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If you’re a proud owner of a cute and fluffy rabbit, you must have noticed its fur shedding occasionally. While shedding is a natural process for rabbits to renew their fur, it can concern some pet parents.
Understanding the causes, patterns, and care tips for rabbit shedding can help you provide the best care for your furry friend. In this article, we’ll dive into the world of rabbit shedding and cover everything you need to know about it.
Rabbit shedding is when rabbits lose their old or damaged fur and grow a new one. It’s a natural phenomenon that helps rabbits maintain their body temperature and protect their skin. Unlike humans, rabbits shed their fur throughout the year, and the shedding patterns vary depending on the breed, age, and season.
Before we discuss the shedding patterns, let’s understand rabbits’ fur types. There are two types of fur in rabbits:
Guard hairs are long and coarse hairs that form the outer layer of the rabbit’s fur. They protect the rabbit’s skin from dirt, moisture, and parasites. Not all rabbit breeds will have Guard hairs, for example, the Castor Rex bred only has a thick undercoat.
Undercoat is the soft and dense fur that grows beneath the guard hairs. It provides insulation to the rabbit’s body and helps regulate its temperature.
Most rabbits will have two big shedding seasons per year in spring and autumn, to prepare them for summer and winter. They shed much fur during this time, which is entirely normal.
They usually also have a couple of other shedding periods each year where they shed less than during the ‘big shedding seasons.’ More minor shedding seasons will be in between big periods of shedding.
Shedding periods are often up to 6 weeks long and can be around three months apart. The months they shed depend on when the temperature changes where you live. Often it will be around March or April to shed their coat for summer, and around October to November to shed ready for their winter coat.
Baby rabbits (known as kits or kittens) have soft fluffy coats. As they reach around 5 to 6 months old, the baby coat will be replaced with a transitional coat. You won’t see much shedding around this time.
Over the next year, as the rabbit fully reaches adulthood, their transitional coat will be replaced with its adult coat. This is when you’ll start to see the adult shedding seasons.
It’s worth noting that some rabbits can become quite grumpy and change their behavior slightly when molting. They might shy away from you and seek more time alone in their shelters.
As long as there are no other signs of ill health, this is nothing to worry about. Shedding can make rabbits feel itchy or uncomfortable, but they should return to their usual selves after the shed.
Rabbits shed their fur in a cyclical pattern, which means that they shed their fur continuously throughout the year. However, there are two main shedding seasons in rabbits:
Spring shedding is the most prominent shedding season for rabbits. It usually occurs in late winter or early spring and lasts for several weeks. During spring shedding, rabbits shed their thick winter coat to grow a lighter summer coat.
Fall shedding, also known as molting, occurs in late summer or early fall. During fall shedding, rabbits shed their summer coat to grow a thicker winter coat. Fall shedding is usually less noticeable than spring shedding, but it can last longer.
While a rabbit is shedding fur, it can often look shaggy with an uneven coat. Don’t worry. This is normal and to be expected! Tufts of fur will likely stick out at random angles, and clumps of fur will often come out when you pet your rabbit.
A rabbit can also get ‘stuck in molt,’ meaning they haven’t shed all of their old fur before the new fur grows. This usually happens around the rear end and stomach. This isn’t dangerous for your rabbit, but it can mean they will continue to shed in those areas or look shaggy. You can help them remove the old coat by brushing them or using a lint roller to remove the loose fur.
Sometimes the old coat and new coat underneath can be slightly different colors. You may see darker skin where the new coat is growing. You might even see a line of fur known as a shed line, where you can see both the old and new coats.
Some rabbit breeds will grow lighter coat during winter. This is something they have evolved to do because they’re prey animals. Having a lighter coat in the wild means they can mesh with their surroundings and better hide from predators.
When rabbits molt, they typically start by shedding fur from their head, which spreads down the neck and back and then down the sides of their body, finishing on their rumpThe Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund
It can look like a lot of furs are being shed, especially when it’s flying around your house and getting on everything. With long-haired rabbits, there will be even more fur flying around! However, most rabbit shedding is normal and is nothing to worry about.
Some rabbits will blow their coat rather than shed in the discussed pattern. This means they’ll shed all of their furs at once, which causes a ton of shed fur around the home. They might even have temporary bald patches, but the hair will grow back quickly. This is rare but can happen. If it does, as long as any other symptoms of ill health do not accompany it, you don’t need to panic.
Shedding is a natural process that helps keep your rabbit healthy, so you can’t stop them from shedding. You can reduce the impact of the shedding around your home by grooming your rabbit and vacuuming more regularly during the shedding season.
You can help your bunny to have a healthy, normal shedding pattern by ensuring they’re in a suitable environment and have everything they need. Stressed rabbits shed more!
If you’re considering getting a bunny and don’t like the sound of the shedding, a shorter-haired rabbit might be better suited to you. Although they’ll still shed, there’ll be less fur around the home and it’s generally easier to manage.
Female rabbits are known as does. They have dewlaps, which are extra folds of skin filled with fatty tissue found under their chin. When they’re pregnant and nesting, they’ll often pluck fur from their dewlap and their chest to line the nest ready for their babies.
If your doe isn’t pregnant but also isn’t spayed, they can have a false pregnancy (known as a pseudo pregnancy). During this time, they may also exhibit typical pregnancy behaviors such as nesting and plucking their fur.
Now that we know the shedding patterns let’s discuss the causes of rabbit shedding:
Shedding is a natural process for rabbits to maintain their fur’s health and temperature regulation. It’s a sign of a healthy rabbit; pet parents should not worry about it.
Hormonal changes, such as puberty, pregnancy, and nursing, can trigger shedding in rabbits. During these periods, rabbits may shed more than usual, and their fur may take longer to regrow.
Environmental factors like temperature, light, and humidity can affect rabbit shedding. For example, rabbits may shed more during the spring and fall seasons when the temperature and light conditions change.
Stress can also cause rabbit shedding. Rabbits may shed more when they are stressed due to changes in their routine, diet, or environment. It’s essential to provide a calm and comfortable environment for your rabbit to minimize stress.
Sometimes a lot of shedding isn’t normal for your rabbit and can be a sign of a health issue. This is referred to as excess shedding.
Just like dogs and cats, rabbits can get fleas. Vets Laurie Hess and Rick Axelson explain that fleas are small insect parasites. A severe infestation of fleas will be very itchy and irritating for your bunny. This will cause them to scratch excessively, which causes hair loss and irritated skin.
Mites are tiny creatures that can cause a lot of problems for your bunny. There are a few different types of mites that can affect your rabbit.
Fur mites, also known as cheyletiella parasitovorax, can cause bald patches and itching in your bunny. You will likely also see what appears to be flakes of skin or dandruff on your rabbit’s skin.
Ear mites cause fur loss around a rabbit’s face, eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. You’ll also see crusting of the skin, inflamed skin, and potential signs of infection.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that affects a rabbit’s skin. It’s caused by fungi known as a dermatophyte. Unfortunately, humans can get it too! Ringworm causes round, bald patches of irritated skin.
Urine scald is caused by urine, wetting your rabbit’s fur around its back end, irritating the skin. This causes rashes, sores, fur loss, and even infection.
Urine scald can be caused by a rabbit living in an unclean environment. It can also be due to a rabbit’s inability to clean itself or a health issue causing incontinence.
The constantly wet fur can cause skin irritation under the chin if a rabbit drools a lot. This can lead to fur loss, rashes, sores, and skin infections. It’s important to note that drooling is not normal for rabbits and is usually caused by a dental issue.
Rabbits can get skin infections from a variety of causes. Infections lead to skin irritation, hair loss, and other symptoms.
When rabbits become stressed, they can sometimes overgroom themselves or other rabbits they live with. An unsuitable living environment or boredom often causes this.
Since rabbits shed a lot of hair, and it can come out in clumps, it can seem complicated to tell what the line is between regular and excess shedding. This table should help explain any potential issues:
|Signs of Unhealthy Shedding|
|Bald Patches||In most cases, bald patches are worth investigating further.|
|Dry Skin||You may notice dry or even cracked skin under your rabbit’s fur.|
|Dandruff||Flakes of skin may be seen amongst or on top of the fur.|
|Inflammation||Some rabbits may have sore, inflamed skin that might look red, swollen, or raised.|
|Sores||Open sores are a clear sign that something is wrong.|
|Excessive Itching||If you notice your rabbit itching a lot more than usual, it’s a sign that something is bothering them.|
|Changes in Behavior||You may notice changes in your rabbit’s behavior, such as eating or drinking less than usual, appearing lethargic, or becoming more withdrawn.|
If you notice any of these signs, especially combined with fur loss, it’s essential to get to the vet’s office straight away.
Yes, rabbits can get hairballs! Rabbits lick themselves to keep themselves clean. When they’re shedding a lot, they can ingest a lot of furs. In some rabbits, this can cause a blockage known as a hairball. Often the hair meshes with food and becomes a mass impossible for a rabbit to pass.
Rabbits can’t vomit, so there’s no way for them to get rid of this blockage, meaning it can cause serious issues. This is more likely to happen if your rabbit is in ill health, has digestive issues, isn’t groomed properly during shedding, or doesn’t have a healthy, balanced diet.
There are some ways you can prevent hairballs and keep your rabbit’s digestive system running smoothly. You can:
Brushing your rabbit as often as possible can reduce the amount of fur they’re ingesting when licking themselves. You can also use your hands to remove as much excess fur as possible while petting them.
Hay helps to keep your rabbit’s digestive system healthy and functioning correctly, so they must always have access to plenty of hay.
Your rabbit should always have access to fresh water to keep them healthy. Water helps to move ingested fur through the digestive system and keeps it working correctly, preventing fur from getting stuck.
Your rabbit’s poop can tell you a lot about its health. If you notice a lot of furs in their poop, it’s a good indicator that you need to brush them more frequently. If your rabbit’s poop looks very dry, hard, or small, or they start to poop less than usual, it’s time to get them checked by a vet.
When rabbits are heavily shedding, you should ideally brush them daily. Brushing them once or twice a week is plenty if they’re going through a lighter shedding season. You should brush your rabbit gently, as they have sensitive skin. Use a good quality brush or grooming glove and ensure you get down to the skin to remove the shed undercoat.
Remember that you should regularly brush your bunny even when they aren’t shedding. Aside from brushing, you should also keep your rabbit’s nails trimmed and their eyes, ears, and rear end clean.
A lot of rabbits dislike being brushed and find it quite distressing. If you find your rabbit isn’t happy being brushed, there are some tips below to guide you:
When rabbits are going through their heavy shedding seasons, you’re going to find fur all over the house. It gets on everything, including your clothes! This can be frustrating, especially if you have allergies.
While you can’t stop your rabbit from shedding, the tips below can help you to reduce the impact of shedding in your home:
How To Reduce The Impact of Shedding
Vacuum around your home regularly to help get rid of loose fur and stop it from flying around. Once or twice a day if possible! Even better if you have a vacuum that specifically states it’s good for picking up pet hair.
If you have allergies, wearing a mask or face covering while you’re brushing your rabbit to stop you from inhaling so much of the particles moving around in the air can be helpful.
If your rabbit is usually free-roaming or is out for floor time it can be helpful to stop them from going into areas like the bedroom or kitchen when they’re shedding. This is particularly helpful if you have allergies. You can put up pet gates or simply keep the doors closed.
Fan blades can often attract fur and then just spread it around in the air when the fan is turned on. During your rabbit’s shedding seasons, frequently clean your fan to stop this from happening.
Air purifiers can help remove fur and pet dander from the air, particularly if you have allergies.
AC filters or even heater filters will get full with rabbit fur quite quickly when they’re heavily shedding, so check them more frequently than you might usually and clean them when needed.
Lint brushes and rollers can help you to get fur off your clothes and other fabrics around the home.
When a rabbit sheds it’s a natural process that is necessary for them to maintain their body temperature and stay healthy. Although it can be frustrating, there are lots of ways you can manage shedding and reduce its impact.