Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

Poisoning with Heavy Metal in Rabbits

Lead Toxicity in Rabbits


Exposure to high concentrations of lead and its compounds can lead to a toxic condition called heavy metal poisoning. Almost all of the rabit's body systems can be affected as a result of this type of poisoning, including the destruction of enzymes resposible for creating red blood cells, which can be fatal. In vast quantities, lead can also damage a rabbit's nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.


Because rabbits have a tendency to lick and chew lead-containing household substances -- especially painted surfaces and occasionally metallic objects -- they are often susceptible to lead toxicity.


Symptoms and Types


Nonspecific signs such as weight loss, anorexia, depression, and lethargy are commonly associated with lead toxicity. Other signs include:

  • Decreased appetite or complete loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Gastrointestinal hypomotility or stasis (slowing or inactivity of the intestinal contents)
  • Blindness
  • Weakness, lethargy, ataxia (loss of muscle coordination)
  • Seizures
  • Anemia and low blood cell count
  • Diarrhea (rare)




There are numerous household materials that may expose your rabbit to toxic levels of lead, including:


  • Linoleum
  • Cages lined with solder or lead paint
  • Lead-based house paint residues or paint chips
  • Plumbing materials and supplies
  • Lubricating compounds
  • Putty
  • Tar paper
  • Lead foil
  • Improperly glazed ceramic dishes (food or water bowl)




Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your rabbit, including a complete blood profile, chemical blood profile, complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Rabbits suffering from lead toxicity will generally show abnormally high concentrations of lead in the bloodstream. Additional diagnostic testing may include X-ray imaging, which may detect lead containing contents in the stomach or intestines.