Can a bath really kill a rabbit?

By Nadine Oraby | 2020 Update

Rabbits are cute, fluffy, and meticulously clean as they come. You might be tempted to give your furry friend a quick bath to make it even fluffier – but any vet would advise against it.

It is understandable that bunnies, just like cats, don’t really like baths but can a bath really kill a rabbit?

Yes, a bath can actually kill a rabbit. Baths can trigger stress so intense that it can lead to a heart attack or a fatal gastrointestinal stasis. Many rabbits catch pneumonia or hypothermia after a bath. A single bath and these delicate creatures may not be able to recover from its effect.

Even Peta advises against giving your bunny a bath. Even if your rabbit survives the bath, they can end up with a damaged spine due to all the thrashing. Some may even go into a trance, where their blood pressure and heart rate drops to a dangerously low level.

So, all those rabbit bath videos that get millions of views, they are not as cute as you think.

Related: Can I Make A Baby Wild Rabbit A Pet?

A Billion Reasons to Avoid a Bath

I’d say it again because it is important for every single bunny parent out there: rabbits almost never need a bath. Unlike cats, that isn’t just an aversion to water. Although some cats do like water. For rabbits, baths are literally unnecessary. That should never be a part of their routine because…

(a) rabbits are pretty good at self-grooming

(b) it is dangerous in many ways and for many reasons

A bunny bath may not always end up in a fatality, but it can leave your baby both psychologically and physically damaged. Here are all the ways a single bath can hurt your bunny:

  • Stress and Panic: Rabbits are scared of water. Whether it is a shower or a tub, cold water or warm, no rabbit would ever like it. Sometimes the stress is so intense that it can induce a heart attack or a gastrointestinal stasis.
  • Broken Spine: One thing you need to know about a rabbit’s anatomy is that their legs are much stronger than the spine. So, when your rabbit thrashes in the water, it uses its power hind legs to break free from your hold and get out. This might fracture the spine.
  • Chills: Another worth knowing fact about your bunny is that their fur takes much longer to dry than many other creatures. Even if you used warm water, the wet fur can give them chills, and in turn, hypothermia or pneumonia. They are both fatal for your little furbaby.
  • Infections: If water gets into your rabbits ear, which is highly probable when your bunny is struggling, it may cause an ear infection. While these infections are treatable, they are terribly painful for the little one.

That said, soaps and shampoos can make things even worse. Most of those products are too harsh for those delicate creatures. They can irritate your baby’s sensitive skin and might even cause infection. They also strip away the natural oils that keep a bunny’s coat healthy and fluffy.

Cleaning Your Bunny’s Butt

A healthy active rabbit may keep its butt as clean as it’s face. However, it is not entirely impossible for you bunny to be unable to do so. The reason could be anything from obesity to arthritis – any problem that makes it impossible for them to reach down there.

As a result, you will see visible residues of poop stuck around the butt. It is dangerous to leave it be since it can become a breeding ground for flies and insects, and will eventually lead to infections. You need to give them a butt bath.

Now, there are two ways to give them a butt bath.

Butt Bath for Your Bunny

Butt baths aren’t overwhelming for your baby because you only need an inch of lukewarm water in a bathtub.

  • Place a towel in the tub so that your bunny doesn’t slip
  • Place your bunny in the tub slowly
  • Gently rub the bunny’s bottom with washcloth or your hands
  • Once you are sure that the butt is clean, remove the bunny from the tub and place it on a dry towel
  • Properly wipe the butt so that it doesn’t stay wet for too long

Here is a video of experts demonstrating how to give your bunny a quick butt bath.

A Full Bath Should Always Be a Dry Bath

If you see visible clumps of dirt on your bunny’s body besides its butt, and it is unable to clean it, you might want to give it a dry bath instead.

  • Dry baths are even easier than butt baths. You will need a baby-safe cornstarch powder for this method.
  • Place your bunny belly up on a dry towel
  • Put cornstarch powder on soiled spots and clumps
  • Work your way on the clumps with hands until the clumps loosen up
  • Dust off the access powder or use a handheld vacuum to clean it off

A Word of Caution

Whether you are going for a wet butt bath or a dry spot bath, you need to be extra gentle and careful:

  • Do not continue if your bunny doesn’t comply. The process should not be stressful for your baby. If you have earned their trust, they will let you continue without resistance.
  • Never pull or tug your bunny’s fur to remove dirt. Use more powder or let the butt soak for a while so that the dirt can come off with gently rubbing.
  • If you are using hair dryer after a butt bath, use it on the lowest heat setting and hold it far enough to prevent burning your bunny’s skin.

Related Questions

Why isn’t my rabbit cleaning itself?

It is not natural for rabbits to stay dirty. If your rabbit isn’t cleaning or grooming itself, there is a high chance it is unable to because of underlying health issue such as arthritis, obesity, dental issues, or bladder problems. See a vet for an adequate diagnosis.

Do companion rabbits clean each other?

Yes, when rabbits live together and bond well, they show affection by grooming each other. Therefore, it is a good idea to bring in a companion for a rabbit that is unable to clean itself due to any reason.

Why do some rabbits look so calm in bath videos?

They aren’t calm; they are most likely in a state of trance. It is called tonic immobility – a natural fear-based response in small animals that allow them to play dead to avoid predators. It is harmful as a rabbit’s heart rate and blood pressure can drop too low during the trance.  

Conclusion

To sum it up, I would say it once again: a rabbit almost never needs a bath. Never. A Bath can be fatal for them. If you have been bathing your bunny, should stop right now. It is stress inducing and they will never get used to it. Those furry babies do not need your help with grooming. If you ever feel they do, their are safer ways to help them. Better yet, you can always bring home another companion bunny for your buddy, and if they like each other, they will become each other’s designated groomer.

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