Spinach, scientifically referred to as Spinacia oleracea is an edible flowering vegetable or plant that belongs to the Amaranthaceae family. The common types of spinach include the savoy that has curly, crinkly dark green leaves, the semi-savoy, and the smooth-leaf variety.
Nutritionally, it has vitamin A (including beta-Carotene and lutein zeaxanthin), B-1, B-2, B-3, B6, B-9, C, E, K as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, potassium, sodium, zinc, carbs, dietary fibers, proteins, and small amounts of fats and sugars.
The above nutritional profile should assure you that spinach has a lot of health benefits including cancer and asthma prevention, good for your bone health since it has a lot of vitamin K, it will ensure healthy skin and hair, and it can help lower blood pressure and so on. However, is it safe for your rabbit’s or should it be avoided?
Can you give your bunnies spinach?
Yes. Rabbits can eat spinach (leaves and stalks) in moderation and occasionally. It is one of the leafy greens that rabbits eat. However, before you make it part of the routine leafy greens you give your furry friends, you need to know something about oxalates amounts in not only spinach but also in parsley, beet greens, mustard greens, radish sprouts, and swiss chard.
They all have high amounts of oxalates, a conjugate base of oxalic acid which is not toxic to your furry friend or even human beings. However, oxalates do have some effects when consumed in large quantities. Here are the impacts that the high amounts of oxalates may have on your rabbit:
- The oxalates may bind with the iron forming ferrous oxalate making the body unable to use it and they can also remove iron from the body.
- As in the case of iron, the oxalates may bind with calcium to form calcium stones which can potentially result in kidney stones.
- Your rabbit eating foods with high oxalic acid and fiber can reduce mineral absorption into their body.
- Finally, foods with high oxalates have been associated with autism and vulvodynia. However, this has little scientific evidence.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that 100 grams of spinach has about 970 milligrams of oxalates which are quite high. Baby spinach is said to have lower amounts of oxalic acid.
Despite all these risks of oxalic acid present in this vegetable, it still has a lot of nutrients, and it is unlikely to cause any of these problems if you feed it to your bunny occasionally.
How to feed your rabbit spinach
Your rabbit’s diet should be constituted of over 80% hay with Small Pet Select 2nd Cutting "Perfect Blend" Timothy Hay Pet Food, Standlee Premium Western Forage Timothy Grass or Kaytee Timothy Hay recommended.
Secondly, give your bunnies 10-15% fresh foods and the remainder should be high-quality pellets. The 10-15% of the fresh foods should be made up of over 75% leafy greens with the rest being non-leafy vegetables and fruits that should be given as occasional treats.
A bunny weighing about two pounds can be given about one packed cup of chopped leafy greens of which spinach is among these leafy greens. It is recommended you mix at least five different types of leafy greens.
When mixing these greens, always go for only one type that has high oxalic acid with the rest being those with low amounts such as arugula, carrot tops, cucumber leaves, turnip greens, basil, watercress, wheatgrass, Bok Choy, fennels, raspberry leaves, mint and so on.
When introducing any greens to your bunny, begin with small amounts and give them to only pre-weaned ones. Observe how their digestive system is going to respond to the new veggie.
Finally, give your furry friends only fresh spinach. Also, wash it thoroughly under running water to remove any residual chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides.
Spinach is safe for rabbits. It will not harm them. However, do not forget that the bunny’s digestive system requires foods that have high fiber content, making hay very important. Giving them plenty of foods with low fiber may cause intestinal motility and stomach upsets.
Finally, rabbits do not rely on cooked foods. Give them fresh spinach. Avoid canned ones as they do have preservatives and other additives. While freezing may help keep the texture, fresh ones are always the best choice.