Why Does My House Rabbit Have a Dirty Butt?
With two house rabbits to feed, clean and take care of, one thing I always check daily is the cleanliness of their butts. That’s because, loose stools, diarrhea or a generally dirty butt can be a good indicator of a health problem. If it’s not cleaned correctly, of course, a dirty butt can also cause a rabbit’s health problems to worsen and, if left dirty, can lead to severe illness and even death.
That’s why, if you notice your house rabbit has a dirty butt, the first thing you should do is clean it. The second? Find out what’s causing your bunny’s dirty butt, and do everything you can to fix it.
New diet – A change in the brand of pellets you normally use or a new vegetable your rabbit hasn’t eaten before can cause your bunny to have looser stools than normal. When that happens, the stool can smear around the bunny’s butt and be a nightmare to get off, particularly if your rabbit has longer hair.
If you have recently introduced a new type of vegetable or a new brand of pellets to your rabbit’s diet, stop giving it to him and reintroduce it slowly — just a little bit over a couple of days. If the effect is still the same, ie: looser stools, it’s obviously not something your bunny should be fed.
I recently gave my two rabbits carrot tops for the first time and, while one had no problem digesting them, the other had a hard time. It became apparent after two or three days that carrot tops were never going to sit well with my baby girl, as much as she loved them, so I had to discontinue them from both their diets (well, you try telling one rabbit it can’t have what the other one is eating!)
Is he eating enough hay? Timothy hay is the best thing your rabbit can eat, but if he stops eating as much of it in favor of more vegetables or tasty treats, that alone can cause his stools to loosen and a dirty butt is the result.
If he’s not eating enough hay, first make sure the hay is fresh and not moldy or smelling bad. If the hay is fine, give him less vegetables and no treats until he begins to eat more hay and his stools go back to normal.
Is your rabbit too fat? – A fat rabbit has problems reaching behind and underneath itself to clean its butt as well as the rest of its body. If that’s the case, your rabbit needs to lose weight as a fat rabbit can develop all kinds of health problems besides a nasty butt, including heart disease and high blood pressure.
A fat rabbit unable to clean its butt correctly can also be susceptible to flystrike. This is when a fly lays its eggs on your bunny’s dirty butt and maggots hatch. They then burrow into your bunny’s skin and, if not treated, it will die. Now that’s an agonizing death, and something you never want to subject your precious rabbit to.
Is your rabbit sick? – If your rabbit’s dirty butt hasn’t been caused by a change of food or not enough hay, he could be sick and that’s why he’s having problems cleaning his butt. Watch him carefully to see if there are any other changes in his habits or appearance and, if so, he needs to be taken to the vet. Rabbits can die quickly when they become ill, so don’t take any chances.
Diarrhea – If your rabbit has a dirty butt because he has diarrhea, that’s a serious health problem in itself. Diarrhea, if the cause isn’t found and eliminated from your bunny’s life quickly, can cause digestive problems, GI stasis and a very quick death. If your bunny has diarrhea, clean his butt and then take him to the vet. It really is that serious.
Cleaning your rabbit’s butt – Of course, if your rabbit’s butt is dirty and he’s not cleaning it, that’s a job for you.
The best way to do it is to lay him gently on his back in the crook of your arm, with his butt just slightly hanging over the sink. Sponge his butt with a wet facecloth or paper towels first and then, if it’s not coming off, pour some warm water gently over it and use a pet-safe liquid soup.
Rinse well and pat dry with paper towels, and then blow dry on a cool setting. Just be sure to dry the area well as, if you don’t, it will take hours to dry by itself, and can cause your bunny extreme discomfort.