Dandelions refer to a large number of flowering plants that belong to the genus Taraxacum, native to North America and Eurasia. However, T. officinale (common dandelion) and T. erythrospermum are the most common species worldwide, which are the entire plant is edible.
The Japanese, Paphos, California, Xinjiang, northern, Turkish, Troödos, red-seeded, and Korean dandelion are some of the common names for other common species. On the other hand, Amélioré à Coeur Plein, Broad-leaved, and Vert de Montmagny are the common cultivars.
Can rabbits eat dandelions?
Yes. Rabbits can eat dandelion greens or tops (fresh or dried stems and leaves) in moderation. Make them a part of the leafy veggies you give them. They are safe (not poisonous or toxic) to bunnies.
Besides tops, you can include dandelion roots in your not only rabbit but also guinea pigs and chinchillas diet for extra fun and tastiness as a treat. Some treats such as Vita-Licious Essentials – Natural Herbal Treats for Rabbits and Guinea Pigs or Small Pet Select – Heavenly Green Crunch Herbal Blend have dandelion root as one of its ingredients.
Furthermore, you can also offer dandelion flowers to your bunny, as a treat, occasionally. They are equally safe and very healthy.
Dandelions are rich in vitamins A (with more beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant than carrots), C, and K, and has reasonable amounts of potassium, iron, manganese, calcium.
Also, the flowers have flavonoid apigenin, caffeic acid isoquercitrin polyphenols, as well as terpenoids, sesquiterpenes, and triterpenes.
On the other hand, dandelion greens have lutein, while roots are an excellent source of inulin, a prebiotic fiber, widely used in some dog and cat foods.
Still on benefits, one study on Hypolipidemic and Antioxidant Effects of Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Root and Leaf on Cholesterol-Fed Rabbits concludes that ”dandelion is beneficial in preventing hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis and reducing risk factors for coronary artery disease.”
From the study result, dandelion leaf and root reduced oxidative stress associated with hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis and atherosclerosis extent. There were lower serum values of total cholesterol TG, plasma triglycerides TC, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), while serum high-density lipoprotein HDL-C (the good cholesterol) in blood serum went high.
In humans, it may lower cholesterol, helps in blood sugar regulation, and lower cancer risk. Also, it may reduce inflammation and blood pressure, cancer risk while supporting digestion.
Feeding dandelions to your rabbits
Since dandelion leaves and stems will be part of the leafy greens that your bunnies eat, a cupful of about six different veggies, including dandelion leaves, is enough for a rabbit that weighs two pounds.
However, since they are reasonably high in calcium, please don’t include any other veggie that is high in calcium. Such veggies include collard greens, carrot tops, Yu Choy, spring greens, turnips, or greens to ensure their diet doesn’t end up being very high in calcium. Excessive calcium in bunnies may cause calcium sludge in their bladder or kidney.
When picking dandelions for rabbits, always go for organically grown ones or pick some from your untreated lawns. Avoid those by the roadside as they may have pesticides and herbicides that will harm your furry critter. Also, avoid any wilted or molded as they may cause gastrointestinal troubles.
Thirdly, the successful introduction of any new diet to your furry friend requires you to introduce one new food at a time, gradually over a week or two. An abrupt change may cause stomach upsets, loose stool, gas, or bloating.
Therefore, being with a very tiny amount of this weed and see if it causes any tummy troubles after a day. If it doesn’t, gradually increase the amount until it becomes an equal part of your 5-6 vegetable mix.
Finally, ensure you correctly identify it as some plants such as false dandelions (flatweed, hairy cat’s ear, or catsear) that belong to the family Asteraceae and botanically known as Hypochaeris radicata, does resemble it but not safe to animals.
Do rabbits like dandelions?
Yes. Bunnies love dandelions. Even in the wild, it is one of the weeds that wild bunnies eat mostly during summers. Also, they may nibble other weeds like nettle, chickweed, thistle, clover, plantain, blackberry, as well as some grasses and some flowers.
Even if they like them, don’t give them too much or any excessive amount of any other leafy greens as they will cause diarrhea. While they have fiber, its content is much lower than that of grassy hay.
Remember, bunnies need at least 80% grassy hay in their diet, 5% high fiber pellets, 10-15% fresh foods (they should be majorly leafy greens with non-leafy veggies, flowers, herbs, and fruits being treats).
Finally, treats shouldn’t account for more than 5% of your bunny’s calorific intake, and they include any commercial rabbit treats and don’t forget to refill their water bottles or bowls.
What else can be part of their leafy greens?
If you want alternative leafy-greens to include in your veggie or leafy greens mix, some of the safe ones are:
- Mustard greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Bok Choy
- Carrot tops
- Broccoli greens
- Beet greens
- Turnip greens
The list is endless. However, don’t forget to consider their oxalic and calcium levels and only include any that is high in either these two in your veggie mix.