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Unlike pet dogs, rabbits do not need regular bathing and you will find your rabbit will panic if placed in a bathtub of water. As they are a prey species, rabbits do not like to feel vulnerable therefore being in the water is not a natural position for a rabbit. Also, rabbit fur will clump together when wet making brushing out these mats very difficult. Rabbits that are left damp are prone to respiratory infections and can quickly succumb to hypothermia - a dangerously low body temperature.
However, there may be times when your rabbit needs to be bathed. Elderly rabbits who can’t clean their reared due to joint issues or rabbits that are overweight and can’t reach their rears may need help to clean themselves up. In this case, it is best not to fully submerge your rabbit into the water - they will trash out and can potentially hurt their delicate spines or hind legs. Carefully dipping their rear into warm water or gently pouring over the dirty areas will be much more likely to be tolerated by your bunny.
If you need to bathe your bunny for health reasons, it is a good idea to get someone to help so you can keep a firm hold of your rabbit whilst the helper bathes them. A non-slip rubber mat in the bath or a thick towel will help your rabbit grip, making them less likely to wriggle around. Use warm water, not too hot or too cold and do not let your rabbit sit in the water - placing them in a draining bath may be the easiest option to ensure this.
Use a jug to slowly pour water onto the dirty areas and make sure any rabbit shampoo and rabbit conditioner you use is rinsed off thoroughly. Take care not to get your rabbit’s head wet and be mindful of their eyes and ears.
If you can’t bathe your rabbit or your rabbit will not tolerate being handled or picked up to be placed in the bath, why not try a foam shampoo and conditioner instead? Products such as Ermidrà Foam are ideal for small pets that need their skin and coat washed without the need for water. This foam contains oat milk which is a great moisturiser for flaky, dry skin and will leave your rabbit’s coat shiny and feeling silky again.
Wet bunny fur will clump together quickly, making drying a tough and lengthy job. If your rabbit normally lives outside, they will need to stay indoors overnight (or longer if it is cold outside) until they are completely dry. Damp fur will quickly lower your rabbit’s body temperature and this is dangerous.
Use a towel to gently dry your rabbit’s fur after bathing and remove as much of the excess water as possible. You can use a hairdryer to do this too, but great care must be taken not to burn your rabbit as well as not to overheat them either. Rabbit skin is very fragile so will burn and tear easily if tear easily.
Shampoos and conditioners designed for other pets such as cats and dogs are too harsh for your bunnies’ sensitive skin. You may think that baby shampoo is gentle enough for your rabbit, however, the pH of a human’s skin is very different from that of a rabbit so using baby shampoo may lead to your rabbit’s skin becoming dry and irritated.
When shopping for shampoos for your rabbit, always make sure you choose one that is specially designed for your small pet to prevent skin issues from occurring.