What To Do If Your Pet Rabbit Gets Wet

what to do if your rabbit gets wet

If you’ve spent any time in the online rabbit community, you’ll see that most people are pretty adamant about not getting a rabbit wet. A wet rabbit is indeed more likely to develop hypothermia, skin irritation, or other health conditions, however, it’s not quite as dangerous as people make it out to be. I definitely don’t recommend you bathe your rabbit, but there is no need to panic if your rabbit gets wet. As long as you take the time to dry your rabbit off properly, they likely won’t have any long-term health conditions.

If your rabbit gets wet, gently pat them dry with a towel. Then use a hairdryer on the lowest setting to thoroughly dry off your rabbit. This process may take a while because rabbit fur tends to hold onto moisture once it’s been soaked.

If your rabbit is only slightly wet and fur has not been soaked through, then you probably don’t need to dry your rabbit at all. Keep an eye on them to make sure your rabbit is comfortable and no signs of health problems occur. 

How dangerous is water to rabbits?

While there are some dangers to getting a rabbit soaking wet, it’s often blown out of proportion. Rabbits are not going to immediately die if they get wet, but it can potentially cause some health complications if they are not dried quickly. You might have heard that rabbits will immediately go into shock if they touch water, but that’s honestly very rare. The more realistic dangers are hypothermia and skin infections, but these can often be prevented if the rabbit is dried quickly and thoroughly.

There is also a big difference between a rabbit whose fur is a little damp and a rabbit whose fur is completely soaked through. The former is not dangerous at all, and will quickly dry, whereas the latter is much more likely to lead to hypothermia or a skin infection. That’s why spritzing your rabbit behind the ears to keep them cool in the summer is okay, but baths are not.

Rabbit in towel
If your rabbits has hypothermia, wrap them in a towel to keep them warm or place a heating pad nearby.

Potential dangers when rabbits get wet

While it is true that water is not quite as dangerous to rabbits as many people make it out to be, there are some real consequences if a rabbit is soaked through, especially for long periods of time. Once rabbit fur is wet, it holds on to moisture and does not dry very quickly. So, if they are soaked, they will stay wet for a very long time.

The health concerns associated with a wet rabbit include:

  • Hypothermia: The main risk with wet rabbits is the chance of them getting hypothermia. Because they don’t dry very quickly, the rabbit’s body temperature can easily fall below healthy levels and leave them in a dangerous situation. This is more common for rabbits who are kept outdoors or left in the direct path of a fan or AC. (Learn more about the symptoms of hypothermia in rabbits)
  • Severe skin irritation or infection: Rabbits have very delicate skin. Their fur usually protects them very well, but they lose that shield when they are wet. For this reason, rabbits will often have severe skin irritation that could even lead to an infection. Rabbit skin is also delicate enough when wet that it can tear more easily. A small cut can turn into a large wound very quickly.
  • Inner ear or respiratory infection: If water gets into the rabbit’s ears or they inhale it, there is potential for an ear or respiratory infection. Look for signs of swelling or redness around the ears or any wheezing and sneezing.
  • Attracting parasites: Fur that is wet for long periods of time can attract bugs that lay their eggs in moist places. This could cause something like flystrike, which is life-threatening for rabbits. (Learn more about the symptoms of flystrike)
  • Injuries: Rabbits typically don’t like water very much, so they are prone to panic when they are placed in a bath or body of water. When this happens they might kick or jump around without paying attention to their environment. They can cause injury to themselves in their rush to get away from the water.
  • Shock: While uncommon, it is technically possible for a rabbit to go into shock when they get wet. Typically, it would only happen if it’s a highly skittish rabbit and freezing cold water. (Learn more about shock in rabbits)

If your rabbit is experiencing any of these side effects after getting wet, it’s important to contact your local rabbit veterinarian as soon as possible. Hypothermia, especially, can become deadly very quickly, so you want to make sure your rabbit is taken care of.

When is it okay if a rabbit gets wet

There is a clear difference between when a rabbit is soaked through and needs to be dried and when they are just a little wet and can take care of themselves. You will probably instinctively know the difference. If your rabbit is just slightly wet or has a spot of wet fur, you don’t really need to take any action. You can take a towel to help your rabbit dry off, but even that might not be necessary.

Regardless, if your rabbit gets a little wet, it’s best to observe them for a day or two just to make sure there are no health concerns that pop up. But, if your rabbit is only wet on the surface of their fur, or only a small portion of their body is wet, then you probably have nothing to worry about.

Use these examples as guides to determine if you should take action and dry your rabbit, or let them be:

  • If the water is only on the surface of the rabbit’s fur. Rabbits have multiple layers of fur. If only the outer layer is wet, then the rest of their fur can still do its job of protecting the skin and keeping the rabbit warm.
  • If you need to spot-clean part of your rabbit. Sometimes rabbits will get into something that makes a mess on part of their fur. You can use a washcloth to clean off that section without making the whole rabbit soaking wet. Even if that one area ends up getting soaked through as you clean it if it’s a small enough area it’s not likely to cause any long-term issues.
  • If the rabbit steps into the water bowl. Sometimes rabbits will accidentally get themselves wet by stepping into their water bowl or flipping it over. If it’s just one or two legs that are wet, then your rabbit can take care of themselves. However, it’s a good idea to clean up any mess as soon as possible so that your rabbit doesn’t get soaked if they decide to sleep in a puddle of water.
  • You spritz your rabbit’s ears to keep them cool in the summer. One way to help rabbits stay cool in the summer is to spritz some cold water behind their ears. This is just surface-level water, so it shouldn’t cause any long-term health issues. You do, however, want to be careful not to get any water inside your rabbit’s ears.

When should you take action when your rabbit gets wet

In addition to when your rabbit gets soaked through, there are some other scenarios when it’s best to dry them completely even if they are not thoroughly wet. If you encounter any of these scenarios, you should take the time to help your rabbit dry off:

  • They are soaking wet. If your rabbit ever gets soaking wet for any reason, you should fully dry them off. Maybe they were outside and it started raining, or maybe they flipped their full water bowl over directly on top of themselves. In this case, you will want to follow the steps in the next section to help your rabbit dry off.
  • When the temperature is cold. The colder the temperature, the more likely damp fur can lead to hypothermia. Even if your rabbit is not soaked through, it’s best to help them dry off completely.
  • If your rabbit is panicking. If your rabbit got a couple of feet wet and they seem to be racing around in fright, you might want to help them dry off. Usually, rabbits will simply groom themselves for a while and then settle down to let everything finish drying. However, if they are too anxious about it, you can at least help them towel off some of the excess moisture.
  • If your rabbit has any other health conditions. A rabbit who has other medical conditions might be more prone to getting sick if they are left with damp spots on their fur. Even if it’s a small wet spot, it’s best to make sure your rabbit is dried as completely as possible.
drying rabbits with a hairdryer
When using a hairdryer, make sure to keep 1-2 feet between you and the rabbit to prevent burning the rabbit’s sensitive skin.

How to dry off your rabbit

Drying off a rabbit is relatively easy (depending on how much your rabbit squirms), but it can take a long time. It’s best to do this with two people, so one person can hold and comfort the rabbit while the other person dries them. It’s best if the rabbit is put on a surface and held securely in place so they don’t injure themselves.

  1. Towel-dry your rabbit. Start by taking a paper or cloth towel and soaking up any excess moisture. Be gentle as you pat your rabbit with the towel so as not to cause any further skin irritation.
  2. Use a hairdryer on the lowest heat settings. Hold the hairdryer one to two feet away from your rabbit. If you hold it too close you could burn their delicate skin. You also don’t want to keep the air on one spot for very long. Gently move the hairdryer back and forth to prevent any one spot from getting too hot.
  3. Pause every few minutes to make sure your rabbit doesn’t overheat. Every three to five minutes you want to pause and give your rabbit a break for a couple of minutes.
  4. Keep going until your rabbit is dry and fluffy. It will take a while to completely dry your rabbit with all the starting and stopping, but keep going until your rabbit is completely dry.

Watch your rabbit for symptoms of skin irritation or ear infection

After you have dried your rabbit thoroughly, you still want to keep an eye on them for several days to make sure they are okay. Infections that occur as a result of being soaked might not show symptoms immediately, so you just want to be on the lookout so you can get your rabbit medical attention if they need it.

Look for any unexplained fur loss or red skin which might be an indication of a skin infection. A loss of balance, redness, or swelling around the ears can be a sign of an ear infection. You’ll also want to make sure your rabbit’s breathing, appetite, and pooping habits are normal since these can all be subtle symptoms that your rabbit isn’t feeling well.

rabbit playing in bucket of snow
You can shovel some snow into a large plastic bin for your rabbit to play with inside.

Is it okay if my rabbit goes outside in the rain?

Generally, it’s okay if your rabbit is outside in the rain. Always make sure your rabbit has some kind of shelter from the rain, so they can choose to get out of it if they want, but there’s nothing wrong with allowing your rabbit to choose for themselves. If it’s a torrential downpour, it’s best to keep your rabbit in a dry space. 

It’s also okay for rabbits to play in the snow if they want to. Just make sure they’re not outside for too long so that you don’t risk them getting wet and cold. That way there’s less risk of hypothermia on a cold day.

I also recommend checking on your rabbit when they come back inside from playtime. If they are soaked, you’ll want to help them dry off using the steps above.

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.

Can I give my rabbit a bath?

It is not recommended that rabbits be given a bath. In general, rabbits are very clean animals. They spend a lot of the day grooming themselves all over to stay clean, so baths are not necessary for healthy rabbits.

If your rabbit gets dirty in some way that they can’t clean themselves, you can spot clean them with a wet rag or comb cornstarch or baby powder through their fur. This will help to remove stains and dirt.

If your rabbit gets poopy butt, a condition where poop gets squished and stuck on their bottom, you might need to give your rabbit a butt bath. This is common among rabbits who are obese, elderly, and disabled since they might be unable to clean themselves properly. 

To learn more about the three techniques for washing a rabbit without giving them a full bath, check out my article.

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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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