxiety and stress at bay. Rabbits are prone to stress because they’re prey animals so they get spooked by any loud noise or sudden movement.
The biggest con is lactucarium, a white substance found in lettuce stalks. This bitter substance, also known as rabbit opium, causes your rabbit to act like it’s on drugs. After the initial jitters, your rabbit will become lethargic, with some diarrhoea and GI upsets.
Lettuce has a high water intake. Although water can hydrate your rabbit, excess water is dangerous, leading to diarrhoea and refusal to eat other foods. Also, higher water content means a lesser nutrient content, so it’s best to avoid lighter-coloured lettuce.
How Much Lettuce Can I Feed My Rabbit? Tips and Recommendations
The rule of thumb is half a cup of leafy green vegetables per pound of your rabbit’s body weight per day.
- Start gradually. Give your rabbit just a tablespoon of lettuce and see how it tolerates this snack.
- Mix it up. The rule above refers to leafy greens, but your rabbit should eat just one cup of lettuce per day, every day. That cup should be filled with two other leafy greens, and you should change the mix of fruit and vegetables each day.
- Don’t offer lettuce to baby rabbits. Your pet should be at least 3 months old before tasting the first piece of lettuce.
- Wash the lettuce carefully. You want to remove any trace of dirt or pesticides.
- Cut the lettuce in smaller pieces to avoid the risk of choking.
- Choose red or green leaf lettuce, depending on your rabbit’s dietary needs. Red lettuce is richer in antioxidants, while green lettuce has more vitamin K for energy and healthy bones.
- Add some crunchy veggies along with romaine lettuce because this type of lettuce contains more water and it can cause diarrhoea.
- Your rabbit might not like lamb’s lettuce because it has a tangy taste.
- Limit the intake of Butterhead lettuce because it’s the most acidic and can mess with your bunny’s digestive system.
- Offer fresh lettuce rather than boiled lettuce because it’s crunchier. You can also feed your rabbits some bakes lettuce chips.
- Avoid lettuce stalks because they’re rich in lactucarium.