Are Rabbit Scratches Dangerous?

Published: June 17th, 2023
Last Updated: September 21st, 2023
Written By: Bradly Spicer
Are Rabbit Scratches Dangerous?

Rabbit scratches can be a common occurrence when interacting with these adorable and playful creatures. While rabbits are generally gentle animals, their claws can accidentally cause scratches, or even when provoked they may lash out leading to discomfort and potential infections.

Much like most scratches, a domestic rabbit scratch shouldn’t be cause for concern if the wound is kept clean and isn’t too deep. If your wound gets infected, you should seek medical assistance. Your rabbit is more likely to cause an infection if their living area isn’t clean.

Rabbits can however spread tularemia (also known as rabbit fever) in rare cases, with roughly around 200 cases being reported every year in the US alone.

This article aims to provide you with valuable insights into the causes, treatment, and prevention of rabbit scratches, ensuring the well-being of both you and your furry companion.

Why has my Rabbit scratched me?

There’s a multitude of reasons for why your rabbit may scratch you, in some cases it will be accidental and in other cases it may be due to hormones or self defense.

Rabbits will dig and scratch to make their surroundings comfortable, however, when rabbits feel threatened or scared, they may instinctively use their claws as a defense mechanism. This can lead to scratches if they feel cornered or if they perceive you as a potential threat.

Additionally, if your rabbit is not properly trained or socialized, they may scratch when handled incorrectly or if they are feeling anxious or uncomfortable.

In most cases your rabbit won’t scratch you without reason, whether it’s accidental through playing or being picked up or due to hormones.

Freshly cut rabbit nails
Freshly trimmed rabbit nails

How do you treat a rabbit scratch?

If you’re unlucky enough to get a rabbit scratch, it is essential to clean the affected area promptly. Wash the wound gently with mild soap and water, removing any dirt or debris. If you have any alcohol wipes or antiseptic ointment this should be applied to prevent infection. You should also take a picture of the wound whilst it is fresh, to take to a healthcare specialist.

Cover the scratch with a sterile bandage or dressing to protect it from further irritation. If the scratch shows signs of infection or fails to heal, consult a healthcare professional for appropriate treatment.

A rabbits scratch usually won’t go deep enough to cause concern with tetanus, however, rabbits do still have a low chance of being a carrier of bacteria.

Here’s what you may catch from a rabbit scratch:

  1. Tularemia: A severe bacterial infection that can cause flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, lesions, fatigue, eye damage and swelling, vomiting, pneumonia, and inflammation of the lymph glands. It requires immediate treatment.
  2. Ringworm: A common fungal infection characterized by redness, blistering, scaling, and cracking of the skin, along with itching. Although not usually serious, it can be persistent and bothersome.
  3. Encephalitozoon Cuniculi: A parasite present in rabbit urine that can infect humans through a scratch. Symptoms may include headaches, seizures, blurred vision, mental confusion, and, in severe cases, brain damage or death. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms.
  4. Tetanus: While rare, a rabbit scratch can potentially introduce the tetanus bacteria into the body. Tetanus causes muscle stiffness, spasms, and can be life-threatening. It is important to ensure your tetanus vaccinations are up to date.

Can you teach your rabbit to not scratch?

You can train your rabbit to do plenty of things, they are incredibly smart creatures but training them to not scratch is basically impossible. What you can do is associate scratching with a negative response such as yelping like you’re in pain.

This will associate them scratching you with a negative response which will communicate that scratching you does have consequences. The issue is when your rabbit is territorial or aggressive, this may not be constructive without further bonding first.

You should never discipline your rabbit when they scratch you, they simply don’t understand what discipline is as it’s not part of their social dynamic. If you would like to reinforce the yelping response, you can try giving them a pellet treat or pets to let them know you’re okay and the bond between you is good.

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