Foods that can harm your Netherland Dwarf or Jersey Wooly Bunny

Netherlands Dwarf Rabbits and their specialized digestive systems

Rabbits have specialized digestive systems. Their distinctive ability to process fiber and nutrients makes them adaptable to many different environments, but their specialized digestive systems mean that their caretakers should be extra-cautious when feeding them.

A number of foods can disrupt their digestion and be very harmful to their health. There are also a few foods that are potentially poisonous to them. Here is a list of foods that you should never feed your rabbit:


Avocado is one of the most dangerous foods for rabbits. It contains a toxic compound called Persin. If a rabbit ingests too much Persin, it will develop breathing problems. This can lead to heart failure and eventual death in some cases.

Fruit Pips and Seeds

Although small amounts of apple flesh are OK, apple seeds are a no-no. They contain a compound that is toxic to rabbits. So, if you serve up some apple as a treat, make sure that all of the pips have been removed.

It’s not just apple pips that are harmful, but also apricot, peach, and plum pits. They contain trace amounts of cyanide. Rabbits should not be fed any fruit pips, seeds, or pits.


Chocolate contains two types of methylxanthines that are very harmful:

  • Theobromine
  • Caffeine

The higher the cocoa content, the higher the concentration of methylxanthines. So, if your rabbit were to eat a few squares of dark chocolate, this would be a medical emergency. Even white chocolate can cause a severe reaction in some rabbits. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include:

  • Vomiting would usually apply, but rabbit can’t vomit.
  • Restlessness
  • Squirming when you try and touch its stomach
  • Trembling and panting
  • A high temperature

Although most of us would not treat our rabbits with chocolate, we do leave packets of half-opened chocolate lying about the house. This is risky when there are pets inside the home. So, always make sure that you shut chocolate away.

Allium Vegetables

Allium-type vegetables can cause serious illness:

  • Onions (red and brown)
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Chives

The problem with these vegetables is that they can cause hemolytic anemia (loss of red blood cells). This can cause dizziness, weakness, and eventual death if not treated. If that were not enough, allium-type vegetables can also cause anaphylactic shock in some rabbits.

Iceberg Lettuce

We quite literally refer to lettuce as “rabbit food,” so surely it can’t be toxic for rabbits? Well, dark forms of lettuce (i.e. Romaine) are suitable for rabbits. However, iceberg lettuce is unhealthy because it contains a harmful chemical called lactucarium.

Lactucarium is not usually harmful in small amounts, but a large portion of  iceberg lettuce could cause diarrhea and physical weakness. Very young rabbits could even die from overeating iceberg lettuce.

Potato Leaves

Potatoes are not a good food source for rabbits because they are high in starch. This makes potatoes difficult to digest, but not poisonous.

A small amount of potato may not do any harm to a rabbit. However, potato tops and leaves are poisonous to a rabbit.

Sugary Processed Foods

When you’re enjoying a cookie or a piece of cake, you may be tempted to give your rabbit a bite, but you shouldn’t. Sugary foods can trigger Enterotoxemia in rabbits. This is a severe case of diarrhea that is often fatal.

While a single serving of sugary foods is unlikely to trigger Enterotoxemia, it could happen in very young or weak rabbits. Also, rabbits that don’t eat enough fiber are particularly susceptible.


Muesli-based rabbit feed was once a popular pet food, but we now know that it’s unhealthy. This is because a high-carb/high-sugar diet can lead to the following problems:

  • Dental disease.
  • Diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems
  • Weight gain
  • Enteroteoxema, in the most severe cases


Most rabbits love the taste of nuts, but they are not a good food choice. They should only be fed to a rabbit in moderation.

Nuts are very high in fat, which is a problem because rabbits need a relatively low-fat diet to thrive. The high-fat content may cause digestive issues and bowel problems. Nuts are also choking hazards.

Cat and Dog Food

While this food is not toxic, you should not encourage this behavior. These foods are high in calories so eating them will probably cause weight gain.

Most dog/cat foods contain animal protein. Rabbits are herbivores so they lack the necessary enzymes to digest meat. Added to this, these foods contain amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that may be unnecessary.

Cat and dog food contain added calcium, so this is not recommended for rabbits.


Given that rabbits are herbivorous, you might assume that it’s OK to give them any vegetables. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Rabbits can eat different vegetables, but cauliflower is not one of them. Whether it is raw or cooked, cauliflower can cause severe bloating in rabbits.


Although parsnips are acceptable in small amounts, they are not a recommended food for rabbits. Parsnips contain a lot of starch so they may be difficult to digest. Plus they are relatively high in calories, so eating them regularly will cause weight gain.


Raisins are very high in sugar so they will be difficult to digest. They can obstruct the exit of the stomach if they become lodged there.

Rabbits quickly develop a taste for raisins, so you might feel like your denying your rabbit its favorite treat. But remember there are plenty of healthier ways to treat your rabbit.

For foods that are safe to eat please see our list of what to feed your Netherlands Dwarf Rabbit.

There are also types of hay and grass you can look at. Hay is a very big part of their diet.

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