Although rabbits love to eat green vegetables, it should not be assumed that all plant foods are safe for rabbits. Some, like mushrooms, are actually harmful to rabbits.
Rabbits should not eat mushrooms, either home-collected or store-bought. Some mushrooms contain mycotoxins that, if ingested by rabbits, can lead to mycotoxicosis or poisoning. Especially mushrooms collected by yourself can be very dangerous.
Mushroom poisoning is rare in rabbits. However, this may be because mushroom poisoning is complicated to detect.
Therefore, it is difficult to say exactly how many rabbits have died from eating mushrooms. Nevertheless, to protect your rabbits, you should know how to prevent mushroom poisoning.
Can Mushrooms Kill Rabbits?
Although science has not yet extensively studied this topic, experts believe any mushroom can be toxic to rabbits and can also kill rabbits.
While some store-bought mushrooms may not kill a rabbit, many wild mushrooms can be extremely toxic.
Because the effects of individual mushrooms are unknown, most veterinarians recommend that rabbits not be fed mushrooms of any kind.
Even if eating mushrooms does not directly cause death, it may cause paralysis, kidney disease, or cancer. It’s just not worth taking the risk.
However, watch out for other foods not directly considered dangerous to rabbits.
Rhubarb, for example, is toxic to rabbits. And onions are also life-threatening to rabbits.
What Are Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are the third type of living thing, along with animals and plants, found in most parts of the world. However, they are most commonly found in warm and moist forest areas.
In Europe alone, there are several thousand species of wild mushrooms. Many of these mushrooms are poisonous to humans. However, we do not know precisely how many are harmful to rabbits.
The mushrooms we buy in supermarkets, whether mushrooms, porcini, oyster mushrooms, or chanterelles, are usually grown under strict conditions.
This means that they are safe for human consumption. But we cannot, therefore, assume that they are safe for rabbits and other small animals.
Why Are Mushrooms So Dangerous for Rabbits?
Certain types of mushrooms contain mycotoxins. These mycotoxins can be deadly to rabbits and also to humans.
The most harmful mycotoxins include:
- Cyclopeptides: fungi rich in cyclopeptides are the most deadly to humans. 90% of fungal deaths are due to cyclopeptides.
- Muscarine: This toxin is found in the well-known fly agaric, for example, and can also be deadly to humans.
- Coprine: A toxin that is harmful to humans only when combined with alcohol.
- Gastrointestinal irritants: these are found in most raw mushrooms but are usually destroyed by cooking.
- Monomethylhydrazine: Interestingly, this toxin is used as rocket fuel.
- Orellanine: A neurotoxin found in some hemlocks.
- Psilocybine: This is the poison found in so-called magic mushrooms that causes hallucinations.
Mushrooms from the supermarket do not usually contain these poisons, at least not in large quantities. However, many types of wild mushrooms do.
If rabbits consume these toxins, it will most likely result in mycotoxicosis or poisoning.
Mushrooms are not the only toxic foods for rabbits, however. Potatoes are also not healthy for rabbits and may even be toxic.
Wild Mushrooms That Are Toxic to Rabbits
The toxicity of mushrooms has not been extensively studied in rabbits. Therefore, we must rely on information from other animal studies.
There is scientific research on which fungi can cause disease or death in dogs. These species of fungi are also believed to be a hazard to other domestic animals, such as cats and rabbits.
The list of mushrooms toxic to rabbits is long. In addition, some studies suggest that purchased mushrooms cause cancer in rodents.
So, we can assume that these mushrooms can similarly affect rabbits.
In truth, we do not yet know exactly which mushrooms are deadly to rabbits. Therefore, it is essential to eliminate all mushrooms from the diet. This is the only way to ensure your rabbits are safe.
Do Rabbits Like Mushrooms?
Like all pets, rabbits prefer a species-appropriate diet, which means hay and grass, certain plants, green vegetables, fresh herbs, and water.
However, rabbits kept as pets may sometimes eat other foods. This is more likely when food is scarce or when their diet does not contain the nutrients they need.
As far as we know, rabbits and hares do not eat mushrooms in the wild. They may do so in an emergency when there are no other options.
How to Prevent Mushroom Poisoning in Rabbits
Mycotoxicosis is notoriously difficult to treat. Therefore, prevention is an absolute priority.
To prevent fungal poisoning in rabbits, consider the following points:
- Make sure your rabbit’s basic needs are met. Also, try to offer your rabbit a variety of fresh herbs and green vegetables. This will hopefully prevent your rabbit from eating poisonous foods that it shouldn’t.
- If wild mushrooms are in your yard, it may be better to confine your rabbits to a run rather than letting them roam free in the yard.
- If your rabbits are allowed outside, check the lawn regularly for mushrooms. Remember that these often appear after periods of rain. It may also help to mow the lawn briefly.
- Toxic fungi often grow under trees, so check these areas regularly and thoroughly.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling fungi. It is best not to use gardening gloves, as fungal spores are difficult to remove from gloves.
- Also, do not give your rabbit store-bought mushrooms. Although the toxin profile of these mushrooms is much lower, we don’t know exactly how these foods can affect rabbits.
How Common is Mushroom Poisoning in Rabbits?
Fortunately, cases of mushroom poisoning in rabbits are rare. Of all reported mushroom poisonings in pets, fewer than 1‰ involve rabbits.
Most cases of mushroom poisoning appear to involve dogs. This may be because dogs are less picky when grazing and will eat almost anything they find.
Fortunately, rabbits seem better at recognizing that mushrooms are unhealthy for them.
However, the tiny number of known cases may also be due to mushroom poisoning being challenging to diagnose in rabbits and being rarely investigated after death.
What Should You Do if a Rabbit Has Eaten Mushrooms?
If you discover that your rabbit has eaten a mushroom, you should treat it as a medical emergency. While certain mushrooms are far more toxic than others, it would be best if you always assumed the worst.
The sooner your veterinarian can diagnose and initiate treatment, the better.
If your rabbit has been poisoned, the first symptoms usually appear within a few minutes. However, it may take longer, depending on the fungus and the severity of the poisoning.
If the reaction lasts more than 8 hours, a more harmful toxin such as amatoxins, cyclopeptides, or orellanine has been ingested.
Therefore, if you suspect poisoning, do not simply wait and observe. Call your veterinarian and make an emergency appointment.
Your veterinarian might ask you to provide a sample of the fungus. It is best to transport this wrapped in a cloth rather than in a plastic bag or similar.
Do not try to induce vomiting in your rabbit. This is not safe because rabbits cannot vomit.
Symptoms of Mushroom Poisoning in Rabbits
Symptoms can appear quite quickly, within a few minutes, or last for several hours. Depending on the type of mushrooms and mycotoxins eaten, the following symptoms may occur:
- Restlessness and hyperactivity
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
- Head tilt
- Walking in circles
- Excessive thirst
- Teeth grinding
- Loss of appetite
If you have been feeding your rabbit store-bought mushrooms, there is less risk of poisoning, but there is still reason to be concerned.
You should call your veterinarian and ask for advice. You may be advised to take your rabbit to the doctor’s office.
However, it may be enough to monitor your rabbit closely at home for the next 24 hours.
Whether or not treatment is necessary, you should not let your rabbit eat any more mushrooms. Prevention is always best because treating fungal poisoning in rabbits is very difficult.