A Well Groomed Rabbit
Grooming supplies to have on hand:
- medium or soft bristled brush,
- flea comb,
- toenail clippers & styptic pencil,
- cotton swabs,
- mat splitter or mat rake for long haired rabbits or those that tend to get mats, and
- antibiotic ointment (‘just in case’)
Rabbits are meticulous self-groomers, but this doesn’t mean that their people don’t need to groom them as well. Grooming time is a good time to get to know your rabbit’s body. Check/feel bunny from head to toe (including the private area, feet, nails and teeth) checking for lumps, bumps, cuts, fleas, overgrown nails or teeth, and any other changes or possible trouble spots. Your lap or a table with a big towel on it are good places to groom your friend. NEVER leave her unattended on anything h high.
Bunnies should be brushed at least twice a week, long haired rabbits daily. Both long haired and short haired rabbits shed; some tend to get mats. Some rabbits, especially during spring and summer, get fleas (see The Dangers of Summer). Fleas on a rabbit can cause her to become anemic, so keep an eye out and nip it in the bud. Advantage for kittens (from your vet) can be used ton most ADULT rabbits (for rabbits under one year old consult your vet). Flea combs take more time but work well—without chemicals.
We do not advise flea baths or baths of any sort for rabbits. Bathing a bunny can often cause her to become quite upset, sometimes causing her to go into shock; plus it is the nature of bunny fur to take a long time to get wet, and an even longer time to get dry. Spot bathing extremely dirty areas (feet, scut, etc.) is the way to go. If you use a hair dryer, us it on low to medium heat so you don’t overheat the bunny, and keep it at least 12 inches from her body. Don’t use it on her head, ears or privates. Sometimes bathing is necessary. In these cases, do it in a small sink in warm water. DO NOT EVER immerse entire bunny (water level should never be higher than belly level); instead, let bunny stand on hind feet while you support her upper body from the front. Slowly let her put all four paws into water. Use a cup to soak and rinse body. Rinse thoroughly.
Brushing your bunny’s coat can be a very pleasant experience for the both of you, plus it reduces the amount of loose hair which will help prevent hairball impactions (see Zooh Pamphlet). Do not brush too aggressively. Bunny skin is delicate and can tear, and unless your bunny likes it (some of ours do) do not brush fur in the wrong direction.
Like dogs and cats, bunnies sometimes need to get their toenails trimmed. While it is easy to see the ‘quick’ inside of light toenails, darker ones sometimes obscure it. Using a flashlight underneath dark nails can help prevent cutting them too short. Have a styptic pencil and antiseptic ointment on hand in case of bleeding. Use the styptic pencil to stop the bleeding, then use the ointment to prevent infection. Make sure that the padding (fur) on feet is not worn down or matted. Make sure bunny has soft mats to rest on (in her house) and clean litter.
Eyes should be clear. Eye discharge needs to be checked out by a vet. Runny eyes can make cheeks sticky and matted. Use a tissue to absorb the liquid. A bit of saline solution (for contact lenses) can be used on bunny cheeks to crystallize tears, which can then be brushed out with a clean flea comb.
Bunny teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. For this reason they MUST have safe woods * available for them to chew on to help file teeth down. For most bunnies this is all that is needed, but some bunnies’ teeth grow crooked or “maloccluded” and they will have to be clipped or removed by a GOOD bunny vet. Maloccluded, overgrown teeth keep bunny from eating properly or at all— and bunny can become anemic or starve to death.
Check ears at each grooming. They should be clean and smooth, with no obvious odor or redness. A cotton swab can be used to remove wax from the outer canal and ear tip (the long part). Take care not the put swap in too deep, as it could push wax in deeper, or cause other problems. If ears are scaly, red or sore, your bunny may have mites. A topical mite solution can be used, or in severe cases your vet may prescribe Ivermectin. Pussy ears and/or ears with a rank odor are a signal of infection: take bunny to vet. Most bunnies learn to love grooming time. For those that don’t, a quiet, gentle, non-forceful, secure approach is the way to go. Eventually your friend will learn to like this time, or at the very least to trust you and allow you to care for her.