How To Give A Rabbit A Bath – A Rabbit Bathing Guide

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How To Give A Rabbit A Bath - A Guide To Bunny Bathing

Do you ever wonder do rabbits need baths? Can rabbits swim in a bath? Don’t put bunny in the bathwater yet! Check out our guide to the best rabbit bath tips and techniques. How To Give A Rabbit A Bath.

Our hoppy, floppy eared friends have endeared themselves to us as household pets for years.

These lovable lagomorphs are fastidious self-groomers, but there are times when your bunny is not able to maintain cleanliness necessary for good health.

In this article, we’ll discover when bathing a bunny is appropriate and how to bathe a bunny.

We’ll also review the risks associated with bathing bunny, and the consequences of improper grooming.

Can You Bathe A Rabbit?

Rabbits can be bathed and doing so is sometimes vital to their well-being. However, the overwhelming opinion is that rabbits do not require overall body bathing.

How To Give A Rabbit A Bath - A Guide To Bunny Bathing

Neither the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) nor the British Rabbit Council (BRC) indicate bathing as part of standard rabbit care.

The House Rabbit Society goes a step further and specifically warns against giving full body baths to rabbits, noting that the trauma of being submerged in water may lead to shock.

We will explore other risks a little later.

Instead of full baths, rabbits have a specific bathing requirement. The Butt Bath.

While this is a funny name, it makes the point that this is the area of your bunny you should expect to bathe.

Do Rabbits Need Baths?

There are times when you will need to give your bunny a butt bath. While it might be only on rare occasions, it is important to know how to give a rabbit a bath.

Particularly if your bunny is overweight, arthritic or has suffered an injury which limits his mobility. He may not be able to reach the perineal area (the area including the anus and reproductive organs) for proper cleaning.

In those cases, it is especially important to monitor bunny’s cleanliness.

How Often Should You Bathe A Rabbit

There is no regular routine for bathing a rabbit.

You should always have supplies handy, and just plan to bathe on an as-needed basis.

We’ll detail three butt bath techniques a little later.

But first, since we’re talking about a butt bath, we’re going to have to look at the messy end of your rabbit.

Let’s look at some circumstances when bathing rabbits is necessary.

Urine Scalding Requires Giving Rabbits A Bath

Rabbits generally urinate daily or several times a day. Their urine may be red or orange or dark in color and may contain sediments.

Rabbit urine is highly concentrated and caustic and must be allowed to soak into a litter box or bedding deep enough to create a barrier between your bunny and his waste.

When urine is allowed to saturate their fur, rabbits develop a condition called urine scalding or wet tail.

Signs of urine scalding are red, irritated skin and loss of hair surrounding the vent and running up the length of the belly.

Some dribble of urine is normal and a little dribbling should not result in urine scalding.

If you do notice dribbles of urine in your rabbit’s fur, a butt bath is a safe way to clean him before urine scalding is allowed to manifest.

Note: If your rabbit is showing signs of urinary incontinence (more than a dribble), or if urine color or consistency changes, you should contact your veterinarian.

Mess From Droppings Requires Giving A Rabbit A Bath

Rabbits produce two kinds of droppings; either hard, round fecal pellets or soft, mucus-covered bunches of dark pellets known as cecotropes.

Fecal pellets are primarily made of indigestible fiber. This is what you commonly see as waste in bunny’s bedding or litter box.

If droppings are left throughout the cage, clean the bedding frequently and try to discourage bunny from sitting in the waste.

Cecotropes, sometimes called night droppings because rabbit’s generally produce them in the evening, are rich in nutrients and are reingested by your rabbit so he can reabsorb those nutrients. Because cecotropes are reingested, you may never even see them in your rabbit’s bedding.

However, both types of droppings can get caught in even the cleanest rabbit’s fur. Droppings found in bunny’s fur should be bathed away as quickly as possible.

Note: If your rabbit has diarrhea, it is urgent that you contact your veterinarian.

Other Concerns

Left uncleaned, fecal covered and urine soaked fur can lead to a horrifying condition known as myiasis or fly strike.

Flies, such as blow flies and grey flesh flies, are attracted by the odor of waste. They find the moisture and warmth of your rabbit’s perineal area as a perfect breeding ground.

If you see flies around your rabbit’s enclosure, clean it immediately. Check your rabbit thoroughly for larva and consult your rabbit veterinarian.

If bunny is made to sit in soiled bedding or cannot properly position himself to a comfortable urinating or defecating position, he is at greater risk of urine scalding and fly strike. Also, his caging is inadequate and you should address his space needs immediately.

Do Rabbits Like Baths?

Rabbits like to bathe themselves and spend a lot of time doing so. This means you only need to worry about occasional accidents which should require no more than a butt bath.

How To Give A Rabbit A Bath - A Guide To Bunny Bathing

The strongest recommendation is not to bathe rabbits other than a butt bath.

Being submerged in a bath can startle and frighten a rabbit, causing him to kick and scratch and even bite.

That lashing out can lead to serious injuries, including broken bones and torn skin.

Skin can also be compromised by not being thoroughly dried after a bath.

Rabbit’s skin is extremely delicate and subject to tearing if left wet.

Even a little scratch or tear can grow into an unmanageable wound very easily.

And torn, moist skin provides a favorable environment for fly strike.

Can Rabbits Swim In A Bath?

You can find accounts and videos of rabbits swimming in baths and pools and oceans but it is not recommended to let your rabbit swim.

Swimming in a bath tub exposes rabbits to residual cleaning chemicals. Rabbits who swim in pools are subjected to harsh chemicals, all of which can irritate their sensitive skin.

Swimming in natural water (lakes, oceans) is also dangerous for rabbits as it exposes them to any number of bacteria and parasites.

And swimming in any body of water puts pet rabbits at risk of drowning if they are not constantly monitored and cannot easily get out of the water.

Swimming also increases the chances that water will get in rabbit’s ears which is not favorable.

Rabbit Shampoo

Rabbits can often be cleaned with just water.

Rabbit safe shampoos are grouped in a general “small critter” category with gerbils and ferrets, for instance.

Note, however, these shampoos indicate all over body use, which we’ve established is not ideal for rabbits.

Kaytee Squeaky Clean Critter Shampoo is a Ph balanced, mild shampoo safe for rabbits. Kaytee also makes the Quick & Clean Small Animal Shampoo Spray. While this is indicated as safe for rabbits, it is a leave-in formula which is not ideal.

Kenic Clean Free Pet Shampoo is indicated to be safe for rabbits. It is a hypoallergenic shampoo that is detergent, dye and fragrance free.

Use shampoo per the manufacturer’s instructions for messy butt baths. If shampoo is prescribed, use per your veterinarian’s instructions.

Never use dog, cat or human shampoo on your rabbit.

How To Give A Rabbit A Bath

We’ll cover three options for how to give a bunny a bath. Each of these will be easier with two people and a calm rabbit. If your rabbit is nervous or jumpy, soothe him and allow him to get comfortable before attempting or continuing the bath.

Always hold bunny gently but firmly to increase his sense of security. Give bunny lots of encouragement throughout bathing and special treats after the bunny bath.

Since the relief of having a clean butt generally outweighs any temporary discomfort, most bunnies will quickly adapt to having a butt bath.

Rabbit Dry Bath

Use this method if the mess on bunny’s bottom is dry.

Dry Bath Supplies

Dry Bath – Step By Step

Position bunny on the rubber mat belly-side-up while supporting his back and neck.

Sprinkle cornstarch powder generously on the soiled areas.

Gently massage the powder around the soiled areas, down to the skin.

As you massage your rabbit, clumps of dried waste should easily fall free of the fur.

If your fingers cannot loosen all the soiled areas, use the flea comb to very gently break apart any extra clumpy areas. Never pull on the fur to loosen clumps and never cut out matted fur. Either could result hurting your bunny and damaging his sensitive skin.

Once all the soiled areas are clean, continue to pat the areas where you applied cornstarch until you see no traces of powder.

Throughout the bath, vacuum floating particles of cornstarch to avoid bunny (or you) inhaling the powder.

Tip: Let bunny hear the sound of the vacuum before you start so it doesn’t startle him.

Rabbit Wet Bath – Rinsing Method

This is a good method for wet messes. It requires two people – one to hold bunny, one to wash.

Before we begin you might like to check out this handy YouTube video which shows a similar technique:

Rinsing Method Supplies

  • Sink with spray nozzle or movable faucet head
  • Rabbit Shampoo (if needed/prescribed)
  • Absorbent towels or paper towels
  • Hair dryer

Rinsing Method – Step By Step

With one hand supporting the chest and one hand supporting the butt, hold bunny’s back against your chest with butt pointing toward the sink.

Maintain this hold over the sink and let the other person do the washing and rinsing.

With the spray nozzle or faucet, thoroughly wet the soiled area.

If needed, apply shampoo, massage, lather and rinse soiled area until bunny’s butt is clean and water runs clear.

Dry thoroughly per instructions, below.

Rabbit Wet Bath – Soaking Method

This is another good method for dried messes.

A sink is favorable if bunny is very messy or if you are using shampoo since you’ll want soiled and sudsy water to drain away.

Soaking Method Supplies

  • Sink or shallow tub such as a litter pan, appropriately sized to your rabbit. This one with drainage is great if your rabbit is the right size.
  • Non-slip mat or towel to avoid slipping
  • Rabbit Shampoo (if needed/prescribed)
  • Absorbent towels or paper towels
  • Hair dryer

Soaking Method – Step By Step

Place a folded towel or non-slip mat in tub.

Place bunny in the tub, then lift and cradle him under his chest so that just his back feet and butt are in the tub.

Fill tub with about two inches of water – just enough to cover bunny’s butt.

Gently swish water around bunny’s butt and knock the droppings loose.

If needed, apply shampoo, massage, lather and rinse until bunny’s butt is clean.

Dry thoroughly per instructions, below.

Drying Bunny

Place bunny on towel and pat dry. Some people use only cloth towels, some like to blot with paper towels, too.

Use a hair dry on low-speed/low-heat setting to complete drying.

Tip: Let bunny feel the hair dryer on his fur before you start so it doesn’t startle him.

How To Give A Rabbit A Bath

Rabbits are very clean by nature and require only occasional butt baths.

Rabbits are susceptible to urine scalding, fly strike and skin damage if not properly groomed.

Caging must be kept clean and must be large enough to allow bunny to be separated from his urine and droppings.

Monitor your rabbit for signs he might need a little help grooming and you and your bunny will have happy, healthy, hoppy life together.

References And Further Reading

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