Advice from the expert: Rabbit grooming needs

By Emma Purnell, RVN Cert. Nut

Like most animals, rabbits generally do a good job of keeping themselves clean but there are certain times of year and specific things they may need help with. Some breeds, especially Angora’s, Lionheads and other long-haired rabbits, may need more help.

Rabbits should NEVER be bathed. Completely submerging rabbits in water can lead them to go into shock and they can get a chill easily when drying. If they need any kind of bath, usually if their back end has matted, veterinary advice should be sought as to why this has occurred and a bottom bath using minimum water can be carried out. Holding their bottom safely and securely taking care to support their spine over a bowl with a second person can allow for any areas that are matted or particularly dirty to be cleaned safely. If you feel your rabbit needs a full bath then questions must be asked as to why and veterinary advice sought – do not do this at home.

Brushing can be a social experience and enjoyable for your rabbits, once they become used to it so starting early is vital. Offering treats when grooming them and taking things slowly and calmly can make sure that it is associated with a positive experience. While most of the time they will groom themselves, especially during moulting they will need help. Brushing daily will prevent your rabbit ingesting loose fur which can risk causing impactions and potential gut blockages.

The best brush to use is a soft silicone brush, it can help to attract loose fur as well as being gentle. Pinned brushes and those with blades to remove more fur can not only risk cutting a rabbit’s fine skin but can remove too much fur leading to bald patches. Silicone brushing gloves can be useful if starting the process, making it more like a stroke than a brush!

Ears should be checked with each groom but shouldn’t need regular cleaning. Lop eared rabbits are more likely to have issues with ear wax build up due to their head and ear shapes, so regular checks to ensure no problems is important. If you are concerned by ears looking red or sore please seek veterinary advice. Regular checks should be made on the length of claws, they should not be protruding as they are at risk of getting caught and torn. Clipping claws can be done at home but they must not be clipped short enough to catch the quick, the blood vessel that runs inside the nail, as this will cause pain and bleeding. Rabbits should never be held on their backs to do this, it causes them to go into a trance but this causes significant stress and is not necessary.

Grooming is a brilliant opportunity to health check your rabbit, checking their teeth, their weight and for any lumps and bumps, not to mention giving extra time to socialise with your pet!

Emma qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2008 and works for Nutravet (UK) Ltd. She has a BSc in Zoology with Animal Ecology and an MSc in Ecology, helping to fuel her interest in more exotic species. She has a particular love of small furries and has a grade A distinction in Canine and Feline Clinical Nutrition (CertNut).