Rabbit Poopy Butt: How to Clean and Prevent It


Rabbit poopy butt (it's a real thing)

You’re probably here because you’ve run into a problem. A big smelly problem that looks like a ball of poop stuck to your bunny’s bum. This condition is pretty common among pet rabbits, and unfortunately you’re going to have to clean it off, since your rabbit isn’t able to on their own. It’s gross and annoying, but in most cases it’s caused by an imbalanced rabbit diet. Once you help your rabbit improve their eating habits, they will stop needing you to clean their bottom.

Rabbits will develop a condition called poopy butt if they are overweight or do not have the mobility to bend over and clean themselves. The result is a large, smelly ball of poop stuck onto the rabbit’s bottom that will need to be removed in a bath.

After the rabbit is cleaned, you will need to make changes to the rabbit’s diet and figure out the root cause of the problem. If not, the problem will reoccur and you will have to clean their bottom again.


Important: This post contains affiliate links. As an associate to Amazon, Small Pet Select, and Chewy.com I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.


What is poopy butt?

Poopy butt is the name of a condition in rabbits where clumps of poo become stuck and matted to the fur surrounding a rabbit’s bottom. If it’s allowed to build up, the poo will eventually form into a large ball that is smelly and will smear all over as your rabbit hops around.

It’s an uncomfortable condition for rabbits, and can lead to skin irritation or infection around their bottom. It also leaves your rabbit at an increased risk for flystrike, a serious and deadly condition.

Unfortunately, if you find yourself dealing with a case of poopy butt, your rabbit is not going to be able to clean it themselves, and it’s rare for the ball of poo to fall off on its own. It’s also likely that poopy butt will reoccur unless changes are made to your rabbit’s diet or living conditions.

To help your rabbit, you will have to give them a butt bath to clean their bottom as a temporary solution. Then you’ll need to spot clean your rabbit’s bum every day to prevent another buildup of poo until you are able to address the underlying cause of the condition.

CECOTROPES
Cecotropes are little clusters of nutrient-packed soft pellets that rabbits reingest.
normal rabbit fecal pellets
Rabbit fecal pellets should be hard balls that are uniform in size and color.
cecal dysbiosis and true diarrhea
Cecal dysbiosis is unformed cecotropes and is usually caused by an unhealthy diet. True diarrhea is uncommon, but should be treated as an emergency situation.

What causes poopy butt?

For the majority of rabbits, poopy butt is caused by an imbalanced diet that causes their cecotropes to be mushy and unformed (cecal dysbiosis). They end up squishing onto the rabbit’s bum and becoming stuck. At the same time, rabbits with this condition usually have problems reaching their butt to clean it, which further exacerbates the problem.

Cecotropes are the secondary type of rabbit poo (separate from the round fecal pellets that you see daily). In a healthy rabbit, they will look like a mini bunch of grapes. However, you will usually not see them at all since rabbits eat them directly out of their anus.

Causes of poopy butt in rabbits include:

  • A rabbit with an imbalanced diet. Rabbits that eat too little hay and too many pellets or sugary treats are the most likely to develop an imbalance of the gut, which leads to cecal dysbiosis. This will also happen with rabbits when leafy greens are introduced too quickly, and sometimes it will be specific foods that don’t sit well with your rabbit.
  • An overweight rabbit who can’t reach their bottom. Obese rabbits will be unable to clean the poop off their bottom because the fold of fat prevent them from reaching it. To keep the condition from recurring, you will need to help your rabbit lose weight.
  • An elderly rabbit with arthritis. Elderly rabbits will often suffer from arthritis which make it painful for them to bend over and clean themselves. You will need to see your vet and get pain medication to help your rabbit recover. 
  • Disabled rabbits with limited mobility. Rabbits who are disabled, especially paralysis of their hind legs, will not be able to clean themselves.
  • A rabbit living in an unclean habitat. If the rabbit has no place clean to sit or lay, they will eventually develop poop-matted fur as well as urine scalding.

Does poopy butt always come back again?

If you only clean the poop off of your rabbit’s butt, the condition is likely to reoccur. Poopy butt is a symptom of an imbalance in a rabbit’s gut health or a medical condition that causes limited mobility. If these underlying conditions are not addressed, the poopy butt will continue to come back again and again. 

If your rabbit is paralyzed, has a permanent injury to their hind legs, or is otherwise disabled, you will have to deal with this for the rest of their life and make cleaning your rabbit’s bottom part of their daily care. However, most rabbits will be able to start cleaning themselves again as their diet is improved, they lose weight, or they are given pain medication for arthritis.

rabbit butt bath
If your rabbit has poopy butt, you might need to give them a butt bath. Make sure you hold your rabbit securely so only their back legs and butt get wet.

How to clean a rabbit’s poopy bottom

This is easier with two people, but if you have to, the method can also be used alone. I will usually fill a basin and place it on the bathroom floor while cleaning the poop, so that the rabbit will be less likely to injure themselves if they struggle and hop out of the basin.

  1. Prepare a basin or sink for your rabbit. Place a towel on the bottom so your rabbit’s feet have traction and fill it halfway with lukewarm water (about 3 inches depth). Add a squeeze of pet shampoo to the water (NOT shampoo for humans).
  2. Place your rabbit in the water with their bottom and hind legs in. Do your best to keep their top half out of the water. Allow the water to soak the poop-stained  area for a few minutes.
  3. Gently massage the area where the poop connects with the fur. This can be pretty gross, so you may want to use a washcloth or glove. If the ball of poo will not come off, let it soak for a few more minutes, then try again. You may need to replace the dirty water in the basin once or twice depending on how much poop is stuck to the rabbit’s bottom.
  4. Take your rabbit out of the bath and place them on a dry towel. Pat them dry as best you can, but be gentle. You don’t want to rub vigorously since rabbits have sensitive skin that’s even more delicate when wet.
  5. Use a hair dryer on medium heat to help your rabbit dry completely. Keep the dryer at least a foot away from the rabbit and don’t point it on one spot for too long. You want to avoid burning or irritating the rabbit’s skin.

Spot cleaning every day to avoid another build up of poo.

After you have cleaned the big ball of poop off of your rabbit’s bum, you will still need to spot clean them daily until your rabbit is able to take care of themself. While this may occasionally require another butt bath, if you keep it up daily you should be able to spot clean poop that starts to build up with a damp washcloth or paper towel.

Once a day be sure to pick your rabbit up and check their bum for matted poo. If you see any, get a damp rag (with warm water) and gently massage the poo to clean the fur and prevent another buildup. Again this is easier with two people, with one person cleaning and one person holding the rabbit, but it’s possible to do on your own as well (with a little extra patience).

Eventually, as you solve your rabbit’s underlying condition, they should be able to start cleaning on their own again.

Steps to take to prevent poopy butt

Now that you’ve cleaned your rabbit’s bum, you want to solve the problem so it won’t happen again in the future. Since this can be caused by unknown underlying illnesses, it’s always a good idea to see a rabbit veterinarian. They can also give you the best advice for altering a rabbit’s diet safely.

  • Improve your rabbit’s diet. In most cases, the number one thing you can do to prevent poopy butt is by giving them a hay-based diet. Reduce the amount of pellets and treats you give them and increase the amount of hay to give your rabbit a high fiber diet (timothy hay is best). 
  • Slowly introduce new foods to your rabbit. The rabbit digestive system is very sensitive, so new foods can be bad for their gut health even if the food itself is healthy. If your rabbit is dealing with poopy butt, it’s a good idea to stop giving them fresh vegetables and leafy greens for a day or two. Then reintroduce them one at a time, starting with only a small amount. This will allow your rabbit’s gut to get used to the greens, and you’ll be able to see if there is anything specific that your rabbit is eating that causes the soft cecotropes.
  • Help your rabbit lose weight. Since obesity is a major factor in this condition, you may need to put your rabbit on a diet to help them lose weight. For many rabbits, this can be achieved by reducing the amount of pellets and treats you give them while also encouraging exercise. 
  • Clean your rabbit’s litter box and enclosure every day. Keeping the rabbit enclosure and litter box clean can help prevent the poo from building up quickly into a ball. A clean enclosure can also help you detect any reoccurring poopy but, since you’ll be able to see the poop smears in places where your rabbit sits.
  • Make sure your rabbit gets enough exercise. Exercise and activity are great for rabbit gut health and mobility. Let your rabbit out of their enclosure for free roam playtime for 4+ hours every day to encourage better exercise habits. 
  • Treat health conditions (such as arthritis). Sometimes poopy butt is caused by a health condition that needs to be treated or managed. For example, rabbits can get medication for arthritis so that it’s no longer painful for them to bend over.
  • Keep long-haired rabbit fur trimmed. Long haired rabbits, such as angoras and lionheads, are more likely to get poop-smeared fur. It’s a good idea to keep the fur around their bottom trimmed to a manageable length.
rabbit bottom check
Check your rabbit’s bottom on a daily basis to be sure it’s not dirty, so that it won’t attract any flies.

The potential dangers of letting a rabbit live with poopy butt

While poopy butt itself is not an emergency situation, it’s still a condition that you want to address before it becomes serious. If you don’t make any changes or help your rabbit stay clean after you notice the condition, you put them at a greater risk of skin rashes, gut-related illnesses and parasitic infections.

  • Skin rashes and infections. With poop smeared and matted fur, rabbits are likely to get skin rashes and infections on their bottom. The longer the condition is left to continue, the more likely it will cause problems.
  • Flystrike. Flystrike is a gross and deadly parasitic infection that happens when a fly lays eggs on a rabbit. As the eggs hatch the maggots emerge and begin to eat the flesh of the rabbit. It’s a deadly condition that is much more likely to happen if a rabbit has poopy butt since the poo is an ideal egg-laying spot for flies. 
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) Stasis. GI Stasis is a gut condition in rabbits that is characterized by a slowdown of the digestive tract. Rabbit health is very closely tied with their digestive health, so as their gut slows down and stops, the rabbit will stop eating and pooping. The condition can become fatal very quickly and requires medical intervention. Rabbits who are obese or have an imbalanced diet are at a greater risk of developing GI Stasis, so poopy butt can be a warning sign for to get your rabbit healthy before their condition becomes more serious. 

Sources

  1. Krempels, Dana PhD. “Bathing a Rabbit’s Messy Bottom.” University of Miami Biology Department. http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/buttbath.html
  2. “Rabbit Dirty or Sticky Bottoms.” Rabbit Welfare Association. https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/illness/dirtysticky-bottom/

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Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

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