The warmer weather means rabbits need some extra attention. PetPlan veterinary expert Brian Faulkner explains how to take care of your rabbit during the summer months.
Whilst some bunnies bask in the sunlight, soaking up the rays, others like to hide away in a shaded spot and have a snooze. All the while, we rabbit mums and dads have our work cut out for us.
As it heats up, so does your rabbit. Their beautiful thick winter coat sheds to reveal a shorter summer coat, but our furry friends will need a hand to make sure they remain healthy and able to handle the heat.
Clippers at the ready... it’s time to head to the bunny barbers!
Before we start, you’ll need a few tools:
- A soft brush for general grooming
- A comb, especially for longer-haired rabbits
- Nail clippers designed for rabbits, and
- A rubber brush or pimple mitt to remove the build-up of loose fur.
The ins and outs of grooming your bunny
Rabbits are social animals, and those with friends will groom each other. But that doesn’t let you off the hook.
Petplan veterinary expert Brian Faulkner says the basics of grooming are removing dead fur by brushing, dealing with any matted hair, and being mindful of any debris around your rabbit’s bottom. Clean their face and eyes and check their ears for mites or crusty scabs that could indicate the presence of mites. Finally, clip their nails regularly to prevent curling.
How to groom your rabbit
It’s best to do this with a helper. Here’s what to do:
- Gently pick up your rabbit. Get on the floor, and, supporting the chest and hindquarters, lift your bunny and then hold them against you as you stand up slowly.
- Place your rabbit on a table or other surface covered by a towel, being careful they don’t bolt.
- Check them over from head to toe, looking for anything out of the ordinary.
- Check the area around your rabbit’s bottom to make sure it’s clean.
- Once you’re happy that everything looks normal, get a suitable brush and stroke in the direction of hair growth. Remember that rabbit skin is delicate, so be gentle. If there are matted patches of hair, use a wide-toothed comb.
- Clean around their eyes with a moistened cotton wool ball.
‘How often you should do this really depends on how long your rabbit’s coat is,’ says Brian. ‘Longer-haired breeds such as Lionheads and Angoras will need brushing every day and will benefit from a comb that helps to detangle. Shorter coats should be brushed a couple of times a week, more frequently if they’re shedding.
‘Remember, older rabbits will be less flexible, so they need a bit more care and attention.’
Summer care essentials for domestic rabbits
Use this grooming time to perform some rabbit health checks at home.
Check their teeth
Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously. Those cute little front teeth grow as much as 3mm every week! Eating a diet full of natural long fibre such as grass or hay can help to keep their teeth in check. Rabbits with dental problems may stop eating their food or have runny eyes, as overgrown teeth can put pressure on their tear ducts.
Check their droppings
Rabbit poo holds clues to their general health, so it’s a good idea to check their output daily if you can. There are two types of rabbit droppings: small solid pellets, and softer poo called caecotrophs which they usually eat as soon as they’re passed. Caecotrophs lying around or soiled on the rabbit’s rear end could be a sign that your rabbit is unwell. A drop-off in pellet production could be a sign of gastro stasis.
Check their nails
Rabbit nails can become curled and painful if they don’t wear down naturally. Burrowing in the wild would help to keep these short, but domestic rabbits require help. You’ll need a quiet place and an extra pair of hands when entering the rabbit nail salon. They have a vein and a nerve in each nail called a ‘quick’, so if you’re nervous about using the clippers it’s best to get your vet or veterinary nurse to do it for you.
Check their skin
Rabbits’ skin is delicate, and there are a number of issues that can befall them. It’s also important to check wet or soiled areas for fly strike, a nasty condition where flies lay eggs on the rabbit, which hatch into maggots that burrow into the skin. Your vet can provide ointment to help protect against this in the summer, but you should still be vigilant and try to protect your rabbit against flies with nets and cloths rather than ointments.
Provide the right summer space
‘Wild rabbits burrow to keep cool, so make sure they have plenty of shelter in summer,’ says Brian. Fans can be useful, as can a bottle of ice-cold water wrapped in a towel or sock. Remember that rabbits don’t like getting wet, but a gentle spray of water can help to keep them cool, too.
We work in partnership with the UK's animal charities and have seen first-hand the devastating impact Covid-19 is having on their income and the vital funds needed to support the animals in their care. For over 30 years we have been providing 4 weeks free insurance for rehomed pets and giving 10% of rescue pet premiums back to animal charities. In June, to help support animal charities through the Covid-19 crisis we paid over £700,000 in funds that our partners would have received from us in the next 6 months now, in one lump sum, to help them get through the pandemic.