Onion, bulb, or common onion is one the most widely cultivated vegetable in the genus Allium, in the family Amaryllidaceae, scientifically known as Allium cepa. However, other species, such as the Japanese bunching (Allium fistulosum), tree (A. ×proliferum), and Canada onion (Allium canadense), use the name too. However, the term wild onions apply to many species.
You can eat onions as a vegetable, part of a savory dish, raw, pickled, or in chutney. You can sauté, roast, braise, fry, boil, or bake them. However, as you chop them, they are pungent and may cause eye irritation.
Can rabbits eat onions?
No. Rabbits shouldn’t eat any part of any onions, including bulbs, leaves, or flowers. All types, including the yellow or brown onion (referred to as red in Europe) sweeter variety popular in Europe with cultivars like Walla Walla, Vidalia, Bermuda or Cévennes, and the red or purple onions that have a sharp pungent smell part of Asian daily cuisines. Also, the white onions that are milder and a popular part of Mexican cooking, are poisonous to bunnies.
Additionally, all other members of the genus Allium, including garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions, or chives, are also toxic to rabbits and other animals, including your dogs and cats.
Why are they exactly toxic? The answer is simple; they have organosulfur compounds, which are responsible for their pungent and aromatic smell. When ingested, these sulfur-containing organic compounds are hydrolyzed thiosulfinates and then decomposed to disulfides.
One notable disulfide is dipropyl disulfide or the n-propyl disulfide, which is an oxidizing agent that causes destruction or rapture of red blood cells, and consequently, hemolytic anemia as well as the formation of Heinz bodies.
Usually, cats are the most vulnerable to hemolytic anemia from onion ingestion. However, dogs, large animals, and even your bunnies may also be susceptible.
Also, onions may suppress immunity (have an immunosuppressive effect) or result in a severe allergic reaction (anaphylactic reaction) that can be fatal.
Signs of toxicity
If your bunny ingests a small amount of onion, it is unlikely to cause any noticeable symptoms. However, an excessive amount may result in hemolytic anemia and other symptoms. Common ones to expect, mainly over time, include the following:
- Reduced appetite
- Uncoordinated body movement or ataxia
- Hemoglobinuria or the presence of hemoglobin in the urine, characterized by reddish urine
- Pale gums
- Partial paralysis
- Death if left untreated.
If you suspect for one or the other reason that your bunny has consumed a lot of onions, or has any of the above symptoms, talk to your vet for further diagnosis and treatment.
Do bunnies like onions?
Being one of the most popular vegetables or herb, it may worry you since the chances of your bunny getting it is so high. You don’t have to be concerned so much since rabbits don’t like the aromatic or pungent smell of onions and other members of the genus Allium.
Alliums are some of the rabbit resistant or repellant plants that even wild bunnies will always avoid. Some people even use their oil sprays to deter rabbit crop damage.
While it is clear they don’t like them, don’t assume that they will not nibble onions, especially your domestic rabbit. Therefore, always store them in places where they cannot access them.
Finally, if you have them in your garden, consider exclusion by fencing or using some of the humane and best rabbit repellents or deterrents. Don’t use any harmful or toxic repellent as it will harm or kill your bunny.
Onions are rich in nutrients and phytochemicals, especially antioxidants, as well as antibacterial properties. They may support your heart health, fight some cancer types, help in blood sugar regulation, support digestion, and improve bone density, just but to mention.
However, when it comes to your pets, they are a big NO. They join the following that is toxic to rabbits:
- Raisins and grapes
- Iceberg lettuce
- Potato leaves