Allergic to Your Rabbit? What to Do


I have suffered from severe seasonal allergies all my life, but no allergy test has ever shown that I have an allergy to rabbits, cats, dogs or any other pet. When I adopted my pet rabbit, Nimbus, I was surprised by how quickly I developed severe allergy symptoms. My eyes watered uncontrollably, my throat itched, and I sneezed dozens of times in a row. Between sneezes, I fumbled to find my medical records. I confirmed, based on skin-tests, that I wasn’t allergic to rabbits– so why was I reacting so strongly when I was in Nimbus’s presence?

As it turns out, my apparent allergy to my pet rabbit wasn’t what it seemed to be. The primary staple food in a pet rabbit’s diet is hay– most often timothy hay, a nutritious form of dried grass available at almost all pet stores. My skin-tests have all shown that I have a severe allergy to timothy grass, but it took me several days to realize that my pet rabbit’s food– not the rabbit himself– was causing my problem.

If you believe you are allergic to your pet rabbit, don’t take Fuzzy to the shelter just yet. It’s likely that you, too, suffer from an allergy to timothy hay or another form of grass. In my case, the dustiness and maturity of timothy hay made it significantly more allergenic than lawn-grass, but I had initially failed to realzie that it was the cause of my problem.

The ASPCA acknowledges the importance of hay in a rabbit’s diet, but it is possible to raise a healthy rabbit without involving this dusty, potently allergenic grass in his life. The key is to maintain diversity to prevent nutritional deficiencies.. Some healthy, non-allergenic foods for rabbits include:

Grass Clippings

Unlike hay, these are cut before the plant reaches maturity, so they are not as likely to cause you a problem.

Grape Leaves

These are nutritious and do not cause allergy problems for you or your rabbit.

Romaine Lettuce

Much more nutritious and iceberg lettuce, romaine can fill the gaps in your pet rabbit’s diet. Large amounts may upset your rabbit’s stomach.

Commercial Feed

These blends are not likely to cause you an allergic reaction. Although commercial feed is often made from timothy hay, it is usually compressed and processed, so it does not spread allergenic dust into the air. Note that commercial rabbit food may cause obesity if used in excess.

Squashes and Melons

Although these fruits are too sugary for your pet rabbit to eat on a daily basis, they are a healthy snack. My rabbit particularly enjoys the rind from watermelon and honeydew.

Carrots

Perhaps the most famous rabbit food, carrots are a great treat to give your rabbit once a week or less. Carrot root will not cause you to have an allergic reaction when you feed your pet rabbit. However, it is important to remember that carrots are very sweet and nutritionally imbalanced; you should not make carrots the staple of your pet’s diet.

Alfalfa Hay

Alfalfa is slightly less likely than timothy hay to cause allergy symptoms in humans. Because of this, it can be a great alternative to timothy hay for rabbits whose owners suffer from allergies. Due to its high protein content, it is best to limit your rabbit’s alfalfa intake to prevent obesity and other healt problems.

If your allergy symptoms continue after you stop feeding your rabbit timothy hay, you may actually be allergic to rabbit dander. If you can’t control your allergy symptoms, you may need to find a new home for your pet rabbit. Consult a licensed health care provider– preferably an allergy specialist– if you have any concerns regarding your allergy symptoms of overall health.

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