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Rabbits generally don’t like to get wet, as being in water is an unnatural position that makes them feel vulnerable, making bathing an extremely stressful process that has many potential and serious dangers. Being in water can cause a rabbit to panic and thrash about, which could easily lead to them injuring themselves. Also, rabbit hair tends to clump together when wet, making it hard to get them completely dry, and rabbits left in a damp condition are potentially prone to respiratory infections and hypothermia.
When Bathing a Rabbit May Be Necessary
Rabbits do not need routine bathing, and it could actually cause more harm as frequent washing strips the rabbit’s fur of the natural oils which help keep their coat in good condition. You will need to groom your rabbit frequently, especially when moulting, to remove excess hair, but this does not include any need to bath them. Rabbits are clean animals that groom and wash themselves, and each other. There may be some situations when it’s necessary to bath or wash your rabbit for their own health, but you don’t always need to fully submerge them. In some cases, rabbits may not be able to clean themselves properly due to underlying health issues (eg. dental problems, spinal or arthritic pain, excess weight, bladder stones, E Cuniculi). If your rabbit has a build up of caecotrophs (soft droppings that are usually re-ingested by your rabbit) on their bottom, you may need to wash their rear to minimise the risk of flystrike and sores. In these situations, consult your vet to find out what’s causing the problem, so it can be rectified.
How to Bath a Rabbit
If you need to bath your rabbit (usually by recommendation from a vet due to health reasons), it’s useful to get someone else to help, then one person can keep a firm hold of the rabbit whilst the other washes it. A bath or sink would be best to use, so that water can drain away, and your rabbit isn’t left sitting in too much water at one time. Make sure the base of the bath, sink or bowl you’re using has a non-slip rubber mat or towel to help the rabbit to grip, making them less likely to panic and thrash about. Showers can sometimes be too noisy and powerful, so it may be better to use a jug of warm water instead. Try not to wet any parts of the rabbit that aren’t necessary, and avoid wetting their head. Make sure you rinse any shampoo off thoroughly, and don’t get water or shampoo in their eyes or ears. When you’ve finished, gently lift the rabbit out and wrap them in a warm towel. Try to bath the rabbit as quickly as possible so they don’t get too cold.
Drying Your Rabbit
Wet rabbit hair tends to clump together, making it difficult to dry it thoroughly. Use a towel to gently rub your rabbit’s fur and remove excess water, being careful as their skin tears easily. Take care if using a hairdryer to ensure you don’t burn your rabbit and that they don’t overheat. Don’t let your rabbit back outside whilst still damp, as it could lead to illness.
Dying Your Rabbit’s Fur
There should never be any need to dye your rabbit’s fur. Rabbits have delicate skin and digestive systems, so if they absorb or ingest any of the dye it could cause serious health problems.