Grooming your pet rabbit’s fur and nails is good for five reasons:
- It helps it stay clean and healthy,
- It improves its appearance,
- It helps keep the loose fur down to a minimum,
- It keeps the nails down to help prevent infection in cracks, etc,
- It reduces the possibility of it swallowing loose fur which can cause serious problems with its delicate digestive system.
Brushing and Cleaning Fur
Your rabbit will do some grooming itself, but it is worth supplementing and it provides the opportunity for you to check its skin for sores or lesions.
The right frequency for brushing will vary with the breed and normal length of the fur, from weekly being normal down to daily for very long-haired breeds such as Angora rabbits.
Rabbit skin is quite delicate and any sores can get licked by the rabbit causing infection, so some care is needed. A brush specifically for bruishing rabbits, with plastic bristles or the rubber groomer type are best. When the rabbit is shedding its fur a fine comb, but not a metal type, is useful. Long fur can be trimmed carefully if necessary.
Mats in the fur are best not cut out if possible and only then with care. It is advisable to try and comb or brush them out, with the help of an “orange and oil” type of commercial spray and water for mats or anything stuck in the fur. Its also worth drying any moisture off to prevent more debris sticking to it.
Rabbits are unlikely to take kindly to nails being clipped, even if they ever get used to it. You may need assistance to hold your rabbit. A good practical idea is to restrain the rabbit by wrapping it in a towel with all the equipment you need close at hand.
It best to use small nail-trimmers, ideally of the scissor kind as clippers don’t work well on relatively small feet or on the rabbit’s nail configuration. You must avoid cutting the quick, which if cut is painful for the rabbit, bleeds profusely and can get infected especially if the rabbit breaks free and steps on it. The quick is the blood vessel and can be avoided best by:
- wetting the nail will tend to contrast the quick to the rest of the nail, especially with dark-coloured nails
- holding the foot and clipping from underneath the nail, which allows you to better see the quick
- only trim very small amounts at a time, firmly and as speedily as possible without rushing
If you do cut the quick by accident, speedily apply some styptic powder (a sulphur compound) which should stop the bleeding almost immediately. This can be repeated if necessary and move on. Restrain the rabbit for a few minutes after the bleeding has stopped.
It may be necessary to do all the nails over more than one session depending on your rabbit, but overall and with practice it won’t take too long.