Borage leaves are well known for their healing properties. But what many people don't know is that you can also use them as a diet. Borage leaves are low in calories and high in fibre, which makes them the perfect food to include in your diet but what if you have a pet rabbit? Can you feed it borage leaves? We will talk about this and find out the answers shortly.
- What are borage leaves?
- What are the benefits of borage leaves?
- Can rabbits eat Borage leaves?
- Is borage toxic for rabbits?
- What happens when my rabbit eats borage leaves?
- What should I do when my rabbit eats borage leaves?
- How do I feed my rabbits with borage leaves?
- What leaves are safe for rabbits?
What are borage leaves?
Borage leaves are the tender young leaves of the Borago officinalis, a plant belonging to the family Boraginaceae. The leaves are edible and can be used in salads, soups, stews or as part of a stir-fry. They have an intense cucumber or fresh grass flavour with notes of nutmeg or caraway hence rabbits find them tasty.
Borage leaves are also very low in calories and high in fibre which is why they make a great ingredient for weight-loss diets under medical supervision. However, these properties should not be used as an excuse to overfeed borage leaves to our rabbits as too much fibre can cause dietary issues such as diarrhoea or abdominal pain.
What are the benefits of borage leaves?
Borage leaves are rich in protein, vitamins A, B1, B2 and C, calcium, phosphorus, and iron while also being low in fat. As such, borage leaves can be used to help your rabbit maintain its ideal body weight, keep its fur in good condition, maintain a healthy heart and manage intestinal issues.
Nutritional value of borage leaves
Borage leaves are very low in fat and carbohydrate but high in dietary fibre, most notably soluble fibre. They're a source of vitamin C and E as well as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and a range of other B vitamins. They also contain small quantities of iron, calcium, and potassium.
Can rabbits eat Borage leaves?
For healthy adult rabbits, borage leaves can make a tasty addition to their diet. However, like all fresh foods, they should only be introduced gradually into the diet and never in excess as this could cause an upset stomach or diarrhoea.
As a result, you shouldn't give your rabbit more than 5g of borage leaves per kg of its ideal weight per day. For example, a rabbit that should weigh 2kg (4.4lb) shouldn't be given more than 10g of borage leaves per day (5 x 2).
Word of caution: It is always best to consult a qualified professional regarding your pets.
Is borage toxic for rabbits?
Borage leaves are safe for your rabbit to eat in the right quantity. However, borage officinalis is slightly toxic and can cause an upset stomach if ingested in excess. Rabbits that ingest large amounts of borage leaves may show signs of poisoning including weakness, anorexia, vomiting or diarrhoea (which you should seek veterinary attention for immediately).
What about toxicity?
Borage leaves are generally safe to be consumed by humans and pets alike, but excessive consumption can cause mild digestive problems such as diarrhoea. As such, you should ensure that your rabbit only eats 5g of borage leaves per kg of its ideal weight per day.
The actual level of toxicity in borage leaves is unknown at this point. However, there have been cases where excessive consumption of borage leaves has led to toxicity. As such, it's recommended that you don't feed your pet rabbit more than 5g of fresh borage leaves per kg of its ideal weight per day.
What happens when my rabbit eats borage leaves?
If you give your rabbit borage leaves in moderation, it shouldn't experience any side effects. However, too much fibre (over 5g/kg of ideal weight per day) may cause an upset stomach or diarrhoea which is why it's important to introduce borage leaves gradually into the diet.
What should I do when my rabbit eats borage leaves?
If your rabbit eats borage leaves in moderation, you don't need to do anything. However, if it eats an excessive amount of borage leaves then you should seek veterinary attention for a check-up immediately. If the issue is related to dietary issues such as diarrhoea or an upset stomach which can be easily resolved with dietary management.
How do I feed my rabbits with borage leaves?
Borage leaves can be fed to rabbits in a variety of ways. The most common ways are fresh, chopped or pureed with other vegetables in a mix, added as an ingredient in a salad, used as a base for a pesto sauce or blended into a smoothie.
How many times a day should I feed my rabbits with borage leaves?
As borage leaves are rich in fibre, it's best to introduce them gradually into the diet. For example, start by feeding your rabbit with a small number of borage leaves (1-2g of chopped or pureed leaves) once per day for four days then slowly increase the amount until you reach around 5g of fresh leaves or 5g of pureed leaves per kg of the ideal weight. This should be spread out over two feedings and introduced gradually into the diet (e.g., start by giving your rabbit ⅕th of 5g on day 1, then ⅖ths of 5g on day 2 and so forth).
When can you feed your rabbit borage leaves?
Rabbits love to snack on fresh grass and other green plants such as hay or alfalfa yet many of these plants contain high quantities of calcium which is bad for their digestion. Borage leaves are a great way to make up for this deficiency and if your rabbit has loose stool or diarrhoea, you can also feed it borage leaves as they are highly rich in fibre.
Do rabbits tend to overeat borage leaves?
Like most fresh foods, borage leaves are rich in fibre which can cause an upset stomach if they're introduced too quickly into the diet. As such, rabbits that eat excessive amounts of borage leaves may experience diarrhoea or other side effects related to dietary changes (e.g., gastrointestinal stasis).
If you introduce borage leaves slowly into the diet (e.g., start with 1-2g per kg of your rabbit's ideal weight per day and gradually increase this amount over a period), you don't need to worry about your pet overeating borage leaves.
What should I do if my rabbit has diarrhoea?
If your rabbit has diarrhoea, you should seek veterinary attention immediately. If it's related to an issue such as the consumption of borage leaves then it can be easily treated with dietary changes and may not require any drugs or other medications.
If your rabbit has diarrhoea, you should stop feeding it all fresh foods and reintroduce its diet gradually by replacing fresh foods with canned or commercial dry food.
What leaves are safe for rabbits?
Rabbits are strict herbivores with a very simple digestive system which makes it hard for their stomachs to digest some types of food. As such, they need to eat the same type of foods every day to avoid stomach upsets and other issues. Because of this, it's important that you don't introduce new types of leafy greens into your pet's diet without gradually introducing them over time.
Iceberg lettuce leaves
Iceberg lettuce is a safe and healthy treat for your rabbit to eat if it isn't drowning in dressing. However, you should never feed your rabbit the core of iceberg lettuces as this can lead to gastrointestinal blockages due to its high-water content.
Red leaf lettuce
While slightly higher in fibre than iceberg lettuce, red leaf lettuce is a healthy addition to your rabbit's diet. You can offer it as a treat or as part of its daily veggies and hay servings.
Dandelions are an excellent source of calcium which is great for your rabbit's dental health as well as other minerals. Dandelions are also low in fibre which can help with your rabbit's digestion. Just make sure they haven't been treated with any pesticides or chemicals before you offer them to your bunny, and you'll be fine.
Parsley is a healthy addition to your rabbit's diet as it contains high levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, and calcium. However, it does contain a high level of Vitamin K which can produce issues if consumed at high levels for prolonged periods.
Based on the information available, it seems that borage leaves are safe for rabbits to eat as long they do not overeat them. It is important though provide these in moderation and along with their daily food intake because this can cause illness or excessive weight gain if consumed too much of a good thing!
Note: This article is not medical advice - always consult with your veterinarian doctor for official advice.
Borage leaves are low in fat and carbohydrate but high in dietary fibre. As such, they're very nutritious and may be beneficial to your rabbit's health. However, like all fresh foods, they should only be fed to your rabbit in moderation (up to 5g of borage leaves per kg of its ideal weight per day).
Your rabbit-savvy vet is the best person to talk to regarding dietary issues such as introducing borage leaves. You can also check out our article on feeding borage leaves to rabbits for more information.
Borage leaves are readily available at most grocery stores and organic food shops. You can also get them online or from pet shops.