When you initially take on your adorable baby bunny, he will have thick soft coat that is incredibly pleasing to touch. However, as your rabbit gets a little older, this baby coat will shed and his adult fur will replace it.
But for new bunny owners, the sudden moulting of their pet can be a little surprising since, before this, the rabbit may not have noticeably shed very much at all.
Rabbits, much like other haired mammals shed their fur regularly. Once the baby coat has gone, you can expect a wild rabbit to moult between two and four times per year. However, domestic rabbits’ moulting may be a little more sporadic and it isn’t uncommon for them to moult continuously.
Understanding your rabbit’s moulting is important. While you may think that this is simply part of nature, and it is, there could be times when moulting is a sign of something health related.
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Do Rabbits Moult?
Pet owners usually think of long haired dogs and cats being the animals that shed the most, so when you take on a rabbit and notice that his fur is everywhere, it can be a little surprising. But since these are furry animals, shedding their coat is as natural as you and I losing and regrowing hair.
At around the age of five months, baby rabbits will develop what is known as a transitional coat. This replaces their baby coat until the adult fur develops.
Once this has happened, you will find that a rabbit will typically moult again during the spring and autumn of each year. Although, it isn’t unheard of for bunnies to moult up to four times a year.
It is also the case that rabbits in the wild will follow a much more structured pattern of moulting compared to their domestic cousins. While shedding still occurs in domesticated buns, it appears to be on a much more laid back basis.
For some house rabbits, owners will notice a continual yet steady flow of fur shedding as opposed to a ‘moulting season.’ In any case, you should get to know what is normal for your rabbit as this will help you to spot any unusual shedding.
How Much Do Rabbits Moult?
If your rabbit moults in the spring, you will notice a significantly larger amount of shedding owing to the fact that the bunny is getting rid of his thick winter coat.
During the warmer months, this is no longer needed and depending on the breed, can be quite substantial.
On the flip side, some rabbits, especially when they moult at other times of year may shed so little that it goes largely unnoticed by their owners.
If you do notice it, it will normally be when the rabbit is running around out of the enclosure and chunks of hair will be more noticeable.
You will usually find that rabbits which are kept inside tend to moult more often than those that live in a hutch in the garden. The reason for this is that the inside of the home is much warmer, especially if you have the heating on for large portions of the day.
Rabbits moult as a way of losing their thick winter coats to avoid over heating in the summer. But being indoors removes the natural cycle of things and this can lead to continued moulting all year round.
There isn’t anything that can be done about this other than regularly grooming your pet. Of course, you will also want to make sure that you keep your home clean and hair free through regular vacuuming and sweeping.
Do Rabbits Need Help Moulting?
For the most part, a rabbit will moult without any assistance from their owners. But there may be times when moulting can become stuck. But this isn’t anything to worry about and it certainly won’t cause your rabbit any harm.
This happens when the moulted fur becomes stuck at certain points around the body. Most commonly, moulting will stick around the belly and the flanks.
The good news is that it doesn’t take any special treatment to remove the stuck hair and using a moulting comb to gently comb the fur away will usually solve the problem.
When Is Moulting A Problem?
Whether your rabbit moults periodically or constantly, it isn’t difficult to spot when something is awry. When rabbits moult, they will typically start to lose hair from their heads.
This shedding continues down the body until the rear end of the rabbit finally sheds and an entire new coat is produced.
You might notice that, as your rabbit moults, there is a clear line where the old fur has already been shed and the moult is moving down the body.
That said, there are some rabbits whose moulting patterns can be very haphazard with buns losing fur patches from seemingly random places all over the body.
As we have mentioned, it is important to recognise what is normal for your pet.
Some rabbits may suffer with a condition known as alopecia. This is something that can affect any animal with hair, including humans and simply means that fur or hair is lost without any apparent reason.
A rabbit with alopecia will likely have patches where there is very little or no hair and it is important to have your pet assessed by a vet.
In the main, this hair loss may be down to some sort of skin irritation which, thankfully, in generally easy to treat and the hair will soon grow back. However, sadly, there may be times when a rabbit sheds to excess and this could be a sign of something much more serious.
Rabbits are incredibly intelligent creatures and need a lot of physical and mental stimulation. Without this, they will quickly become bored and this can result in an array of unwanted behaviours.
Most commonly, you will see rabbits becoming aggressive but when stress takes over, they may begin ripping their fur out with their teeth.
Not only this but stress can cause bunnies to lose their fur without pulling it out by themselves. This could be a result of boredom or some other kind of trauma.
If you have other pets such as cats or dogs, there is a chance that they may frighten your rabbit; the same can be said for young children. By improving your pet’s quality of life and reducing their stress, you should see an improvement in hair loss.
If you keep more than one rabbit in an enclosure, which most people do as rabbits are very sociable animals, there is a risk of the pair fighting.
It is important to properly bond your rabbits and have males neutered as this will prevent them from being overly territorial.
That said, some rabbits simply don’t get along. In the same way that two humans might not see eye to eye, rabbits will behave in the same way; only much more aggressively.
But regardless of the reason for fighting, this could be why your rabbit is losing fur more than he should be, particularly in patches. In this case, you should separate the pair and attempt to rebond them later down the track.
Hair Loss With Other Symptoms
If you rabbit is moulting normally, you won’t notice any other changes and your pet should continue to eat, sleep, toilet and play as usual.
However, if you notice that the fur loss is happening alongside other symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue or anything else, this could be a sign of ill health.
In these instances, you should always book an urgent appointment to see your vet. Rabbits are very good at hiding pain and so as an owner, you need to constantly monitor your pet’s behaviour.
Rabbit Fur Mites
Where moulting and fur health is concerned, one of the most problematic and common issues relates to the Cheyletiella parasitovorax, more commonly referred to as the rabbit fur mite. Normally, these mites are harmless but problems can occur when the rabbit cannot keep the mite population under control.
While many parasites and mites are too small to be detected with the naked eye, rabbit fur mites can be seen if you look closely.
But they are very small so they may be missed if you aren’t actively looking for them. Many owners will notice them moving around the rabbit’s fur which can be alarming.
If rabbit fur mites do become a problem, you will probably notice underlying health concerns first. This is normally related to your pet’s ability to groom himself. If he cannot do this, then he will not be able to control the mites, and this is when they can take over.
Some of the most common issues that affect a rabbits ability to groom and take care of themselves are related to their dental health. Checking your rabbit’s teeth and mouth regularly can go a long way in maintaining good dental health. However, the lack of ability to control fur mites may also be related to the following:
- Hock pain
- Being overweight or obese
- Balance problems
- Illness that affects the immune system
How Do I Know If My Rabbit Has Fur Mites?
You should be able to see the mites crawling around your rabbit and the problem is that there is no real reason for an infestation. There is some suggestion that all rabbits have a degree of fur mites but it is only during a time of flare up that the problem becomes apparent.
Furthermore, it is worth considering that these mites can be found in hay so may naturally end up in your rabbit’s enclosure.
But there are some giveaway symptoms that would suggest a rabbit is infested with fur mites and the best way to tell this is to look at the animals skin.
When an infestation is out of control, you may notice significant patches of cry, flaky or even crusty skin. While this can appear anywhere on the body, it is most common around the tail area, the back and the neck.
Rabbits Eating Fur
One of the most worrying things for pet owners is to see their rabbits eating their moulted fur. You should keep in mind that, while this may seem odd, your bunny’s gut is probably full of hair since they ingest quite a lot of it as they groom themselves.
But that doesn’t mean that fur should become a staple part of a rabbit’s diet. There is a risk that your pet may ingest too much and this can lead to problems.
GI stasis is one of the most concerning digestive problems for a rabbit and this can develop causing hair to dry out in the gut before the rabbit is able to naturally pass it. This may result in hairballs being passed.
For this reason, it is important to keep an eye on your rabbit’s toilet habits. Rabbit droppings should be small, round, and relatively dry. That said, you know what is normal for your pet and so when checking their poop, be sure to look out for any changes.
If the droppings have gotten smaller and less frequent (rabbits can do up to 300 poops in a day!), this could be a sign that the gut has slowed down and you should seek immediate medical attention since GI stasis can quickly result in death if not treated.
You may notice, especially when your rabbit is moulting, that they pass stools that are connected by long strands of hair.
This might appear worrying but provided that the rabbit is eating and otherwise healthy, it should be seen as a good sign that the animal is moving hair through the gut rather than it getting caught there.
Grooming Your Rabbit
Rabbits are very clean animals and as such, you will notice that they groom themselves, and each other, a lot.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t play an important role in the process. In fact, grooming your rabbit is one way of strengthening your bond with her.
There are many tools and brushes that can be used to help groom your rabbit but you should avoid anything with sharp bristles such as a slicker brush.
While this might be suitable for other animals, rabbits have very delicate skin that can tear easily. These brushes can be far too harsh for a bunny.
It is OK to use a flea comb that is designed for cats as well as any grooming brush that features flat-ended bristles. However, every rabbit is different and may prefer the feel of different tools so be sure to try out a few options to find out what works best for both of you.
Rabbits are prone to getting matted fur, especially when they are moulting. While it can be tempting to cut this out, you should only do this if you know how.
Otherwise, your vet will have the correct tools for safely removing matted clumps on the fur.
Rabbits shed their baby coats at around five months of age. At this point, they will develop a transition coat before their adult fur arrives. As adults, bunnies will moult up to four times a year although moulting during the spring is the most common as they shed their winter fur.
Shedding is a natural process that usually doesn’t cause any problems. However, there may be times when a rabbit losing fur is a sign of something more serious.
Getting to know your rabbit’s moulting habits and understanding how it works can help you to spot potential problems.