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Why Do Rabbits Die When They Get Wet?

You might have heard rumors that your rabbit might die when they get wet. These rumors are true, and I will tell you more about it and how to avoid it.

This shouldn’t terrify you whenever it rains, or you have to bathe your rabbit. Like everything else about pet care, just a little bit of knowledge can go a long way.

Should Rabbits Get Wet?

No, for their safety, rabbits should not get wet. There are cases when it is necessary, and, in those cases, a little bit of water can be safe.

There might be a case when a rabbit has an accident, and water needs to be applied to clean them off. In these cases, you might opt for a bath that’s safe for a rabbit.

The trick is that you have to minimize how much of your rabbit you get wet. Really, you don’t want to get anything besides their rear and back legs to get wet.

Rabbits have fur that repels a little bit of water. This is to protect the rabbit from getting their sensitive skin wet. So what happens if you get them too wet? They could go into shock, distress, or even die.

You might notice that if you get your rabbit wet, it gets a little crazy. It might start flailing around, biting, and not acting like themselves. This is your rabbit fighting for its life. Rabbits instinctively know how dangerous it is for them to get wet.

The same circumstance stands for when a rabbit is out, and it’s raining. You want to make sure it has shelter outside to stay dry, so it doesn’t get sick or die.

What Happens When a Rabbit Gets Wet?

It was mentioned earlier, but you’ll notice the rabbit kicks and trying to escape when it gets wet. This alone might cause injury in the animal. There are cases when rabbits break their spine, trying to escape as their owner gets them wet. But what about some more medical effects of getting wet?

Well, the anatomy of a rabbit means that it gets wet easily and dries slowly. They’re also bad at regulating heat and get cold pretty quickly. This means that no matter what temperature the water is, your rabbit could get hypothermia.

You might know this already, but rabbit skin is soft and sensitive. When their skin gets wet, it becomes even softer and more sensitive. This makes your rabbit prone to cuts and tears that are hard to heal and take care of.

The worst thing that can happen to your pet when they get wet is death. This could be because of spinal injury, hypothermia, stress, shock, or heart failure. But what happens if your rabbit is wet and it isn’t your fault?

What if Your Rabbit Gets Wet?

The short answer is to dry them immediately.

You want to make sure you use a delicate towel, hand towel, or paper towels to dry your rabbit. Remember, they have sensitive skin, and they need a very soft surface to dry them. Pat them dry rather than rubbing them.

When you’ve patted them to a reasonably dry level, grab the hairdryer, and finish the job up. Make sure the fan is low, and the heat is low, so you don’t injure your furry friend if this is their first time with a blowdryer you might want to turn it on near them without using it on them first. This will help them get used to the noise before you start.

Go slow and make sure you’re gentle in their sensitive areas like their nose, eyes, and mouth.

When they’re dry, now it’s time to make sure they warm up. Give them a nice blanket, make sure their area is toasty, and cuddle them until they’re warmed up.

This method is also great for after you bathed your rabbit, but it’s equally useful if they get accidentally wet or you have to wet them to clean a small area of them.

Bathing Your Rabbit

Since rabbits can’t get wet, what’s the best way to bathe your rabbit?

The safest way to do so is a dry bath. Typically your rabbit will have soiled part of their fur that needs to be cleaned. Use baby powder and gently massage it into these areas.

The soiled section will clump up, and you’ll be able to use a small vacuum to gently suck these sections. As you did with the blow dryer, make sure you let the rabbit get used to the sound before using the vacuum on them.

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If the mess is stuck to a large clump of the rabbit’s fur, you need to avoid pulling it or cutting the section out. Instead, use a wide-tooth rabbit comb and work out the fur.

In the end, brush all of the powder out of your rabbit. Now your rabbit is successfully cleaned! I think they deserve a treat for that.

Why Is Water So Dangerous For Your Rabbit?

The first rule of fostering or keeping a rabbit is simple: never get him wet. Water is completely outside your bunny’s comfort zone, something you might identify with as a human. His fur is built to repel water droplets, which can harm his skin. Only this time, it is so much worse.

Subjecting a rabbit to water can cause shock, which can trigger a stress-induced heart attack, killing your beloved pet instantly. Your bunny already knows that water is harmful to him, and if he feels water on his body, he will react violently with kicks and bites.

As he struggles to get out of the water, he might break his weak spine, killing him. If he manages to get past the bath, his fur will take longer to dry, predisposing him to severe hypothermia, which is a real threat even on the warmest days. Hypothermia is a cold, slow killer, the kind of thing you do not want your bunny to go through.

Finally, if he gets past the bath unscathed, his skin will become very sensitive to tears, causing wounds that you may not see at first glance. Your rabbit may not die immediately after you put them in water, but the risks are too high, and you must avoid getting your bunny wet at all costs.

What Is The Better Alternative To A Wet Bath For A Rabbit?

A dry one. You should know that your rabbit will rarely ever require a bath, and every time I notice my rabbits’ fur looking matted, dirty, or stained, I call in the vet quickly to ensure they are in top health.

However, if your rabbits are older or obese, they might have a hard time cleaning their backsides. A dry bath should help get rid of poop and urine, which you should have no time detecting (the smell is quite overwhelming, you will agree).

How to Give Your Rabbit a Dry Bath

For a dry bath, all you will require is baby cornstarch, which should be easy to find in the baby section of any convenience store or drug store. The unscented version would be better suited to avoid harming his skin.

Avoid talcum powder at all costs because talc is a potent carcinogenic and respiratory irritant. Apply the powder generously to the soiled areas, gently working it through the fur to the skin.

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If the bunny has stubborn clumps of debris, coat them with the powder, they will soon become easier to slide them off. You can use a flea comb to gently remove small bits of debris from your rabbit’s skin.

Do not pull or tug, as rabbits’ skins are very delicate, and you could cause small tears that will cause pain and infection. When all the dirt is removed, pat the area to remove all excess loose powder. Ensure that your bunny does not inhale it.

What Should You Do In Case Your Rabbit Gets Wet?

Rabbits love to run around, especially if you prefer to have yours in the outdoors. Unfortunately, there are pools, ponds, and basins outdoors too, which your furry friend might find himself in accidentally.

Now that the fall is approaching, they might stay out in the rain and get their fur wet. In the first case, you need to act quickly, while in the second, well, bunnies find it completely natural to get rained on.

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All I do with mine is to watch them ensure they don’t get too wet and look out for subtle signs of discomfort or fear. If it is raining and they cannot find immediate shelter, retrieve him quickly from the outdoors.

Start by Eliminating All Signs of Water from His Ears

Rabbits’ ears are highly susceptible to infections like Otitis. Water is one of the main culprits in ear infections, and he might not be able to get all the water out by vigorously shaking his head. Ensure that there is no water in his ear auricles.

Wrap Him Up With a Towel

Wrap him up in a towel to dry and cover him; this should help get rid of the water and restore calm. You can also use paper towels or hand clothes because they are softer.

To ensure he is completely dry, start a hair drier and keep it running for a while so that he gets used to the sound. Ensure you keep it at a medium fan and the lowest heat setting to avoid burning his eyes, ears, and skin.

Use the drier to gently eliminate the last of the water. He may now be dry, but he is not warm. Warm him up with his blanket, cuddles, and keep his environment clean and warm.

To ensure that the rain does not keep wetting him, keep his shelter clean readily accessible, especially at this time.

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What If There Is No Other Alternative To Clean Up Your Rabbit?

It is possible to give your rabbit a wet bath safely. Only use this option if the rabbit has overly soiled himself, and a dry bath does not seem to adequately get rid of the dirt.

Dry baths will also not work for dry-soiling, as the cornstarch will not absorb dry debris. Pay extra attention to his perineal area (his butt and sex organs).

If these areas are not kept clean, the bunny could face urine scalding and dropping-clumps.

How to Give Your Bunny a Safe Wet Bath

Under no circumstances whatsoever can you submerge the rabbit’s whole body in water. The distress will be too much, and it will kill him. To ensure his safety, get assistance from another person.

You will also need a sink, access to lukewarm water (temperature extremes will add to the shock), a slip-free mat, and a rabbit-safe shampoo. You should know that shampoos for human hair or even babies contain compounds that can harm your rabbit’s skin.

Also, avoid shampoos that have plant-derived flea and insect killers as they may harm his skin. A shampoo brand for a dog or cat is not suitable either. If you cannot find rabbit-safe shampoos online, then look for hamster or mouse shampoos.

  1. Have one person hold the bunny as you spray his rear side with a warm spray from a nozzle. Keep the water localized to his rear and back legs only. Also, never get his ears wet, as Otitis media is a serious, painful infection that will require a vet’s attention. The small, wet portion will not harm him.
  2.  Work the shampoo into the soiled areas and massage him with your fingers, not nails.  Use a flea comb to remove stubborn clumps. The shampoo will also get rid of urine that must be causing him discomfort.
  3. As soon as the dirt is removed, dry him with a towel or paper towels. Ensure that all the water is eliminated by carefully using a drier at the lowest heat and fan setting.

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How to Give Your Rabbit a Safe Soak

Sometimes, a quick bath might not eliminate the dirt, and you can give the bunny a soak. In this case, you will need your tub. Running the water as your bunny is an enclosure nearby will work up his anxiety, especially as he will have nowhere to run. Run the water while ensuring the sound does not reach his ears.

  1. Let the water rise to 2 inches, and be lukewarm. Do not use your bath temperature standards for your bun. You will burn him. The water must be as far away as hot as possible.
  2. Place a slip-proof mat in the tub, and now bring in the bunny. Never use excessive physical force on him as he will either attack you or break his spine, trying to escape. Place him rear down into the water and let them soak for a while. If the rabbit seems nervous, the sound of your voice might help, so talk to them reassuringly. Massage the shampoo gently into the fur to remove the dirt.
  3. Dry him thoroughly.

Once your bunny is all clean and dry, reward them with a treat for their resilience. Rabbits hate water more than cats ever will, and are way more sensitive. A treat will help with positive reinforcement relaxation.

To reduce the chance of having to give a wet bath, do not let droppings linger on their bodies or shelter. Just like a cat, a clean bunny is a happy bunny.

Here’s why your rabbit should never get wet 

If you are a rabbit farmer, I am sure you’ve heard rumors that rabbits can die when they get wet. Perhaps you have also noticed that during wet seasons like winter—they become inactive and sometimes not moving at all.

 I have encountered this a couple of times. In one of my first experiences, I bought myself a pet rabbit as a gift, just a day before my birthday.

Unfortunately, the weather was not very friendly because we had just entered the typhoon season. Again, I forgot to get it into its hutch—so it spent the entire night in the cold. 

In the morning, I realized something weird—the rabbit had lost appetite and had some wetness around its butt. Fortunately, I got a veterinarian who assisted me in addressing the problem.

He carefully wiped its butt and successfully managed to give it some squash. He also warned that if it went 24 hours without eating, it could have died.

Naturally, rabbits are adapted to dry conditions

The pet rabbit fur keeps its skin dry by repelling any water it may contact. Its skin is very susceptible to water. If you try to get it wet, you will notice how abnormally it responds in self-defense.

It will begin to thrash, bite, or even respond in a manner suggesting discomfort. It instinctively understands how threatening such conditions can be. That’s why it will do everything possible to fight for its life. 

So, you need to ensure its hutch is well-thatched and that it does not get out, not unless the weather is favorable.

Your bunny may injure himself while trying to escape

As we have pointed out, trying to bath your bunny gets them upset, panicked, and may accidentally harm himself. According to the WabbitWiki, the panic can easily induce heart attacks and extreme shock, sometimes leading to death. 

Rabbits have powerful hind legs but a brittle, fragile spine. Therefore, as it tries to free itself, it may end up breaking the spine, and ultimately affecting its back. 

Its skin is sensitive to soaps and shampoos

Even if when it is so necessary that you bathe your rabbit, be sure not to use some soaps and shampoos. Soaps have reactive components that may irritate the sensitive rabbit skin. The inflammation can even get more severe if the rabbit has some sores on the skin. 

Another danger is that water and soap may enter the eyes or ears. In turn, this may result in serious complications or even death. So honestly, the wetness may kill your bun or even get you in a lot of veterinary bills. 

Exposure to hypothermia

Hypothermia is a medical condition in rabbits that occurs when the ambient temperatures go below 25°C. The main reason why rabbits are susceptible to this disease is that the fur can withhold moisture or wetness for a long period—even if it is still warm. 

If you have used a hairdryer before, you may have noticed how easy it is to accidentally burn the hair, especially for a newbie in the craft. Again, this may expose the rabbit to the extreme cold, and the results may not be fascinating. 

Sometimes wetting the pet rabbit is inevitable

No matter how much we try to keep them in dry conditions, it is obvious they will need some cleaning at some point. And that also means we need an appropriate method to dry them up.

For instance, in the previous case, I told you about, I had to consult a veterinarian because I had no idea how to handle it.  Fortunately, I got a chance to learn how to do it. 

Diseases and injuries may require you to bathe the rabbit

The two common diseases that may cause your rabbit to get your rabbit dirty are arthritis and obesity. An obese rabbit can hardly move, while one with arthritis will have chronic pain limiting its movement.

Also, injuries, especially on the limps, may become a challenge. That means it will spend most of the time at one point if you don’t move it. 

Now, since it is always lying at the same spot, it will get dirty. In most cases, it is the perineal region—especially the sexual organs that get affected most.

That’s because of urine and droppings scalding that may end up burning them if not cleaned. 

So, how best can you dry the wet rabbit? 

Some time back, one of my white rabbits broke out of their hutch and dug a hole outside. It got dusty, so I had no option but to wash and dry out the wetness.

Through the simple guide that the veterinarian gave me, I was able to clean my bunny successfully. 

Here’s how it goes

Even before getting started, it is good to note that rabbit skin is very soft—rubbing it roughly can result in sores. Therefore, you should look for a towel, preferably a soft material like a handkerchief. Again, do not rub even if the towel is soft. Instead, wipe it gently to ensure it is safe. 

Once the moisture is fairly dried up, get a hairdryer, and gently blow some air over it. The air should be warm, and the fan rotating slowly so you can protect your furry pet against unnecessary injuries.

Start the blow-dryer slowly so that your pet can get used even before blowing it over. That will protect them against noise that can easily get them in shock. 

After that, don’t assume your rabbit is good to go—cover it with a warm blanket to induce some heat. Consider even cuddling it until you can feel some warmth. 

In short, whether your rabbit got wet accidentally or you just wanted to keep it clean, this process is quite handy. However, it is not the best practice today, as we will see in the next section. It still risks the life of your pet by using water.

Trends in safe cleaning of rabbits

As of 2020, you don’t want to wash your rabbit traditionally—using water. There are three handy procedures that you can use for effective cleaning while keeping your rabbit dry and safe.

Although I learned this the hard way, I am glad to be sharing the tips with you. Read along.

Method #1: Cleaning specific spots on the fur

Remember, our key concern is to keep off wetness as much as we can. So, when carrying out the steps, be sure to keep everything as dry as possible. 

Cover the clean region and gently brush out the dirt using a rabbits’ brush, designed specifically for that purpose.

Apply cornstarch to the specific spots that are dirty, then comb using the brush.

 If your bunny has some mats clumped on the fur, consider using a mat splitter to get it out. 

For rabbits that spend most of the time indoors, their nails usually overgrow. Therefore, consider trimming them off 

Method #2: The rabbit’s scent glands

Scent glands are small openings under the chins and around the anus that excrete a waxy substance. To clean it effectively, dip a cotton ball into the water or shampoo and scrub it gently. 

 When applying shampoo, be sure you purchase one that is rabbit-friendly that won’t cause inflammation.

Don’t use soap. Sometimes the glands may be so dirty that you need a softener better than shampoo. In that case, mix warm water with baby shampoo. 

Don’t leave it wet—use a hairdryer.

For urine scalds that cannot soften using a shampoo, consider visiting a veterinarian for specialized assistance.

Maintain short fur around the scent glands.

 Method #3: Handling fleas 

Just like humans, fleas are very stubborn to rabbits. If you are not sure of the best dosage to use, consult your veterinarian. Be sure not to use those liquid flea solutions meant for cats or dogs.

Be sure to apply the drug on its shoulder blades. 

Gently comb out the fleas using a dedicated flea comb

Since fleas infest even the hatch, be sure to spray the room and let it dry.

As we mentioned earlier, rabbit skins are susceptible to chemicals. So again, ensure you use only the recommended dosages from a registered veterinarian.