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Rabbit Lover Left Devastated at Loss of Rabbits to Avocado Poisoning

Jun 2, 2009

Tiekie van Tonder  and  Jan Box

A woman from Chichester has been left devastated at the death of four of her pet rabbits to poisoning apparently caused by eating avocado pears.  Jan Box, who is an experienced rabbit keeper, is now warning other owners of the danger of avocados and has highlighted an apparent lack of advice on their potential danger to rabbits and other species.

Jan was offered several avocados as treats for her 18 rabbits on Saturday 23 May 2009.  They ate them willingly but, the next day, she made the heart-breaking discovery that three of the younger rabbits had died and another elderly female was experiencing breathing difficulties and subsequently had to be put to sleep.

Vet Eleanor van Tonder from Pet Doctors in Chichester, who treats Jan’s rabbits, commented:  “This is a particularly upsetting case as I know just how much devoted care Jan gives to her rabbits, many of which have been rescued or abandoned.  She’s a wonderful owner.”

“It’s probable that the rabbits were killed by a fungicidal toxin found in avocados called Persin.  It doesn’t affect humans but is very dangerous to birds and is also harmful to some other animals, including rabbits, mice, cows, goats, sheep and horses.   Unfortunately this fact isn’t well known and, even after doing some research, I found very little information for rabbit owners highlighting the dangers of Persin.

“Most of the rabbits survived with no ill effects while four died.   This may indicate that some can tolerate limited amounts of the poison while others are seriously affected by even a small amount.  We’re contacting rabbit welfare organisations to ask them to alert their members  and are warning all our own rabbit owning clients not to feed their pets with avocados.  We’re always happy to give dietary and nutrition advice here at Pet Doctors and encourage any owners with questions or concerns to contact us.”

Jan Box commented:  “This has been the most painful experience I’ve gone through in ten years of caring for rabbits.  At first I blamed myself entirely but I’m very well informed on all aspects of rabbit husbandry and have never come across any information which said that avocados were toxic.

“I’m now trying to turn this dreadful experience into a positive one by ensuring that other pet owners are aware of the dangers of Persin.  I also want to share my knowledge of rabbit keeping and show others what truly wonderful companions they can be.  If I can prevent further deaths and help some other rabbits live healthier and happier lives, then my four beloved bunnies won’t have died in vain.“

Picture shows:  (Left to right) Pet Doctors vet Eleanor van Tonder and Jan Box with some of her surviving rabbits.

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