From the softest of Rex breeds to the massive coats of Angoras, all rabbits shed as a natural part of their life cycles. But how much shedding is too much? Can shedding be a problem for rabbits?
We’ll be answering those questions and more in today’s article. You’ll learn about when rabbits shed during a year, as well as how much shedding is considered “normal”. After this, we’ll cover what to do if your rabbit is engaged in the dangerous behavior of eating its own fur, and signs to look for that indicate unhealthy shedding.
When is Shedding Normal for My Rabbit?
Like many animals, rabbits’ coats will grow in over the winter to keep them warm and protected from the elements. This means that come every spring, your rabbit will begin to shed its warm winter coat in preparation for warmer weather. Spring is the time of heaviest shedding for most rabbits, and regular grooming will help keep them cool and comfortable.
As fall approaches, your rabbit will shed its lighter summer coat and grow in a much more robust, plush coat for the coming winter. This shedding period doesn’t come on nearly as quickly or produce as much hair in most rabbits. However, some especially hairy breeds (Angoras in particular) will shed large amounts during this second molting.
How Much Should My Rabbit Shed?
How much your rabbit should shed depends both on the time of year, as well as how old they are. In the first year of your rabbit’s life, it will replace its coat up to three times while growing and maturing.
During the first few weeks of spring, expect your rabbit to shed the heaviest that they will all year. It’s important to groom your rabbit regularly during this molting season, as they can easily develop digestive problems from eating too much of their own hair. Try the “wet hand rubdown” suggested by Dana Krempels, Ph.D. in the University of Miami’s biology department:
If your rabbit is shedding or molting in patches, it may be a sign of a skin disease or infection. In this case, it’s wise to call your vet immediately and make an appointment to have your rabbit checked on.
What If My Rabbit Sheds Year-Round?
Inbreeding has produced rabbits with the unfortunate tendency to shed year-round, constantly replacing their coats no matter the season. If your rabbit seems to be constantly in a molting pattern (as evidenced by a noticeable line of fur dividing old and new coats), it’s especially important to help with their grooming and diet.
For rabbits that shed year-round, multiple weekly grooming sessions become a fact of life. By helping them to stay free of excess hair, you’ll limit how much fur your bunny can eat while trying to clean itself. This, in addition to providing abundant amounts of hay and water to push through any hair that does get eaten, will help prevent GI stasis in your rabbit.
How Can I Know When Shedding is a Problem?
While regular seasonal shedding is to be expected, molting that occurs outside of spring or fall can be signs of problems with your rabbit’s health. Common causes of abnormal fur loss include:
Abnormal fur loss is characterized by a “crusty” or flaky appearance to your rabbit’s skin, as well as losing fur in large patches rather than even coats. Skin diseases and therapeutic nutrition are outside of the scope of this article and should always be discussed with your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
Final Thoughts on Rabbit Shedding
Shedding is a normal part of every rabbit’s life, and it comes and goes as surely as the seasons do. By providing a little extra help with your rabbit’s grooming, you can help prevent any digestive issues that might occur from their ingesting too much hair. If your rabbit’s shedding appears abnormal or out of sync with their seasonal patterns, call your vet to arrange for a checkup right away!
Featured Image: Keith Survell, Flickr