Poopy Butt in Rabbits: Causes and Treatment
Author: Abi Cushman
Poopy butt is the less than eloquent term to describe a relatively common issue that affects pet bunnies. Poopy butt is, just as it sounds, a condition where a bunny has fecal matter stuck to his behind. This article will discuss ways to keep your bunny clean and in good digestive health.
First things first – if your rabbit has a messy behind, you'll need to clean the area as soon as possible. A soiled bottom could invite fly strike, a very unpleasant and potentially deadly situation in which flies lay their eggs on your bunny, and the hatched larvae feast on your bunny's flesh.
Baths can be very traumatic for bunnies, so if possible, try to avoid a bath, and just spot clean the area using a wet paper towel. However, if the feces have hardened and the area is very messy, the next course of action is a shallow bath. Fill a sink with a few inches of warm water (just enough so that the soiled area will be submerged) and mix in a dollop of pet shampoo (NOT human shampoo). Place your bunny in the bath and wash the soiled area until clean. Change out the water as necessary. Be careful when washing the area as the skin is very sensitive! Once your bunny is clean, rinse the soapy areas with warm water and then gently towel dry your bunny. Make sure your rabbit is not exposed to cold temperatures before fully dry.
Now that you have a clean bunny, you will need to assess the cause of the messy bottom so it doesn't happen again. In general, rabbits do not suffer from true diarrhea. Instead, the fecal mess you're probably seeing is uningested cecotropes. Rabbits excrete two different forms of feces. Most people are familiar with the hard, dry fecal pellets that a well-trained bunny will dispense into a litter box. But rabbits also excrete cecotropes, a softer, wetter fecal matter that they normally reingest directly from their behinds. Eating cecotropes, or coprophagy, is a healthy activity for rabbits that helps keep their digestive tracts in balance. In this way, rabbits also glean an optimum amount of nutrients from their food.
When this normal digestive cycle is disrupted, however, the result is poopy butt. Usually the culprit is poor diet. Does your bunny have access to unlimited fresh timothy hay (or alfalfa if your bunny's under 7 months)? The core of your rabbit's diet should be fibrous foods like hay and greens. Fiber is what keeps rabbits' teeth worn down and their digestive systems healthy. You should also avoid feeding your bunny too many starchy foods like breads, fruit, or other treats. See the article, What to Feed My Rabbit, for a full list of acceptable foods for your rabbit.
Mobility issues may also cause your rabbit to suffer from poopy butt. Older rabbits, obese rabbits, or those with arthritis, may have a difficult time reaching their bottoms, preventing them from consuming the cecotropes. If your rabbit is overweight, reduce or eliminate pellets from his diet, and provide unlimited timothy hay and fresh greens. For rabbits with arthritis, your rabbit-savvy veterinarian may be able to prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug to help ease the condition.
Another cause for poopy butt is molar spurs. Sometimes rabbits' teeth wear down unevenly, resulting in sharp edges that poke into their cheeks. The pain and stress caused by the molar spurs will upset their digestive health. To treat this, a rabbit-savvy vet will need to file the sharp edges down.
So if a change to a more fibrous diet does not stop the poopy butt from occurring, take your bunny to a rabbit-savvy vet to check for molar spurs, digestive ailments, parasites, or other infections.
- Krempels, Dana, Ph.D., "The Mystery of Rabbit Poop," http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/poop.html
- Krempels, Dana, Ph.D., "Bathing a Rabbit's Messy Bottom," http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/buttbath.html
- Krempels, Dana, Ph.D., "Dental Problems in Rabbits: Common, Yet Rarely Diagnosed!," http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/dental.html