Like all living things, rabbits smell, although their scent is minimal, especially when compared to dogs. Their smell is so slight that there is no need for you to bathe them. Sometimes, though, your rabbit could begin to emit pungent odors that would have your house stinking up and make you uncomfortable.
There is always an underlying reason if your rabbit suddenly begins to smell bad. Below are the likely reasons.
A healthy rabbit’s feces are small and round and don’t smell. However, if it has diarrhea, your rabbit’s poop would be watery, non-formed, and smelly.
It typically sticks to the rabbit’s fur because of how watery it is, and when it remains on the rabbit’s fur, the rabbit begins to smell. Diarrhea isn’t a mere illness, it can be fatal for a rabbit, so if your bunny has diarrhea, you should take it to the vet.
Also, rabbits sometimes produce feces called cecotropes which they usually eat straight from their butt to reabsorb nutrients. Unlike the usual poop, cecotropes are mushy and small and smell when squished. Many cecotropes lying around would mean more smell. Also, it signifies that you should change your bunny’s diet to a more digestive one.
Elderly, Sick, or Obese Rabbit
If your rabbit is sick, elderly, or obese, it would likely have difficulty cleaning itself. Like cats, rabbits don’t need to have baths as they can groom themselves clean even after defecating and urinating. But cleaning up after themselves may become problematic if they are sick, obese, or elderly.
This leads to rabbits having filthy and poopy butts, which would make them smell bad. If you find that your bunny can’t clean itself properly, you should help clean up your bunny, especially after it urinated, as a rabbit’s urine has a more horrid smell than its poop.
If your rabbit is not sick or elderly and you are unsure whether it is obese, you can find out through the following steps. Use the fingertips of both your hands to rub along the sides of your rabbit gently.
You should feel a slight fat covering your rabbit’s rib, even with the ribs. If you do not feel the ribs, your rabbit is probably overweight. As such, you should encourage it to exercise. You can also take it to the vet if you can’t get it to lose weight.
Anal Scent Glands
Bunnies have two scent glands, one right under their chin and the other at their hindquarters, very close to the anus. The scent gland under their chin doesn’t let out any smell, but the one by their anus does.
The anal scent glands secrete a tar-like substance that has a skunk-like scent. Your bunny would typically clean up its scent glands themselves, but when they fail to do so, it will get clogged up with a lot of wax and cause a severe smell.
The wax, a dark brown substance, doesn’t only smell but would harden, causing your rabbit discomfort. If you notice the wax building up and your bunny doing nothing about it, you should help clean it up.
Smell From Unaltered Rabbits
Unaltered rabbits or rabbits that have not been spayed or neutered will emit a skunk-like smell during mating season as an attempt to attract a mate. You definitely don’t want that smell in your house. Urine spraying could also be another issue.
Unlike rabbits’ poop that doesn’t smell, their urine smells a lot. Unaltered rabbits, male and female but primarily males, tend to spray their urine around, even after being litter trained. They do this as an attempt to mark their territories.
Rabbits are clean animals, and they make it part of their daily routine to groom themselves. While rabbits may be clean, how clean and ‘non-smelly’ they are isn’t solely dependent on them but also on their environment.
If a rabbit isn’t in a clean environment, its effort to stay spotless and tidy would be futile. Its litter box, for example, should be changed very often to avoid waste products from your rabbit piling up, decomposing, and causing a horrid smell. If the box isn’t constantly changed, your house’s atmosphere will pay for it.
If your rabbit still uses it after it is filled with waste, your rabbit will also begin to smell. Not only does a dirty litter box smell, but it also causes wet fur, which can lead to hair loss.
Your rabbit cage and living area can also be why your rabbit smells terrible. Failure to regularly clean your rabbit’s living area would make it smell, and if it smells, your rabbit also smells. Even if your rabbit tries to groom itself clean, its efforts will be futile if it goes back to a smelly cage at the end of the day or never leaves the stinky area. [How To Keep A Rabbit’s Cage From Smelling?]
Another thing that could make your rabbit stink is infections. Some infections can make your bunny famous for leaving behind an awful smell. For example, ear infections like ear mites don’t only cause a rabbit some significant discomfort; it also makes their ears emit a solid foul odor.
If your rabbit has an ear infection, it should be taken to the vet for treatment. Ensure you clean your bunny’s ears frequently to avoid mites and bacteria from growing in its canal as a preventive measure.
Also, if you let your rabbit go outside, or you have a dog or cat as a pet alongside your rabbit, then there is a chance that your bunny can get fleas from them. These fleas can lead to infections that could make your rabbit smell.
A stinky breath might also be a sign of dental issues. It is quite uncommon for rabbits to have bad breath(halitosis), so if you notice a mouth odor along with a loss of appetite in your rabbit, then something is wrong. An overgrown or broken tooth can lacerate soft tissues in your bunny’s mouth, leaving abrasion pockets where food gets trapped.
If the food gets trapped in those abrasions, they begin to ferment over time, making your bunny’s breath stink. Asides from loss of appetite and the bad breath that follows these dental issues, watch out for signs of pain as your rabbit would be uncomfortable. Take your rabbit to the vet immediately.
Another reason your rabbit may have a smell could be a change in diet. Some food has been known to cause a smell or change of smell in rabbits. If your rabbit smells bitter or sulfurous, it may be that its rabbit’s diet includes a lot of plants from the plant family Brassicaceae.
This family contains vegetables like kale, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens, broccoli, etc. They are cruciferous vegetables with lots of sulfur and bad-smelling gas, producing enzymes that discourage consumption. Also, too much consumption of cruciferous vegetables can cause an imbalance of dysbiosis, a healthy gut bacteria which would result in stinkier poops.
What Do You Do If Your Rabbit Smells?
After identifying the reason for your rabbit’s smell, the first thing you want to do is find out a solution. Here are some things you could do to stop the smell.
- A Visit To The Vet: If your rabbit is sick, has diarrhea, an infection, or cannot groom itself properly, you should take it to the vet. Rabbits are very fragile animals, and health issues should be looked into immediately if they are noticed. If your rabbit has diarrhea, you might want to change its diet as some food can trigger diarrhea.
- Helping Your Rabbit Clean Up itself: If you have an elderly or obese rabbit, one thing you can do is help clean it up. You should also make it a ritual to clean its anal scent glands once every month. If waste keeps getting stuck in your rabbit’s fur, clean it up. Brush away the feces first, then wipe the area down with a slightly damp cloth. After this, trim the fur out with scissors.
- Keeping The Environment Clean: Another thing you can do to stop your rabbit from smelling is to ensure that its environment is neat. Take out its litter box as frequently as possible and clean its cage or living area.
- Altering Your Pet: You could also spay or neuter your unaltered rabbits to stop the smell they release to attract a mate and urine spraying. This will reduce the horrible smell of their urine and make it tolerable.
- Dry Bathing: Bathing your rabbit is not usually advisable as they cannot keep their head above water which could lead to drowning, meaning you have to pay extra care and attention while bathing them. It is also not advisable because their fur takes time to dry up, which isn’t very good. To clean your rabbit, you could dry bath your rabbit. This involves cleaning with cornstarch and a brush.
Rabbits are neat animals and are very efficient in keeping themselves clean, primarily by grooming. While they may be self-sufficient in being clean, they sometimes need your help to stay clean. As a pet owner, you should pay attention to these things and know when they need help.
If, after trying what you can to help your rabbit stop smelling and it still doesn’t work, the issue might be deeper than you think. Since it’s difficult for you to find, seek medical help for your rabbit.