Your rabbit has been having a little too much fun in their enclosure, and now they’re dirty. Whether it’s dust, dirt, or even feces that’s caked onto their fur, the first thing you should do is plunk your bunny in your sink or tub for a bath, right?
Actually, you should never bathe a pet rabbit. These are self-grooming animals that can take care of keeping themselves clean. Spot-cleaning is okay, but dunking a rabbit in water can cause shock, which can be deadly.
Are you surprised by this? Just how can you keep your rabbit clean? Read on, as we’ll discuss all elements of rabbit hygiene in this article.
Why You Shouldn’t Bathe a Rabbit in Water?
While there’s no risk of them drowning if you put them in the tub, rabbits should not be bathed. Putting them in very deep water can cause them to experience shock. When this happens, your rabbit may display glazed-over eyes, cold ears, bodily stillness, white gums, a slowing pulse, a quick heartrate, and very fast, frantic breathing.
As you can probably tell from those symptoms, shock can potentially be fatal in rabbits. They need immediate vet attention to save their lives. Until a vet can see them, you should get a warm blanket and wrap it around them. Rub their ears gently. Rabbits can come out of shock, but why even take the risk?
Another reason your rabbit doesn’t need to be bathed is because they’re adept at cleaning themselves. They will groom themselves and even clean their own ears to an extent.
Sometimes, though, even they can’t look after themselves if the mess is big enough. We’re talking about caked-on dirt or feces on their fur. In that case, it’s okay to use a small amount of water to clean the rabbit, but it should be no more than an inch deep. It’s best to spot-clean the specific area rather than get your whole rabbit wet. Again, shock is a possibility here, so tread carefully.
When you’re done cleaning the dirty spot, make sure you dry your rabbit thoroughly. A hairdryer on a low or medium setting will quickly dry them off, but make sure you don’t burn them accidentally. Your rabbit might attempt to lick the area to dry it themselves, even if you used a hairdryer.
How to Keep Your Rabbit Clean
While rabbits are pretty tidy, you can help them stay even cleaner by stepping in now and then and getting the areas they can’t reach. Here’s how.
You rabbit’s coat is thick and luxurious. Like you might a cat or a dog, it’s important to keep that coat looking its best. That means brushing the rabbit every so often, about weekly. Only soft brushes are recommended for this job since they won’t stress out your rabbit.
Collect all the extra hair that comes out as you brush your bunny. Do keep in mind that your rabbit will molt, which means even more fur loss is going to occur. This may happen a few times during the year, so have that brush handy during molting periods. You will need to brush your rabbit close to every day. When your rabbit isn’t molting, though, there’s no need for such frequent brushings.
Another area of fur maintenance you have to concern yourself with is fleas. Yes, your bunny can get fleas. If you let your rabbit outside, this is the main way fleas will hop on their fur. Having other pets in the house like a dog that has fleas can also pass them on to your bunny.
Regardless of how your rabbit caught their fleas, now they have them. Watch out for incessant itching, especially in one area. This is a main symptom of a flea infestation. Unfortunately, unless you have a lighter-colored rabbit, visually finding fleas is often out of the question. That’s because these brownish insects blend in very well with most rabbit fur.
If your rabbit has fleas, then we recommend you take them to the vet rather than try to treat the issue yourself. While sure, theoretically, you could comb out all the fleas, you never know if the fleas have laid eggs within your rabbit’s fur. That starts the process all over again.
For your rabbit’s health and sanity, a vet-prescribed treatment is the best course of action for removing fleas for good. You can also limit or prohibit your rabbit from going outside.
Rabbits cannot take care of their eyes, so they’ll depend on you to keep their peepers clean. You might notice sleep crust, sort of like what we get when we wake up from a deep slumber. You can use a soft cloth to get rid of this from the corners of their eyes.
On the note of sleep, you may wonder if your bunny is taking any trips to dreamland at all. After all, their eyes always seem open. This is normal. Their third eyelid allows them to sleep without closing their eyes. It also limits their need to blink.
What is abnormal is if your rabbit is shedding constant tears and/or has a lot of pus and other leakage coming from their eyes. This isn’t sleep gunk and it should be addressed by a vet immediately.
On a four-week basis (sometimes six weeks), you’ll either have to take your rabbit to get their nails professionally cut or do it yourself. You cannot let them go any longer than six weeks between trimmings. Rabbit claws continuously grow and will do so infinitely if you let them. However, this can be extremely uncomfortable and painful for the rabbit.
If your rabbit goes outside, the concrete and dirt surfaces can keep their nails at a reasonable length. Those pets that are exclusively indoor animals don’t have such a luxury. They need nail trimming most.
Cutting your own rabbit’s nails isn’t too difficult once you get used to it. Standard nail clippers are suitable for the job. Just be sure not to cut the pink area of their nails, as this is where the blood vessels are. Bleeding will occur if you trim too close.
The anus is the home of your rabbit’s scent glands. Yes, that’s kind of gross, but you can’t help anatomy. Since your rabbit can’t get to their own scent glands, you will have to clean ‘em for them. It’s possible for the glands to become backed up.
To start cleaning the scent glands, grab a cotton swab. Turn on your bathroom sink and set the water to warm. Wet the cotton swab and then rub it on the scent glands. You should see discharge. Removing it should get rid of any up any gland backups. It’s recommended the rabbit is upside down when you do this, so it’s probably a two-person job.
If this seems like too much to do, don’t stress. Your vet can take care of scent gland cleaning if you ask.
Finally, you have to care for your rabbit’s ears. Yes, your rabbit will try to clean their own ears, but they can’t get inside them for a clear look. Every week, you want to inspect the insides of both ears. You’re looking for accumulations of wax. Some wax is normal, but not a whole lot. There also shouldn’t be any discharge, pus, or the like coming out of your rabbit’s ears.
Ear mites are the primary reason rabbits end up with cankers and wax. These small creatures will live in the ear, specifically the external ear canal. Your rabbit may be asymptomatic at the beginning of the infestation. With time, though, the ear mites will breed and move to the pinna from the ear canal.
At that point, your rabbit may develop a skin bacterial infection from the ear mites. Other symptoms include losing weight, ear flap hair thinning, ear drooping, obsessively scratching the area, and ear crusting and inflammation. Your bunny might chew their ears or shake their head to get some relief.
Your veterinarian can treat a case of ear mites, so don’t hesitate to take your bunny in if you notice they’re in extreme discomfort. The sooner you get your rabbit treatment, the better. This way, the ear mites can’t get deeper into the ear.
We do want to say that your extent of ear care for your bunny should just be visual inspections. To avoid hurting their inner ear, never put a cotton swab or your fingers inside the ears.
Rabbits clean themselves quite well, except for big messes that are caked onto their fur. If you’re dealing with such a mess, it’s recommended you spot-clean the area with water rather than dunk your rabbit in the tub. Bathing them like this could cause them to go into shock. This can be fatal.
Besides cleaning your rabbit, you will also have to care for their coat, eyes, nails, and ears. If you notice any signs of distress in your pet, it’s best to schedule a vet appointment.