Monday, June 30, 2014

Pet rabbits are fastidious groomers, but sometimes they need a little help to keep their coat healthy

The one thing that you'll notice about pet bunnies is that they are very clean animals -- and have luxurious, soft fur.

Experts note that while rabbits don't need baths (in fact it's not recommended), they do need regular attention when it comes to their coat, as well as a little extra doting on when shedding heavily, which can range from every three months to twice yearly.

While you might think that long-haired rabbits like the Angora need regular brushing (in the case of this breed, it should be done daily) to avoid problems, those with short fur need brushing frequently too.

The regular ritual need not be thought of as simply a chore -- it's a great way to bond with and give them gentle physical attention, and it enables you to give them a good once over to discover any possible health issues.

The type of brush is important; the skin of rabbits is delicate and can easily be compromised. There are bristle brushes designed for bunnies, and those crafted from boar or other soft components are preferable. A rubber grooming tool like the ZoomGroom is great for capturing all of the loose fur, and is gentle to a bunny's skin. A slicker brush that has the ball ends on the tines to dull them is good for Angoras, since their fur is more easily matted and this type of brush can get through the longer hair.

Most people who share life with rabbits know they can be either very accepting when it comes to being handled -- or not. The latter can be a challenge when it comes to grooming their fur, but I've found that using a rubber grooming glove helps offer more ease in handling skittish bunnies as I'm not fumbling with a brush in one hand and using my free hand to keep the animal still.

Most rabbits seem more comfortable sitting on your lap while being brushed as they tend to squirm around less, are less likely to try take off because they are off of the ground and they feel more secure on your lap. That said, a rabbit should never be a great distance from the ground as they are quite delicate and can be easily injured should they get away and jump from your safe grasp.

Finishing up with a damp (not wet) washcloth will help gather any loose fur that has been brushed out.

More considerations

During times of a heavy shed you'll want to brush more often and ensure that your bunny has plenty of fresh, raw veggies -- and as some clinicians recommend, wet greens -- and as always, access to fresh water. Doing so will support good motility and prevent hairballs which can be problematic, as fastidious groomers like rabbits commonly ingest some fur and even more as shedding increases.

Of course, some rabbits shed a lot all of the time, and with others, clumps of fur will come out when they are shedding heavily. So long as the fur grows back in a timely manner it's nothing it be concerned about, but if not, it's likely an indicator of an illness or other problem. Click here for a fantastic, in-depth piece on fur loss in bunnies by Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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