Pet Corner: Herbal Remedies for Rabbit Illnesses

Pet rabbits respond well to natural remedies for their illnesses-- just add medicinal herbs to their food!

| May/June 2001

I’ve found that bunnies are nearly ideal patients for herbal medicines. I have several rabbit patients, and many have responded well to herbal prescriptions for a variety of problems. Rabbits are, after all, plant nibblers, and they seem to love herbal additions sprinkled atop their usual diet. Not only is it extremely easy to get rabbits to take their daily dose of herbs, they often seem to respond more rapidly than other animals. Try giving your rabbit about 1 teaspoon of herbs on top of its food daily, or as needed.

When most people think of pets, they usually have dogs or cats in mind, but many folks are convinced that bunnies are the best pets available. Rabbits’ popularity as pets is increasing, and some surveys suggest that their numbers in households actually exceed the total number of pet dogs in this country. Bunnies can be sociable, personable, and lovable pets. If you’re not already familiar with pet rabbits or have never had one in your household, there are some caveats to rabbit ownership you should know. See “Things to consider before adopting a rabbit,” below.

Herbs to enhance immunity

I’m firmly convinced that many of the chronic diseases in rabbits (and other animals, too) are brought on by an imbalance somewhere within the immune system. In addition, I think an imbalance in the immune system sets up the rabbit’s internal physiology to allow some (if not all) of the bacterial and parasitic diseases to get a foothold within the animal’s body. Particular rabbit-related problems include Pasteurella multocida infections (one of the most common of the invaders of a rabbit’s respiratory tract, eyes, and other organs) and Encephalitozoon cuniculi (a protozoan infection that may cause mild symptoms and possibly severe symptoms, including head tilt or paralysis, if the organism invades the spinal chord).

Interestingly, it’s been my experience that neither of these two conditions responds well to Western medicines. There is really no Western medicine to effectively treat E. cuniculi, and the Pasteurella organism tends to form walled-off pockets of infection that are difficult to reach with traditional antibiotics. However, many of my patients have responded favorably to a combination of immune-enhancing herbs, herbs that have antibiotic or antiparasitic qualities, chiropractic adjustments (for the head-tilt bunnies), and perhaps an additional series of acupuncture treatments.

With this in mind, I recommend herbs that balance the immune system for all rabbits. I rely on the immune-balancing herb echinacea (Echinacea spp.). E. purpurea is an herb nearly everyone can grow in the backyard, and bulk echinacea is readily available in health-food stores. I use both the aerial parts and the chopped roots mixed together and added atop a bunny’s feed. Because echinacea acts as an immune- system balancer and not simply as an immune-system stimulant, it can be added to a bunny’s food on a daily basis. However, I usually recommend an on-off routine. For example, add echinacea five days a week and none on weekends, throughout the lifetime of the bunny.

Gastrointestinal herbs

A rabbit’s digestive system functions best with a high-fiber diet, and in the wild, most of a rabbit’s nibbling gives him plenty of coarse fiber. In contrast, some of the household rabbit diets are “too kind”—they provide good protein and well-ground grains but not enough fibrous material. So many of my rabbit patients have suffered at one time or another from belly problems.

9/17/2018 2:02:03 PM

Can rabbits tolerate rice bran or bioperine? I'd like to try giving curcumin to my rabbit who has E cuniculi, but most of the curcumin supplements contain these ingredients. Thanks, Susan

1/5/2018 6:22:08 PM

I have been looking for a natural antibiotic for my bunny! Not sure how to give the echinacea or Dandelion Root or any you talked about for them. Thanks Suzanne

1/5/2018 6:22:06 PM

I have a mini Lop bunny I'm trying to find natural antibiotics for. How do you give the Echinacea & Dandelion Root to them. Does it have to be a plant or just the root? Thanks Suzanne Tom

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