Rabbits tend to be fastidiously clean pets, and you will often see them cleaning their fur by licking and combing through their hair with their teeth. You may wonder if your pet rabbit can take a bath like a pet dog or cat can. Since rabbits aren’t great at tolerating water, can you bathe them at all?
Rabbits usually have a dry bath or get wiped with non-alcoholic baby wipes if you care about your pet bun smelling nice. A full body bath isn’t recommended for rabbits as they don’t dry easily, which can lead to them catching a cold and getting pneumonia.
Wet fur also attracts flies, which can cause flystrike—a deadly condition where worms hatch in the bunny’s skin.
You may wonder that since a bunny that’s caught in a rainstorm will also be wet all over, why can’t you bathe your bunny?
The reality is that a bunny is never fully saturated by the average rainstorm. But bathing a bunny will allow water and soap to penetrate down to their skin, which is why it should be done cautiously.
Is It Safe to Bathe Your Rabbit?
It isn’t advisable to bathe a rabbit with soap and water. Rabbits have a thick coat of fur, and if they don’t dry fully, it causes a smell that attracts flystrike.
When flies lay eggs in the rabbit’s fur, the maggots that hatch burrow into the skin, forming larvae under the skin, which can be extremely painful and fatal to rabbits.
However, there are rare occasions when a rabbit may need to be bathed for medical reasons such as extreme flea infestations. Rabbits that are going to be exhibited at shows also need to be cleaned from head to toe.
When you have to bathe a rabbit, it’s essential that you help them dry out their fur completely to avoid any smelly lumps forming that can attract flies and ensure they are fully dried to avoid pneumonia setting in.
Pros and Cons of Bathing Your Rabbit
If you have to bathe your rabbit, you need to consider the pros and cons of an all-wet bath and a dust bath. In nature, rabbits clean themselves, while they occasionally take a dust bath to clear out parasites like fleas. But should you grab the soap?
- Bathing a rabbit will help remove any loose hair from shedding
- Fully wetting the rabbit’s hair can help groom them and ensure a fresh clean coat
- By wetting the rabbit’s fur during a full body bath, you can inspect their skin for parasites and any injuries from fighting with other rabbits
- Bathing a rabbit can help clean fur if there are male rabbits that spray the other rabbits
- Rabbits struggle to regulate their own body temperature, especially when wet, and they can easily get a cold or pneumonia
- A rabbit is also easily scared, and they may have a heart attack when forced into the water
- Rabbit fur takes a long time to dry, and if the rabbit doesn’t dry thoroughly, it will lead to damp fur that can be smelly enough to attract flies
How to Bathe Your Rabbit?
So how does a rabbit bath work, and what if your rabbit prefers a dry bath since it’s against their nature to actively try getting wet?
If your bun needs serious cleaning, it may be necessary to bathe them. However, usually, it’s okay to just wipe them down with an alcohol-free baby wipe.
If your rabbit gets soiled, it’s usually their feet and butt that get dirty. In this case, give your bun a butt bath.
A Butt Bath
To butt bath your bun’s tush, fill an open, shallow container with about an inch of water that is room temperature. Avoid harsh chemicals, and if you have to use a shampoo, ensure it’s a rabbit-friendly one and only used as directed.
Gently burrito wraps your bun, then expose their butt area and lower them into the water.
Do so slowly, gently wiping at their soiled butt with your free hand and a soft sponge or bath brush. Work slowly and carefully to prevent your rabbit from becoming stressed.
Towel-dry your rabbit by softly dabbing at their wet fur, and keep them in a warm and quiet area until they have fully dried. Don’t use a hair dryer as this will be too traumatic for most rabbits. A pet drier may be appropriate if you introduce them to it slowly.
A Dry Bath
In nature, rabbits dry bath. A dry bath is when the rabbit rolls in sandy soil to help control pests like fleas and ticks.
Rabbits also roll in sand to help them dry off when they have gotten wet or become soiled. The rabbit will comb through their fur with their teeth, loosening any soil clumps.
Ensure there is a nice dry area in your rabbit run where they can roll and laze in the sun. Your rabbit will enjoy a sandy patch, and you can add a little diatomaceous earth to the sand bath area to help kill off parasites.
A Full Body Bath
If your rabbit is a show bun, you may need to give them a full-body bath, especially if they are a long-haired rabbit breed. It’s important to use water that’s only slightly warmer than room temperature when you bathe rabbits.
Avoid bathing your baby bunny as the mother will groom them, and a rabbit is only mature enough at four to six months of age for a wipe or butt bath.
Rather groom them with a rabbit-friendly brush, wet wipe when they have soiled bits, and ensure they have access to a sand bath for self-cleaning.
How Often Can You Bathe Your Rabbit?
As a rule, only bathe your rabbit when they are soiled or their fur is sticky with something that a regular wiping or grooming session can’t cover.
When recommended by your vet, it may be necessary to bathe your rabbit (partially or entirely) with medicated shampoo to deal with mite and flea infestations.
Instead, groom your rabbit twice a week for a clean and fluffy Mr or Mrs. Fluffle.
My Last Bunny Thoughts
When your rabbit gets a frequent bath, the vital oils are drained from their fur, which makes them less able to control body heat. So, despite how cool it looks when a bun takes a bath YouTube-style, it should be the exception, not the rule.
Grooming with a brush is a rabbit-friendly activity that can help you bond with your bun, so save the soap and wipe and brush instead.