In the case of dirty or sticky fur, but also yellow rabbit paws, it is obvious to clean the animal in a water bath.
But is this really the right way?
Definitely not! Bathing rabbits is not recommended, in fact, it’s downright dangerous.
In this article we will tell you how to wash and clean your rabbit and in which cases even the water bath, which should actually be avoided, is the last option.
Are rabbits allowed to be bathed?
Complete bathing of rabbits is associated with some dangers. Among these, for example, is that your pet will feel mortal fear, causing it to squirm. Because of their locomotor system and great flexibility, rodents can break their own bones in the process. Damage to the spine is also possible.
This applies primarily to animals that are defiant and can, for example, also resort to biting and scratching.
If, on the other hand, the animal is very fearful, the danger lies in the occurrence of a state of shock.
This is difficult to recognize in the first moment, because your rabbit keeps still and seems calm. An extremely accelerated heartbeat up to a heart attack as well as organ failure can set in.
Thus, this is a life-threatening situation that requires immediate action. Even then, however, it is uncertain whether rescue is possible.
Already because of these risks and the natural aversion of rabbits to water, full baths should be avoided in any case. In addition, there are other dangers posed by poorly drying fur and sensitive skin. Your rabbit can quickly become chilled, develop rashes and become seriously ill. Ear infections are also possible.
Therefore, rather than having to wash your rabbit, it is better to prevent soiling or to choose other methods of cleaning.
Alternative: Cornstarch as dry shampoo
A popular and proven variant for fur cleaning is the use of cornstarch. This absorbs moisture and subsequently clumps. In view of this, it can be easily brushed or combed out.
The advantages of this are that your rabbit does not get wet. So the risks of disease or severe stress are significantly reduced.
A major disadvantage is that the starch can only be used on wet dirt. If residues of thin feces or urine have already dried, cornstarch will not help.
The procedure for application is as follows:
The damp fur areas are powdered with cornstarch. The fine powder is carefully rubbed into the fur.
After a short exposure time, you can use a soft brush or a fine-toothed comb to remove the resulting lumps. Be careful, but thorough. Rabbit skin is very sensitive. As a result, even a wire brush that is too hard can cause injury.
If there is still moisture or dirt, you can repeat the application. Often a single application of cornstarch is not enough, because the fur of rabbits is very dense.
The measure requires some patience and effort. Nevertheless, proceed calmly and relaxed. If necessary, you should ask a helper to hold your rabbit and pet or feed it. This way it is distracted and the stress level can be lowered.
Wet rabbit cleaning
Unfortunately, cornstarch cannot be used for already dried impurities in the fur or discolorations caused by urine.
In these cases a damp cleaning should be used.
The best and gentlest way to do this is with a warm, damp washcloth.
When cleaning, try to imitate the licking movements of the rabbit. This will loosen adhesions more easily and gently. Also, do not use shampoo or other cleaning agents at first. If contaminants cannot be completely removed, a mild pet shampoo is a good remedy.
Don’t forget to rinse off the shampoo thoroughly afterwards or remove it with a wet washcloth.
Finally, dry the coat well with a towel. Do not rub the coat, because it can become knotted and matted, especially in long-haired animals.
Washing in places
In some cases it may be necessary to soak dirt. This is always necessary in the case of soiling with the following characteristics:
close to the skin
For example, if the coat is heavily discolored by urine and has already dried, wiping or using cornstarch will not help. Diarrhea can also cause adhesions that harden and then even prevent defecation.
In this case, a partial bath is recommended. In doing so, you soak only as much of the fur as is absolutely necessary.
The rabbit partial bath explained step by step
Because of the fear of water and the dangers associated with getting wet, you must also be very careful when washing your rabbit’s paws, belly or anal area. It is also good to have a second person to help you with this.
This will make it easier to hold the animal and reduce stress for everyone involved. In addition, the risk of injury is reduced.
Then follow these steps:
- use warm water
Rabbits have extremely sensitive skin, are susceptible to disease, and get cold quickly.
Therefore, use warm, but not hot water. 37 to 40 °C is ideal. The use of a bath thermometer is useful.
2 Provide safety
If you only need to wash paws or buttocks, a shallow bowl is sufficient.
Alternatively, you can wash in the sink. This allows the rabbit to stand with its paws on the rim, for example, and the water can be kept very shallow.
Among other things, this prevents the belly from getting unnecessarily wet.
In the sink you can put a towel under it, so that your animal has a better grip. 3.
- allow a long soaking time
Encrusted dirt or discoloration caused by urine need some time to be removed. Therefore, soak them well.
Otherwise, sticky fur may cause pulling, which will further increase stress.
- use only gentle shampoo
Choose a mild shampoo for animals or babies and gently rub it into the coat.
If necessary, you can use a comb with rounded tines to remove fecal debris from the wet coat. Normally, however, lathering should be sufficient. 5.
- remove residues thoroughly
When the coat is clean, rinse it with clean water until the shampoo is completely removed.
Residue would stress the skin and can cause irritation.
If you don’t want to or can’t use a shower for this, fill a measuring cup with water and use that to rinse.
- dry and keep warm
Use an absorbent towel or cellulose to squeeze out the fur and dry it with gentle rubbing.
Be sure to keep your rabbit well warm afterwards, even if it’s just the paws or bottom.
Alternatively, you can use a hair dryer….
The advantage of this is that the fur can be dried faster and more thoroughly. However, due to the noise and the air draft, blow-drying creates more stress. Therefore, set the device to the lowest level and do not hold it too close to the fur.
Tip: Cut out soiled fur areas
In long-haired rabbit breeds with very soft fur, soiling can occur quickly and be very stubborn. Washing or a dry bath are therefore more difficult and usually necessary more often.
In order to reduce the effort or in case of heavy soiling to clean coat and skin nevertheless, it may be necessary to cut out stuck areas.
This is recommended primarily in winter and when keeping your rabbit outdoors. Your rabbit does not get wet and therefore cannot freeze.
In addition, cutting is usually faster. However, it also requires great care. Because through the scissors you could injure the skin. Therefore, be very careful that your rabbit does not move during the process.
Avoid pulling the skin and cut the fur only as short as absolutely necessary.
Our tip: Use paw scissors for dogs. The tips are rounded and the cutting edges are curved. This reduces the risk of injury.
What to do in extreme cases?
In some cases, soiling can be so severe and close to the skin that it cannot be washed off. In very anxious animals, cutting adds to the increased risk of injury.
If this occurs with your pet, you should see a veterinarian!
If sedation is necessary, it can be done directly. This can significantly reduce the stress level. In addition, possible skin irritations can be treated immediately.
Help by the veterinarian is also useful if you can not do the fur cleaning or even the claws trimming alone and no other helper is available for holding.
Prohibitions when washing a rabbit
When bathing or washing your rabbit, there are a few things to keep in mind to minimize the risk of injury, irritation and illness.
Here’s what to look for:
1: Full baths are dangerous.
Your rabbit could suffer a heart attack or shock during this process.
Even if this is not the case, there are other risks.
If the fur is completely dirty, you should have the washing or cleaning done under sedation by a veterinarian or do it gradually.
Tip: It is better to wash one area every day. This will spare your nerves and keep the risks low.
2: Protect the ears
Even when cleaning the ears, do not allow water to get into the ear canal. Because this can cause a serious infection.
3: Avoid cold water
Hypothermia can already occur when drying the coat in the summer. Therefore, always use warm water and choose a warm room for cleaning.
4: Pay attention to the skin
Due to the thin and sensitive skin of rabbits, you need to be very careful with it.
Use only mild shampoos, don’t rub them hard with a towel and use only soft brushes and combs with rounded tips.
5: Avoid eyes and nose
You should never use running water on dirt on your face!
Use a warm damp washcloth and be very careful. Soap or shampoo should be avoided completely, as they can irritate the mucous membranes.
6: Keep patience
Cleaning a rabbit can be extremely frustrating.
They often fidget and are difficult to hold and wash at the same time, especially when alone. In addition, they can become quite defiant. This can make it difficult to stay calm and be patient.
However, it is praise and gentle handling that will make the actions easier for both you and your rabbit.
Proper prevention of soiling: How to keep your rabbit permanently clean!
Rabbits are very clean animals – provided they are healthy and not restricted in their movement, they can usually keep their fur clean themselves without any problems.
Even then, however, you must create the right conditions for this.
In addition, long-haired breeds with soft fur can get dirty more quickly, but they themselves have to make a greater effort in grooming and cleaning.
This not only results in more frequent washing, but can also lead to further problems for the skin and in the area of digestion.
However, the following tips can help you prevent such difficulties.
Tip 1: Provide sufficient space
The more floor space the cage or hutch has, the longer the litter will stay dry. Feces and urine spread better or can remain in a toilet corner.
This makes cleaning easier and gives your rabbit the opportunity to not sit on wet litter for extended periods of time.
Tip 2: Keep the floor clean
Changing the litter frequently will prevent the fur from getting very dirty.
So make sure the environment is clean and dry. This applies both to the cage in the apartment and to the free run or enclosure in the garden.
Also make sure that the floor is as dry as possible and free of dirt.
Tip 3: Test different bedding
Sawdust is very popular for rabbit housing.
They are absorbent, inexpensive and easy to change. However, they are often given too thinly in the cage.
Therefore, try other varieties, such as hemp bedding or wood pellets.
In addition, you should fill the litter very thickly into the bottom tray. This allows more moisture to be absorbed and it distributes better. This ensures a higher level of cleanliness.
Tip 4: Offer a toilet
If there is enough space, rabbits tend to defecate at least in one area only. This makes it much easier to keep the floor in the cage clean.
It will be even easier if you put in a plastic bowl and fill it with additional pellets.
If you change and clean these daily, the effort for you will be less, your rabbit will stay clean and the odor will also be reduced.
Tip 5: Plan for drainage
There is no litter in the free run or in the garden. Urine and rain can therefore soak the area and make it muddy.
This increases the risk of contamination of the coat.
For these reasons, you should make sure that liquid can easily seep into the ground and drain away when needed. A drainage layer under the soil will help with this.
A dense grass cover and additional paving slabs also create a safe surface that prevents heavier contamination. If the dog is kept outside for a longer period of time, it may also be a good idea to partially cover the run.
Tip 6: Help with grooming
A healthy rabbit spends a lot of time grooming its fur every day.
However, animals with very long fur, disease, or limited mobility can no longer do this or cannot reach some areas. In these cases, in the change of coat and with long-haired rabbits you should urgently support the coat care.
This is also useful for all other animals, because brushing has a positive effect on blood circulation, removes dust and loose hairs.
Another advantage of regular brushing is that your animal gets used to it much better. It therefore feels less anxiety and will be less agitated during other procedures.
Tip 7: Neutering
Especially un-neutered or intact male rabbits tend to mark. In doing so, they use urine, which they spray, for example, through the grille or onto conspecifics, which can make washing necessary.
After neutering, this is usually no longer the case. In addition, the animals become more relaxed and the risk of conflict is reduced.
Tip 8: Feeding
The right food does not seem to be connected with soiling of the coat at first.
However, there are two reasons why you should pay special attention here. Due to their sensitive digestion, rabbits can quickly develop diarrhea.
The mushy to liquid feces can not only stick to the fur and thus make washing necessary. The anus can also become smeared and clogged.
Therefore, be careful when feeding and avoid highly flatulent and laxative feeds.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
I take great pride in being the best possible author and giving you the knowledge that i have on all different types of animals!
I have spent a lifetime learning about pets and animals, and have worked in the pet and vet industry for over 20 years now!
The website will draw have authors who are vets, pet owners, and local pet breeders. All who will contribute their fantastic knowledge which in turn will be able to help you i hope.
There is a lot of information on the internet so it may be hard to know where exactly is the best place to start learning. But we will write articles that get straight to the point, and give you all the information that you need with no fluff!
If you have any questions please leave a comment on the article, and i will reply to you!