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Rabbits/Healthy Herbs for rabbits


Dear Dana,

I have had houserabbits for 20 years now and have so often benefited from your wisdom.  I grow some of my own organic herbs and buy others.  Recently I've become more aware of the controversy about oxalates but I'm confused.

My rabbits have all loved kale, Italian parsley and basil.  Along with dark leaf lettuces, these are my mainstays for greens with them.  Although I've never had a problem with bladder sludge, I've heard wildly conflicting claims about this potential problem and other "toxic" qualities.  How much of these do you consider reasonable?  Of course they are primarily on fresh timothy hay and water, with limited timothy-based pellets.  I give mine about 1/3 the amount recommended on the package. They get only an occasional teaspoon of apple or similiar fruits.  Should I be changing anything?  

Thank you for your many years of expertise and advocacy with rabbits.

Hi, Anita

We've fed kale, dandelions, Italian parsley, Basil, and other herbs that are supposedly high in calcium oxalates, done so for years, and have had no problems with stones or sludge.  According to the vets who are really experts in this area (e.g., Frances Harcourt-Browne) it's not diet that's the problem.  It's metabolic disease that results in bone loss, relatively low levels of calcium in the blood, and formation of stones and sludge in the urinary tract and/or kidneys.  Dr. Harcourt-Browne even goes so far as to say that reducing calcium (in the form of carbonates or oxalates) may do more harm than good, since the rabbits with metabolic bone disease are having trouble keeping calcium in their bones in the first place.

The only vegetable I've ever seen that actually does seem to increase the white urine residue is spinach, and we almost never feed that.  But we feed LOTS of kale and Italian parsley and have not seen any problems with sludge or stones.  I think it's an idiosyncratic thing, and some rabbits are just going to get stones and/or sludge no matter what you do.

Dr. Harcourt-Browne recommends sunlight (not direct, of course!) to promote adequate Vitamin D generation, which will promote healthy calcium metabolism.

One of our rabbit rescue nutritionists, Dr. Susan Smith, believes that dietary calcium in fresh foods is almost never a problem, because the concentrations are simply too low.

If you don't see problems with the quantities you're feeding now, then I think you get the picture, too.  It's not a problem.  A lot of people hyperventilate over things they've read online, but don't do the background research to be sure.  And in many cases, we simply don't know!  There are no controlled studies to indicate what's really going on.

So that's where we are with this, I think.  I hope this helps!



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:

Find a rabbit vet at for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.

RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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