Things you need to know about your rabbit’s rear end

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Your rabbits' rear end may not be the cuddliest part of their body, but it's important to keep a close eye on your pet's backside as part of good general health care. Veterinary surgeon Catherine Thomas gives the bottom line on what to look out for.

Rabbits have two different kinds of poo

Rabbits have a solid round fibrous pellet which they pass throughout the day, and a softer poo which they pass early in the morning. You’re unlikely to notice the pellets because your rabbit will usually eat them as soon as they’re passed as this provides important vitamins produced by the bacteria in their guts. If your rabbit’s bottom looks mucky it’s easy to mistake squidgy pellets for diarrhoea, but it’s more likely he’s having problems reaching round to his rear quarters to get them. This could be because he’s feeling unwell or in pain, or more commonly because he’s overweight and inflexible, or elderly and suffering from arthritis.

A mucky bottom could mean trouble

Check your rabbit’s rear end for any signs of soreness, swelling, discoloured fur or a waxy brown substance around their tail or genitals, as this can mean a range of general or underlying health problems, from a poor diet to piles. If you notice that your rabbit has a mucky bottom, clean it and then arrange an appointment to see your vet. You can wash your rabbit’s bottom gently in tepid water using an antiseptic solution such as Hibiscrub to make sure it doesn’t attract flies. Use cotton wool to sponge it clean and dry their rear end well with a paper towel to avoid any soreness.

Look out for swelling, scabs and peeing

Swelling and tenderness around the genitals could be a sign of Myxomatosis, a virus transmitted by fleas, flies and mosquitoes. Even if your rabbit is vaccinated against this with regular boosters, he could develop a nodular form of Myxomatosis that has symptoms including little swollen nodules around the face and genitals. This is less serious than full Myxomatosis and can usually be resolved with simple treatments.

Scabs around the private parts and the face may also be rabbit syphilis, a bacterial infection which can be contracted from the mother at birth and lays dormant for long periods before any signs develop.

If your rabbit is urinating excessively you may see discoloured fur where it’s in contact with the urine, or sore, inflamed skin around their hind legs. This can be caused by a parasite which damages the kidneys and leads to excessive peeing. Consult your vet immediately with any of these symptoms and they can investigate and treat your rabbit.

Keep things tidy

The correct diet, plenty of space to hop around, and regularly well-cleaned living quarters are essential for healthy rabbit rear ends. Their daily menu should be a pile of hay the size of their body, a tablespoon of pelleted food for each kilo of bodyweight, and a pile of vegetables, preferably green, the size of your rabbit’s head. Your rabbit will hate the smell of a dirty home and sitting on urine-soaked bedding can cause urine scold, sores and inflammation on their backside and hind legs.

As naturally clean creatures, they’ll choose a specific toileting area well away from where they eat. It’s easy to help litter train a rabbit. Just watch where he chooses for a toilet, and then put a small tray with sawdust, which you can clean and replace quickly. If you place some of the soiled bedding and faeces in the tray it can often help encourage this spot to be used.

Unhygienic hutches and runs can attract flies, especially in the summer months, and this, along with a mucky rear end will increase the risk of fly strike. A floppy rabbit who doesn’t want to eat, or signs of little maggots wriggly around in a wound or in the fur must be seen by a vet immediately. Swift medical action will give your rabbit the best chance of recovery from fly strike.

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