A clean, well-groomed bunny is a happy and healthy bunny. Here are a few tips to keeping your bunny looking and feeling sharp!
Rabbits and Baths
Do rabbits need baths? In general, the answer is no. Similar to cats, rabbits are very fastidious when it comes to personal hygiene. They spend a good portion of their day grooming themselves (and their bunny partner if they have one). Not only are baths are unnecessary for rabbits, they can in fact be quite traumatic. Most rabbits, like cats, hate the water, and the experience could lead to undue stress, and even heart attacks.
In some cases, like when a rabbit has “poopy butt”, a shallow bath may be necessary. Read our article, Poopy Butt: Causes and Treatment, for a full rundown of how to clean your rabbit’s behind and the preventative measures you should take to avoid future recurrences.
It is also important to state that a rabbit’s living conditions should always be kept clean, dry and well-ventilated. Make sure you clean your bunny’s litter boxes regularly and use an unscented, newspaper-based litter like Yesterday’s News to reduce odors and absorb urine.
Brushing Your Rabbit
Rabbits of all different varieties shed. Sometimes it is mind-boggling how much fur can come out of such a small animal. But removing excess fur is vital to your rabbit’s well-being. As mentioned before, rabbits groom themselves and their bunny partners quite frequently. When they ingest large amounts of fur, they can develop serious digestive issues, such as GI Stasis.
For the tufts of fur that stick out, you may have the most success by gently plucking them out with your fingers. Interspersing petting with the plucking can help appease rabbits who prefer you’d leave those tufts in place.
In addition to hand-plucking, you should also use a brush for a more thorough grooming. Rubber brushes, such as the Love Glove, are both gentle and effective on rabbits’ coats.
Clipping Your Rabbit’s Nails
In the wild, rabbits dig extensive warrens. Their nails grow rapidly to accommodate this frequent wear. Unfortunately for house rabbits, they can’t wear down their claws fast enough (despite all the digging they do on your floors and furniture). Therefore, you will need to clip your rabbit’s nails on a regular basis.
To trim your rabbit’s nails properly, you should make a “bunny burrito” with a towel, identify the quick (or vein in the nail), and clip the nail without clipping the quick. Learn more in our article, Clipping Your Rabbit’s Nails.
Prevent Sore Hocks with Soft Flooring
Rabbits’ feet do not have pads like the paws of cats and dogs. Instead, their feet are covered in fur and have a calluses on their heels. To ensure your pet rabbit does not develop sore hocks (irritated, inflamed skin on their feet), you must provide soft, flat, non-wired surfaces for your rabbit to rest on. If your rabbit spends a lot of time in a cage, it is especially crucial that you provide alternative flooring.
Cover areas your rabbit likes to rest on with fleece blankets or faux sheepskins. Use hay as bedding and in litter boxes (over the newspaper-pellet litter). It is also important to make sure your rabbit’s living area is clean and dry at all times. Damp conditions can further aggravate sore hocks and lead to infection.
Finally, keep your rabbit’s nails trimmed because rabbits with long nails tend to shift their weight back onto their heels.
Hay for Healthy Rabbit Teeth
To ensure good dental health, rabbits need an unlimited supply of fresh timothy, oat, and grass hay available to them at all times. Grazing on hay throughout the day helps keep rabbits’ teeth evenly worn. It helps prevent the development of molar spurs, which are sharp points in their teeth. Molar spurs can cause your rabbit pain, which can lead to digestive issues. Learn more about rabbit hay and where to get it in our article, Hay for Rabbits.
If your rabbit suffers from incisor malocclusion, where the top and bottom front teeth do not line up properly, a rabbit-savvy vet will have to extract those teeth. Otherwise, the teeth will grow out of control, forming tusks. Once the teeth are extracted, the only accommodation you will have to make is to cut up vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Rabbits without incisors will still be able to eat pellets and hay without issue.
Regular Veterinary Checkups
Along with regularly grooming your house rabbit, it is also important to schedule annual checkups with a rabbit-savvy veterinarian. (Find a rabbit vet on the House Rabbit Society Veterinarian Index.) The veterinarian will do a thorough exam of your rabbit, including eyes, ears, teeth, feet, genitals and belly. The vet may also order blood work to screen for diseases. Regular checkups are important because even the most primped and preened rabbit can develop issues such as sore hocks, molar spurs, eye infections, and more.
Rabbit Grooming Supplies
- Nail clippers
You will need to regularly trim your bunny’s nails. If your rabbit has dark claws, a small flashlight helps you to locate the quick and avoid it. Buy on Amazon >
- Styptic powder
If you accidentally cut the quick, styptic powder will stop the bleeding. Buy on Amazon >
- Grooming glove or brush
The Love Glove is gentle, yet effective, at removing excess fur when your bunny is shedding. Buy on Amazon >
- Castaneda, Tania, “All About Sore Hocks,” http://www.rabbitnetwork.org/articles/sorehocks.shtml
- Krempels, Dana, “Dental Disease in Rabbits: A Simple Overview,” http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/dental.html
- Krempels, Dana, “Gastrointestinal Stasis: The Silent Killer,” http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/ileus.html
- WabbitWiki, “Grooming,” http://wabbitwiki.com/wiki/Grooming