Bathing Rabbits (Disease Investigation & Management - Treatment and Care)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords --
Description Depending on the problem (e.g. toxic substance exposure or perineal soiling, the whole or only part of the rabbit may need to be bathed.
In the treatment of urine scalding
  • For treatment of urine scalding, first remove matted fur by careful clipping as close to the skin as possible. (B601.3.w3)
    • NOTE: do not clip the soles of the feet even if they are matted as the fur is very important as a protective shock-absorbing layer. 
    • Take care since the perineal skin is easily damaged and torn. (B601.3.w3)
    • The rabbit should be sedated if necessary. (B601.3.w3) See: Treatment and Care - Anaesthesia and Chemical Restraint
    • Bathe as described below.
    • After bathing and drying, cover the skin with a barrier cream. (B601.3.w3)
  • Use a mild shampoo. (B601.3.w3, J213.11.w1)
  • Place the rabbit into a suitably-sized container such as a laundry sink.
  • Have one person to restrain the rabbit and one person to bathe it.
  • Use a spray nozzle and warm water (102 - 105 F / 38.9 - 40.6 C)
  • Massage the shampoo into the rabbit's fur right down to the level of the skin.
  • Rinse well.
  • Copiously bathe the eyes with sterile saline. (J213.11.w1)
  • Towel the rabbit dry.
  • Place the rabbit in a warm cage until fully dry. 
  • Monitor body temperature carefully to avoid hyperthermia from hot air driers or hypothermia from evaporative cooling. Keep at body temperature 100 - 102.5 F (37.8 - 39.2 C).
(B601.3.w3, J213.11.w1)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • For decontamination after topical exposure to a known or suspected toxic substance. (J213.11.w1)
  • For removal of gross contamination.
Notes --
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Bathing is contraindicated in a seriously ill individual; it is important to first stabilise the rabbit. (J213.11.w2)
  • Rabbits generally groom foreign material from their coat, therefore if it is known that a toxic substance has been on the rabbit, consider that it may also have ingested the toxin. (J213.11.w1)
  • It is important to monitor the rabbit carefully during drying to avoid hyperthermia from hot air driers or hypothermia from evaporative cooling. Keep at body temperature 100 - 102.5 F. (J213.11.w1)
  • Careful drying is important to avoid hypothermia or moist dermatitis. (B601.3.w3)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Mild shampoo - baby shampoo or a mild puppy/kitten shampoo. (B601.3.w3, J213.11.w1)

  • Sink or container of an appropriate size. (J213.11.w1)

  • Spray nozzle (J213.11.w1)

  • Warm water (102 - 105 F). (J213.11.w1)

Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • This procedure should only be carried out by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience.
Cost/ Availability --
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery." (See: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).
Author Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Referee Frances Harcourt-Brown BVSc FRCVS (V.w140)
References B601.3.w3, J213.11.w1

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