As all rabbit owners are aware, rabbits moult regularly. Moulting, also known as ‘shedding’ is a common behaviour which occurs in all rabbits.
In the wild rabbits generally moult twice a year, in spring and autumn however domestic rabbits are kept in very different conditions to wild rabbits. Therefore domestic rabbits seem to have a more variable moulting pattern. Some rabbits, especially house rabbits, will appear to moult almost constantly.
When rabbits moult they typically start by shedding fur from their head, before moulting spreads down the neck back, sides of the body and finally finishing at the rump. However some rabbits seem not to have any set pattern and will lose fur in patches from all over their body at the same time. Some rabbits also experience a ‘tide line’ which occurs when moulting progresses causing the skin to appear darker as the new fur grows through.
To help your rabbit during their moulting period it is beneficial to recognise what it normal for your rabbit, so you are able to spot potential problems quickly.
There are also a number of ways in which we can help our rabbits through a moult.
1. Regular Brushing.
Regular brushing can help your rabbit to remove dead head during their moult. However it is vital to allow your rabbit to get used to being brushed. This ensures that during times when they are moulting and need more frequent brushing it isn’t a stressful experience for them. When brushing your rabbit sit with them on the ground. Rabbits are ground-dwelling creatures and do not like being held at height.
During a moult it may be necessary to brush your rabbit more than once a day. Often breaking a grooming session up into shorter sessions can be less stressful than one big session of grooming. Ensure that you brush your rabbit down to the skin to ensure all of the undercoat is shed as this will assist in preventing matts within the fur.
2. Grooming Tools.
There are a variety of brushes and combs that can be used on rabbits. Wide toothed combs are very useful as are blunt ended metal brushes which can pass through the hair without causing discomfort. Flea combs can also be used.
You shouldn’t attempt to cut matts from your rabbit coat. Rabbit skin is very delicate and can be eaily torn and cut. If you notice any matts that you are unable to tease out with careful brushing you should take your rabbit to the vets for matts to be clipped out.
3. Swallowing Fur.
Rabbits always have fur within their stomachs. This is a normal consequence of grooming especially if they live with another rabbit. It is also common at moulting times to see dropping strung together on strands of hair, since the rabbit is ingesting more fur. This is generally nothing to worry about.
4. Feeding during Moulting.
Always ensure that your rabbit has plenty of hay and fibre during a moulting period to ensure their gut remains healthy. This is particularly important as ingested hair can slow gut movement. Slowing of gut movement or a stop in gut movement is known as gastro-intestinal stasis, which can be potentially life threating if left untreated. If your rabbit appears less active, shows less interest in food or has difficulty passing faeces then it is important to see the vet to ensure gut stasis does not occur.
It is important to encourage your rabbit to exericse particularly during times of moulting. Exercise allows the rabbits GI tract to maintain its motility which will also help prevent gut stasis.