This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.
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Rabbits are fastidious groomers and don't often need assistance in getting clean. In fact, submerging your rabbit in water is dangerous, since it can easily lead to hypothermia or shock. Instead of giving your rabbit a traditional bath, learn to spot clean your rabbit's fur, clean its scent glands, and take care of fleas, all without dipping your rabbit into water.
Method 1 of 3:Grooming Your Rabbit
1Brush the rabbit to remove bits of dirt. Many rabbits loved to be brushed, and it's a great way to help them keep their fur clean. Buy a brush made specifically for rabbit fur (often finer-toothed than brushes intended for dogs). Every few days, gently hold your rabbit while brushing its fur. Focus on areas that have bits of bedding or dirt. When you're finished, wash the brush and dry it.
- Be sure to handle the rabbit very gently. Not all rabbits enjoy the experience of being brushed. If yours seems startled or upset by brushing, stop the process and try again later.
- Long-haired rabbits require a little extra fur care. Keep your rabbit's fur trimmed to an inch or so so that it won't become tangled. This will help cut back on shedding and keep the fur clean.
2Spot clean the rabbit when necessary. If your rabbit hops into a mud puddle, you might want to help it get clean by doing a little spot cleaning. Luckily you can spot clean your rabbit without using water. This is highly advisable, since many rabbits go into shock when they get wet. Sprinkle some cornstarch over the dirty spot and use a fur comb to work out the dirt. Keep going until the fur is clean.
- Even if your rabbit is completely covered in mud, it's better to use this dry cleaning method than to dip your rabbit in water. Working section by section, carefully break up the mud clumps, comb out the fur, and use cornstarch to work out the smaller bits of dirt.
- If absolutely necessary, use water to clean small areas of fur. Dampen a washcloth with warm water and use it to moisten the fur; try not to let the water reach the rabbit's skin. When the patch of fur is clean, use a hair dryer on the coolest setting to gently blow the fur dry. Normal rabbit body temperature ranges from 101F – 103F. Because rabbit skin is very delicate, and rabbits are sensitive to heat, never use a blow dryer on a setting higher than "warm," and constantly monitor the temperature of the air on the bunny’s skin by placing your hand in its path.
3Use a mat splitter for clumped fur. If your rabbit has mats in its fur, the best tool for the job is a mat splitter. This breaks up the mat gently without harming the rabbit. Avoid using a scissors; rabbits are jumpy, and it would be easily to accidentally cut your rabbit while you work. X Research source
4Trim your rabbit's nails. This grooming task is necessary for rabbits that spend most of their time indoors. When rabbits don't have the chance to wear down their nails by digging around outside, the nails can grow long and sharp. Use a rabbit nail trimmer to take care of your rabbit's nails, or ask your veterinarian to do it for you at your next appointment.
- Do not have your rabbit declawed. Rabbits are highly prone to infection, and declawing leaves their paws open to bacteria. X Research source
- Make sure the rabbit's living space is always kept clean and dry to promote good foot health.
5Do not submerge the rabbit in water. It bears repeating that dousing a rabbit with water can cause it to get hypothermia or go into shock, both of which can be fatal. Some unique rabbits don't mind getting wet; a few rabbit owners have even been surprised that their beloved bunnies like to swim. However, if your rabbit has not exhibited an affinity for water, it's best not to risk getting it wet. Rabbits are very sensitive and even one water bath can cause permanent damage. X Research source
Method 2 of 3:Cleaning the Scent Glands
1Cleanse around the anus with a cotton ball dipped in water. Rabbits have scent glands around their anus, and the excretion can build up and begin to smell after awhile. To clean this area, simply dip a cotton ball or cotton swab into warm water. Swab the area to remove all traces of excretion. If you repeat this often enough, no further cleansing should be necessary. X Research source
- Your rabbit may grow nervous and jumpy while you clean this area. Have a partner help you by holding and stroking the rabbit while you cleanse the scent gland area.
- Rabbits also have scent glands under their chins, but these do not produce a bad smell and do not need to be cleaned.
2Purchase a rabbit-safe shampoo at a pet store. These are safe for rabbits and is much safer than using regular soap.
3Use soap only if absolutely necessary. If the excretion has been left to build up for a long time, you may need more than water to clean it. Fill a small bowl with warm water and add a few drops of gentle baby shampoo or castile soap. Dip a cotton ball in the solution and gently cleanse around the rabbit's anus, taking care to wet only the area that needs to be cleaned. Repeat until the area no longer has traces of excretion. X Research source
- Make sure you don't leave any traces of soap on the rabbit. This can cause skin irritation.
- Do not use cold water; make sure it is sufficiently warm. Otherwise the rabbit may get cold and go into shock.
4Blow dry the fur on the lowest setting. It's not a good idea to let the rabbit's body air dry, since the longer the rabbit is wet, the higher the risk of a problem developing. Use a hair dryer on a warm, low setting (not the cool or hot setting) and make a few passes over the wet part of the rabbit's behind. Continue until the fur there is completely dry.
- Realize that your rabbit may get scared very easily of the sound of a blow dryer. If this is the case, make sure you have a super absorbent towel on hand that is soft. Rub your rabbit until s/he is dry.
5Use this method for cleansing dried urine (urine scald) as well. Some rabbits experience incontinence, the inability to hold their urine properly. Older rabbits or rabbits with an underlying medical problem commonly experience this issue. Dried urine can build up on the fur, causing a bad smell and leaving the rabbit uncomfortable. If this happens to your rabbit,
- Clean the area using a cotton ball dipped into water.
- Dry the area thoroughly with a hair dryer on a warm, low setting.
- Again, your rabbit may get frightened. Use a super soft towel or blanket instead if necessary.
- Take your rabbit to the vet to seek treatment for the underlying problem causing incontinence.
6Keep fur trimmed short so the rabbit won't get damp. Long hair around the anus and underside of the rabbit can trap moisture close to the rabbit's body. Keeping the fur in these areas shaved or trimmed short helps the skin underneath dry faster and keeps the area clean. Ask your vet how to best maintain the fur on your particular breed of rabbit. X Research source
Method 3 of 3:Dealing With Fleas
1Choose a flea solution formulated for rabbits. If you notice that your rabbit has fleas, talk to your vet about using a flea solution made for rabbits. Advantage, Program and Revolution are all designed specifically to get rid of fleas on rabbits without damaging their delicate skin or otherwise impacting their system. X Research source
- Do not use a solution made for cats or dogs, even if it says it is also safe for use on rabbits. It's better to use one of the formulas made just for rabbits.
- Never submerge your rabbit in a flea dip of any kind, even if the packaging suggests it's safe to do so.
2Apply the suggested dosage between the rabbit's shoulder blades. Follow the instructions from your vet or on the packaging to apply a small amount of the liquid solution to the area between your rabbit's shoulder blades. This is the safest spot to apply it since the rabbit can't reach back and scratch or lick it away.
- Most flea solutions require multiple applications over the course of a month.
- If you're not sure how much to apply, talk to your vet before taking action.
3Use a flea comb to remove fleas and nits. If you prefer a natural solution, an old-fashioned flea comb does the job. In order to use this method, it's important to have a good relationship with your rabbit, since combing out fleas and nits can be quite time consuming. Have a partner hold your rabbit while you meticulously comb through its fur to pick out fleas and nits. Be sure to cover the rabbit's entire body.
- Check the rabbit again after a few days. In most cases you'll need to repeat the process two or three times to account for new nits hatching. After a few weeks, the fleas and their nits should be gone.
- In between cleanings, sanitize the flea comb by boiling it in water for five minutes.
4Clean the rabbit's living area thoroughly. If you found fleas on your rabbit, they have probably infested its living space (and yours) as well. Sanitize the rabbit's cage and change the bedding several times during the treatment period. Boil the rabbit's dishes and toys for five minutes to get rid of all traces of fleas, and wash blankets in very hot water. If fleas have infested your carpeting, do the following:
- Cover the carpet with a layer of diatomaceous earth or baking soda. Let it sit there for eight hours or overnight. This dries out the fleas' eggs.
- Vacuum the powder and dispose of the vacuum bag.
- Repeat the process every few days until all traces of fleas are gone.
- When your rabbit is safely in its cage, you can also catch live fleas by plugging in nightlights close to the floor. Place a bowl of soapy water under each light, and the fleas will jump in. Remove the bowls before letting your rabbit out to play.
5Do not use flea bombs or other external chemicals. Rabbits are quite sensitive to chemicals, and the heavy pesticides used in flea bombs are no exception. Avoid using any type of chemical solution around your rabbit. If you feel using a flea bomb or spray is the only way to get rid of the fleas, keep your rabbit in a safe location during the application process. Clean the room thoroughly with water and white vinegar to get rid of traces of the pesticides before reintroducing your rabbit to the area. X Research source
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QuestionI recently bought a dry pet shampoo, but the packaging doesn't state whether it's safe for rabbits or not. The label says "Not for internal consumption", and my rabbit does lick himself a lot.Pippa Elliott, MRCVSDr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.
VeterinarianVeterinarianExpert AnswerDo not use on a rabbit unless it clearly states on the packaging that it is safe to do so. As you have noticed, rabbits like to groom and any dry shampoo residue left on his coat could be ingested. In addition, rabbits are a lot more sensitive to chemicals that other species, and even a product labelled as safe for a dog or cat, may not be safe for a rabbit.
QuestionDo we need to shower a rabbit?Pippa Elliott, MRCVSDr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.
VeterinarianVeterinarianExpert AnswerNo. By nature rabbits are very clean creatures as keeping their odor down is an important way of hiding from predators. It should not be necessary to bath or shower a rabbit unless they are heavily soiled, and usually this is around the rear end which makes spot bathing their bottom the ideal solution. The noise and spray from a shower is liable to scare a rabbit, so if washing is essential, bathing is preferred.
If for some reason your rabbit is wet down to the skin, it is important to get them dry as quickly as you can to avoid hypothermia. You may use a blow dryer, but it must be kept on the lowest setting and moved back and forth so as not to concentrate the heat in any one area for too long. Check the heat being applied by putting your hand in the path of the airflow. Rabbits are also extremely sensitive to heat, so high heat for any prolonged period of time can cause heat stroke and death.
Speak to your rabbit in a calm, happy voice while you are cleaning them.
Only bathe your rabbit when it is absolutely necessary. Rabbits, much like cats, lick themselves, swallowing the loose hair, thus letting us groom them less often.
- Being handled is extremely stressful for most rabbits as they are prey animals. Try to get the grooming done as quickly as possible so they can get back to having all fours on the ground and feeling in control again.
- Be prepared for your rabbit to be scared of a blow dryer, even on the lowest settings.
- ↑ http://rabbit.org/faq-grooming/
- ↑ http://rabbit.org/faq-grooming/
- ↑ http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/pdfs/BathingBunnies-RO.pdf
- ↑ http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/buttbath.html
- ↑ http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/buttbath.html
- ↑ http://www.fuzzy-rabbit.com/hfaq.htm
- ↑ http://rabbit.org/faq-grooming/
- ↑ http://www.petmd.com/rabbit/conditions/parasitic/c_rb_flea_infestation?page=2
About This Article
Rabbits are good groomers and generally don’t need to be bathed. However, there are things you can do to help your rabbit stay clean and tidy in case it gets dirty. If you see loose dirt in your rabbit’s coat, gently comb it out with a brush designed for rabbit fur. You can also use a matt splitter comb to brush out clumped or tangled fur. For mud or stubborn dirt, sprinkle a little cornstarch on the soiled area and then brush the fur to work out the dirt. If you absolutely must use water to remove dirt from your rabbit’s fur, dampen a washcloth and gently wipe the dirty spot with it, taking care not to let the water get down to your rabbit’s skin. You can also use a cotton ball dipped in warm water and a few drops of gentle, rabbit-safe shampoo to clean away any buildup from the scent glands around your rabbit’s anus. Once the fur is clean, dry it with a blow dryer set to the coolest, gentlest setting. Never submerge your rabbit in water, since it could go into shock or get hypothermia if it gets wet. For tips on how to deal with flees and what shampoo to buy for your rabbit, read on!