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I often get asked, “Can I bathe my rabbit?” and my answer is always “technically yes, but I do not recommend it”. I understand that this stance can be controversial because a lot of pet owners are concerned about keeping their pet bunnies clean and regularly bathe their bunnies.
In general, rabbits hate to be bathed. Hate it. There are exceptions, but those water-loving rabbits are quite rare.
You need to really think about how you are going to clean your bunny and if it’s really necessary. This article will help walk you through the tips and tricks for a fun, stress-free bath time as well as the occasions when you should bathe your rabbit.
Can You Wash Your Rabbit
You can wash your rabbit but it’s dangerous for your rabbit. Bathing a rabbit removes natural oils and can cause skin issues. Rabbits often panic in the water and can seriously hurt themselves or you. And finally, wet bunnies are very susceptible to hypothermia
Bunnies are very clean animals and through daily self-grooming and regular dust baths, rabbits almost never need to be given a bath. Most rabbits will spend their entire life without ever requiring a bath.
Bunnies also do not have strong body odors. Rabbits are like cats in that they are very dedicated to their grooming. Thus, if you have a stinky rabbit it’s probably because they live in a dirty cage or they have an underlying condition that needs veterinary attention.
Sometimes bathing your bunny is necessary. The most likely situation where a rabbit bath is necessary is when a pet rabbit has gotten into something that would be unsafe for them to clean off themselves. This might include oil, paint, or anything with strong chemicals.
However, as long as it is possible, I recommend doing spot cleaning and not dunking the whole rabbit in a bath.
How Not To Clean Your Bunny
Let us first start off with what not to do when cleaning your rabbit because this is important.
Rabbits should not be bathed by dunking them in water. Soaking your bunny risks hypothermia, panic, and stress which can all cause harm, injury, or even death to your bunny. Instead, you should spot clean your bunny to take care of just the areas on your bunny that need to be cleaned.
If their entire body needs to be cleaned, you must keep the water just below their tummies. Remember to keep their necks above water.
Just like cats, rabbits will panic in the water as they feel vulnerable. Panicked rabbits can easily fracture a limb or even their spine. A rabbit with a wet coat can also get so cold that it will suffer from hypothermia, a life-threatening condition.
If it’s winter and your bunny is outside or in a cool home, then you should never give them a bath as it’s simply to dangerous! Your focus should instead be on keeping your sweet bunny warm as we discuss in this article.
So Please, Don’t put your rabbit in water to wash them!
Fortunately, it’s not necessary to bathe a rabbit very often. Most rabbits are never given a bath over their entire lifetime.
Like cats, bunnies keep themselves fairly clean and will not often need to be washed. Instead, you should safely clean by hand the specific spot that’s too dirty for them to clean themself.
So let’s take a closer look at a Full Rabbit Bath and Spot Rabbit Bath.
The Full Rabbit Bath
Giving your bunny a full bath in water is a big deal, and I hope you never have to do it.
As we said above, you should only choose to give your rabbit a full bath if they have been covered in something that would be toxic if they ingested it while cleaning themselves. Otherwise, you should either just let your bunny clean themselves up or give them a Spot Bath (more on that later).
First of all, giving a rabbit a bath is not a one-person job.
While bathing your pet rabbit, you will need someone to firmly yet gently hold them so they don’t freak out and hurt themself. This can be further helped by placing a towel or non-slip mat underneath them to provide a more stable footing which will help them feel more secure.
Make sure to use warm water, not too hot to hurt them and not too cold to get them sick. Do not use a noisy shower and instead gently pour the water yourself from an appropriately sized water container.
It’s very important that water cannot collect around the rabbit as you do not want them submerged in water. A bathtub or sink without the drain plugged is an ideal place for a bunny bath.
We recommend that you keep the standing water level below your bunny’s tummy. Use your hand to scoop the water and wet their body as needed.
Start with their behind and work your way up, but stop before the head. You do not want to get water in their eyes or ears. I will explain later how to clean those parts.
If you are using a rabbit-specified shampoo (link to my favorite on Amazon), still make sure to lather and rinse it all off completely.
It is very important that you get all of the soap off of your rabbit since your rabbit will soon be grooming herself and you don’t want her licking shampoo.
All of this should be done quickly, so your rabbit can be safely dried off with a nice warm and cozy towel to avoid them from getting too cold.
When drying off your scared little bunny, make sure to be very gentle as their skin tears very easily.
You can be gentle with a towel or you can use a hairdryer on a not-so-hot setting to safely dry your rabbit. Only use a hairdryer for short periods of time and not stay in one spot for very long, so your bunny does not overheat.
If your rabbit’s fur is getting all clumpy as you dry her, be patient and take your time.
A rabbit brush like this one available on Amazon will make it easier to get your rabbit nice and dry and her fur tangle-free.
Always keep your rabbit inside for the night to not risk letting it experience hypothermia.
Don’t Wash Your Rabbit Too Often
Washing your rabbit’s fur regularly is a bad idea as it removes their fur’s natural oils that keep the rabbit’s fur soft, shiny, and healthy. You should only wash your rabbit’s fur in extreme cases.
Most of the time, your bunny will keep themselves clean and happy, but if they had a mud incident, now you know how to clean your rabbit’s coat.
The Spot Wash
To spot wash means to only clean the part of the rabbit’s body that is dirty. For example, if only one of their legs is dirty then you can just get a cloth to wet and wash out the legs rather than washing the entire body of the rabbit.
Some bunny body parts that could be spot washed are the rabbit’s face, ears, and bums.
How To Clean A Rabbit’s Bottom
A dirty rabbit’s butt is the most common reason for wanting to give a rabbit a bath. If you’ve not done a good job keeping your rabbit hutch or rabbit litter box clean, your pet’s butt can get really dirty and matted.
First and foremost, make sure the messy bum is not because of any illness. You’ll do this by carefully inspecting your rabbit’s but looking for any signs of inflammation around the anus or skin in general. If you see anything that gives you even the slightest concern, take your pet to your rabbit veterinarian.
A messy bottom will be uncomfortable as well as unsanitary, and a little gross.
In addition, a dirty bum can bring in all kinds of problems from scalding of the skin to many illnesses.
Note that a messy butt can also be caused by a poor diet or injury. Make sure to let your vet give your pet bunny an exam if your rabbit frequently has a messy bottom because of a problem such as urine leakage or unhealthy poop.
There are two ways you could clean your rabbit’s bottom, according to Dr. Krempels of the University of Miami
- A Dry Rabbit Bath
- A Wet Rabbit Bath.
A Dry Bath For Cleaning A Rabbit’s Bottom
The dry bath method is preferred because, as I said, rabbits hate water, and being dunked in water can make them unhealthily stressed.
In a bunny dry bath, you will use (Affiliate Links to Amazon included):
- Baby Cornstarch Powder (one with no Talcim as that is unsafe for your bunny)
- A Traction Mat
- A Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
- A Fine-Toothed Flea Comb
Steps for a Dry Rabbit Bath
First, place your bunny in a comfortable upside position in order to see the parts to be cleaned. Keep your bunny is a calm state and do not apply any force.
Let your bunny freely get up if it tries to and you can safely try again.
When ready, you can apply the cornstarch powder to the specified areas.
Work it all the way down into the skin by gently moving the fur with your fingers.
The handheld vacuum can be useful here if you have an assistant that can suck up all the particles in the air so nobody breathes it in.
As you gently work the powder in, the dirt will begin to easily release from the pelt.
You may then use the fine-toothed flea comb to gently remove the unwanted stuff.
Make sure to not pull too hard, remember rabbits have delicate skin that can tear easily.
Pat your bunny down at the end to remove the last of the powder.
The handheld vacuum will be used only to remove the floating powder safely from the surrounding air.
A dry bath is a fast method that rabbits usually do not mind. They may even find the powder soothing as it takes away any sting from urine scalding.
However, this method may be too messy and you may want to use the wet bath method instead.
A Wet Bath To Clean Your Bunny’s Bottom
Wet baths are not recommended for rabbits. A wet bath should only be considered in extremely dirty messes. However, if you must bathe a rabbit, do it correctly and carefully.
First, you make sure that you have the needed supplies:
- Rabbit Safe Shampoo
- A Bathing Space in a Sink or Bathtub
- Safe Area to Dry your Rabbit
- Blow Dryer
If any skin gets red, then a natural soothing balm can be applied. Also remember, an assistant can help so the bunny does not freak out and hurt themself.
You will want to add a tablespoon of shampoo to the bathwater and mix it in well. If you are doing this by yourself, make sure your arm is firmly wrapped around the bunny. Use your other arm to hold the bunny’s bum as you gently place it in the sink. Then use that hand to wash gently the dirty area with soapy water.
This may take a couple of water changes until your bunny is fully clean. Do a final couple of rinses with water that has no shampoo in it. You will know when you are done when the water is free of any bubbles or residue from the shampoo. Wash all affected areas fully.
When drying your rabbit, you can gently squeeze out water from wet fur if your bunny is okay with it. Then you use the towels to gently rub and finish off the drying with a blow dryer on a not-so-hot setting; being careful, as I said before, to not burn the delicate skin of your rabbit.
You can also delicately use your fine-toothed flea comb to dry quicker by spreading the fur. Make sure the rabbit is fully dried off and apply some soothing balm if needed.
If a bath seems to be something you need to do often, it may be a symptom of an illness. So, in the end, get a veterinarian’s opinion and always try to understand your rabbit’s health.
How To Clean A Bunny’s Face
Your bunny will continually strive to keep themselves clean. and this includes their face.
A bunny cleans their face by licking their paws and then rubbing their faces with their moist paws. Your bunny will spend hours a day cleaning its face. Not only is this an effective way for your bunny to clean its face, but it’s also really cute!
Still, sometimes your pet will need a little help.
Are your rabbit’s eyes extra gunky today? It’s not a big deal.
To clean your rabbit’s face, start with a clean soft rag. Moisten the rag with warm water, neither too hot nor too cold. Then gently wipe your rabbit’s face. Be very careful around your bunny’s eyes and whiskers. You don’t want to accidentally poke your rabbit in the eye or pull out whiskers.
To clean a rabbit’s eyes when they have dried gunk around their eyes, you’ll need a soft clean cloth. Moisten that cloth with warm water in a bowl at your side. Then get your bunny relaxed on your lap, before slowly and gently placing the moistened cloth over their eyes. Hold the moist cloth on their eyes for a few moments to allow the gunk to loosen, then gently whip the gunk away. Repeat as needed.
You can apply the same method to the face of the bunny that is struggling with something really dirty or sticky on its face. You can apply a little soap to the washcloth, but make sure to keep it away from the eyes and ears.
How To Clean A Bunny’s Ears
Rabbits don’t like getting water in their ears.
Since their ears are big and you may think they need regular cleaning, but most rabbits will clean their own ears just fine.
Examining your bunny’s ears regularly should still be something you do to make sure they are healthy and have no buildup of any kind. Regular ear checks often serve to help you catch any early signs of ear mites which are not uncommon in rabbits.
Make sure to keep your rabbit calm if you want to touch their ears, as their ears are very sensitive. Try not to stress them out by starting very slowly when touching their ears. Be prepared to stop and try another time if they start to become upset.
It might take you a number of ‘ear’ sessions to get your bunny used to you touching his ears.
When working with your pet bunny, you should always be on the lookout for signs of stress. These can include looking nervous, being too jumpy, trying to hide or run away from you, abnormal breathing, or just weird behavior.
If you feel your pet rabbit’s ears are just a little messy and they have become comfortable with you touching their ears, then you can help them out with a damp and lukewarm rag. Gently wipe off any dirt from one ear and pat it dry with a clean rag.
Always make sure to wipe from the inside to the outside to avoid pushing anything down into the ear canal. Get a different rag for the second ear so you do not accidentally transmit some sort of issue from one ear to the other.
If you ever find anything in the ear that is more than you can handle, make sure to take your pet bunny to the vet. They can prescribe antibiotics for an infection, or a topical ointment if they are experiencing yeast or wax buildup. –Research
How To Clean A Rabbit’s Feet
Again, you will be using the spot cleaning method to safely clean a dirty foot. Safely use a damp cloth to scrub any mud or dirt off your little bunny’s feet.
This should especially be done if the rabbit has been playing outside for a while and you are bringing it back inside to its cage. You do not want to bring in any bacteria from the outside into its home.
You can place a dry towel on your lap and place your rabbit on top. Then use the damp cloth that is wetted with warm water to safely wipe off the dirt. Get all inside the rabbit’s toes. Then dry the feet with the towel underneath.
P.S. If you notice that your rabbit’s nails are getting long, we wrote an article on how to trim your bunny’s nails safely.
Rabbits are really good at keeping themselves clean. In addition, they have natural oils on their skin that are essential to good fur health, and too many baths will strip them of that healthy skin oil.
With those two things in mind, a bath should be a rare thing. Rabbits are clean animals, and most pet bunnies go their entire life without a wet bath.
But when it’s necessary to give your cute little pet bunny a bath, be patient and vigilant in making sure that your rabbit stays calm and doesn’t get too cold or hot.
~Your friends at RabbitPros.com!