Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a popular leafy vegetable that belongs to the family Amaranthaceae eat fresh, cooked, after processing (canned, frozen, or dehydrated). Let us examine its suitability to rabbits, how you should feed it, and much more. Is it ok or not?
Can rabbits eat spinach, and is it good?
Yes. Rabbits can eat spinach leaves with stems (stalks) in moderation or sparingly, as an occasional part of the leafy greens you give to your rabbits and not a daily vegetable. All cultivars and varieties, whether savory, semi-savory, smooth-leafed, or cultivars like New Zealand, red cardinal, Malabar, Catalina, Tyee, India summer, among others, are safe.
Yes, spinach is nutritious and a good source of vitamins A, C, E, and K, folate, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese. It also has smaller amounts of thiamine, niacin, potassium, sodium, zinc, phosphorus, among other nutrients.
Besides nutrients, it has other vital plant compounds like lutein and zeaxanthin (good for eye health), kaempferol (an antioxidant that lowers risks of chronic disease and cancer), nitrates (good for heart health), and quercetin (an antioxidant that may reduce inflammation).
While very important, its abnormally high content of vitamin K makes it not good for any patient using blood thinners. Otherwise, if your bunny is ok, you have nothing to worry you.
However, here are two main concerns that make it an occasional and not daily vegetable that rabbits can eat.
It is high in oxalates or oxalic acid
Spinach is high in oxalates. An analysis of about ten commercial cultivars were found to have oxalate concentrations that ranged from 647.2 to 1,286.9 milligrams (mg) per 100 grams on a fresh weight basis,” notes USDA.
High oxalates form calcium oxalate stones deposited in the urinary bladder and kidney that may cause a blockage. Prolonged consumption may cause acute kidney damage.
Also, oxalates may interfere with gastrointestinal absorption of some nutrients, especially iron and calcium. Therefore, you cannot let your bunnies eat this vegetable daily.
Its calcium levels are high
Spinach is high in calcium. It has about 99 mg per 100g. Diets high in calcium are known to contribute to the formation of urinary calcium sludge and predispose your bunny to cystitis (urinary bladder inflammation).
Also, high it may be a contributing factor to the formation of calcium urinary tract stones that may cause symptoms like reduced appetite, lethargy, blood in urine, straining during urinary, teeth grinding (pain sign), perineal scalding, and so on.
Feeding spinach to rabbits
When feeding spinach to rabbits, you need to know the right amount, how often, and how to provide it to your bunnies.
How much spinach to give bunnies?
Let your bunnies have a cupful of 5-6 different vegetables with spinach being an equal part of them per two pounds of their body weight. Typically, it will be about 2-3 leaves, depending on their size.
Don’t be tempted to give them more. Excessive amounts of leafy greens may cause stomach upsets, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and other issues because of the low fiber content when compared to hay.
How often to give them spinach?
On frequency, we will recommend that you give your rabbits spinach not more than once or twice a week. It is high in calcium and oxalates, making it not the best choice of vegetables to give these animals daily. There are many other healthier choices that these animals can eat more often.
What else to consider?
Suppose you want to feed this nutritious vegetable to your furry friends. Ensure it is fresh. Dried one is also ok. If frozen, let it first thaw naturally. However, avoid cooked spinach or molded one. Again, buy organic spinach as it is not treated with harmful fertilizers and farm chemicals.
Secondly, start with a small amount and see how their tummies react after a day. If nothing unusual happens, increase the amount slowly over the next week. Remember to introduce one new food at a time.
Thirdly, carefully select the other vegetables in your mix. Ensure the following:
- No other veggie high in oxalates in the mix. This means no Swiss chard, 1-6 days sprouts, beet greens, radish tops, and mustard greens. They are high in oxalates and will only make things worse.
- Avoid vegetables high in calcium like collard greens, carrot tops, dandelion greens, spring greens, turnip tops, and so on. We have looked at the effect of high calcium in a bunny diet.
A balanced diet with the right proportion of greens, hay, pellets, and treats is necessary for a healthy bunny and longevity. A typical bunny diet should be:
- Grassy hay- It should account for 80% plus of their diet. Ensure bunnies have unlimited hay like timothy, oats, meadow, and so on.
- Greens or fresh foods– They need to be 10-15%, with leafy ones being the large part. Others like fruits, herbs, flowers, or non-leafy vegetables like carrots should be treats.
- Pellets- Give them about 5% high fiber rabbit pellets. They are essential in ensuring your bunny has all the minerals they need.
- Treats – 0-5% of their diet, and they include commercial treats or fruits, non-leafy veggies, flowers, or herbs.
Best spinach alternatives
Since it is high in oxalates and calcium, spinach should be an occasional vegetable. Keep it that way. Also, note that rabbits need variety in their diet to bring a new texture, taste, and nutrients. Some great alternatives to consider include:
- Romaine lettuce
- Bok choy
- Carrot tops
- Broccoli greens
- Dandelion greens
- Mustard greens
The answer isn’t a no or yes. It depends. Any baby rabbit below 12 weeks shouldn’t eat any vegetables, including spinach. At 12 weeks, you can begin introducing veggies, one at a time.
Therefore, baby rabbits above 12 weeks can have a bit of spinach as a part of the leafy greens you give them. Let it be an occasional part or rare. However, it would be ideal if you begin with healthier veggies.
Yes. Baby spinach is nothing other than ordinary spinach harvested early, about 15-35 days after you plant it, while mature one is harvested between 40-65 days. Feed it to them as you do with any other.
Yes. Rabbits can eat water spinach in (Ipomoea aqua) moderation as a part of the leafy green mix. Also known as morning glory, water convolvulus, Chinese (river) spinach, kangkong, Chinese watercress, Chinese convolvulus, ong choy, swamp cabbage, this plant is not related to spinach.
Instead, it belongs to the family Convolvulaceae (the morning glory or bindweed family) and shares the same genus with sweet potatoes.
Yes. Rabbits like spinach. Even in the wild, they may eat it, mostly the young spinach plants. However, it is not at the top of their most favored foods. If rabbits are eating this vegetable in your garden, consider exclusion (fencing) or use rabbit deterrents and repellents.