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Can You Bathe a Rabbit? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Keri-Beth Clur

By Keri-Beth Clur

wiping rabbit with cloth

Vet approved

Dr. Maja Platisa Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

In-House Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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We all know how stressful bath time can be, regardless of the type of pet you have. Only occasionally can people boast about how much their cat or dog loves the process and remains still throughout the whole ordeal. Thankfully, those struggles aren’t part of a rabbit owner’s life because these fluffy pets don’t need to be bathed.

As much as you should avoid bathing your rabbit, there are some circumstances that call for it, such as when their stool sticks to their hind end. In these cases, you can gently place them in a tub or bath with shallow warm water to spot-clean the dirtied areas. Use a non-slip mat or towel and be as quick as possible. However, you should avoid getting their whole body wet.

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The 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Bath Your Rabbit

Rabbits don’t require too much when it comes to grooming because they can do most of it themselves. They’re very concerned about their cleanliness and often do a great job at keeping themselves clean and well-maintained. Many people that have grown up with dogs and cats struggle to wrap their minds around not bathing their rabbits, but these little furballs don’t need it, nor should they be given one. Here’s why:

1. Rabbits Hate Getting Wet

Rabbits can be very anxious creatures, and anything out of the norm can stress them out. Although rabbits can usually swim, it’s not a natural activity for most of these animals as swimming exposes them in the wild and makes them vulnerable to potential predators. Due to this, some rabbits are quite scared of being in the water and will panic if you place them in a tub of water for a bath.

Bathing a rabbit will also make their bodies lose heat and can put them at risk of hypothermia. There are some occasions when your vet might recommend cleaning a specific part of your rabbit’s body, usually the area around their bottom, and they will give you clear instructions on how to do this safely. Cleaning one spot in particular and dry bathing are considered safe if done appropriately.

child playing with mini satin rabbit
Image Credit by: Hamdyzainal, Shutterstock

2. They’re Difficult to Dry

Rabbits have thick fur that clumps together and takes a long time to dry, even with your effort to help with the process. Their fur is what keeps them warm, and if it is wet for too long, they may struggle to regulate their body’s temperature and could develop respiratory infections, pneumonia, and hypothermia. Using a blow dryer to dry their fur can also be dangerous, as the noise itself can scare your rabbit, and if held too close to the rabbit’s skin, the blow dryer can cause skin burns. These will be very painful and require immediate veterinary attention.


3. It Can Strip Their Coat

With cats and dogs, frequently washing them with the wrong shampoo can strip their coat of its natural oils and cause their skin to become dry, itchy, and sensitive. However, a rabbit’s skin is so sensitive that the same problem can occur if you frequently bathe them in water, even without using a shampoo.

When your rabbit’s skin is stripped of its natural oils, it becomes vulnerable to damage and infection. Their coat will also lose its healthy appearance and soft touch.

Brown lion head bunny rabbit washing and grooming itself in the grass in the garden
Image Credit by: Mariska van Dasselaar, Shutterstock

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Why Your Rabbit May Not Be Grooming Themself

If your rabbit has stopped grooming themself, there is probably an underlying health issue because it is unnatural for a rabbit to neglect their cleanliness. If your rabbit isn’t cleaning themself, it could be due to the following:

  • Dental Issues – If your rabbit has painful, overgrown or misaligned teeth or gum issues, they may not want to eat or groom themselves because of the pain it causes.
  • A poor diet – The wrong diet can have too much starch or sugar and be hard for your rabbit to digest. The stool won’t form properly and will stick to your rabbit’s bottom.
  • Arthritis – If your rabbit has arthritis, joint movement will be painful, and they may experience stiffness. Grooming involves a lot of spinal movement, which might be too painful.
  • Obesity – An obese rabbit won’t be able to reach all over their body to clean it because their weight will restrict them. This unhealthy weight will put a strain on their joints as well as their vital organs. Exercise and a change of diet are essential to improve your rabbit’s health.
  • Any other illness – If rabbits are unwell, they may just choose to not groom themselves.

If you notice that your rabbit’s bottom is often soiled or they’ve neglected to groom themselves, you need to take them to the vet for an examination. They’ll be able to uncover what the problem is, and with the right care, treatment, or change of diet, they will hopefully be able to get your rabbit back to good health.

If your vet informs you that your rabbit is healthy, you may need to consider cleaning their litter box more regularly and keeping an eye on their bottom. Rabbits spend a lot of time in their litter box, and if it’s not cleaned daily, it will leave your rabbit’s bottom dirty. Your vet or a rabbit groomer can clean and groom your rabbit’s bottom on a regular basis, getting rid of any fecal and urine staining and making it easier for you to maintain at home. Ask your vet about the best ways to keep this area clean and when to perform spot cleaning and dry bathing.

White Vienna Rabbit
Image Credit: Rastkobelic, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

It is usually not necessary to bathe your rabbit, nor is it recommended. Bathing your rabbit can be dangerous because it causes them to panic, and they may injure themselves. Their fur is difficult to dry, and they may struggle to self-regulate their body temperature, which can lead to serious problems. Frequently washing your rabbit with water can strip their skin of its natural oils, which is detrimental to your rabbit’s skin and coat.

Only in some circumstances will a quick spot-clean with warm water be necessary.


Featured Image Credit: foto_molka, Shutterstock

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