Varying shedding patterns among rabbits
Esther van Praag, Ph.D.
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Is my rabbit shedding ?
Rabbits go through periods of fur growth and renewal beginning at the head and ending with the tail, however, depending on the rabbit, it can also start in other body locations, e.g., the back region; with all shedding varying widely from one rabbit to another:
· Many rabbits shed 3 to 4 times a year with duration lasting several weeks; others shed constantly throughout the year seeming to be in a perpetual molt;
· Patterns of shedding may also vary: some shed in patches, in clumps of hair and even some exposing naked skin, others shed in waves, with marked lines between the old and new hair on the face or dorsum;
· Severity of shedding: progressive loss of old hair, or even suddenly in patches;
· Types of fur, short haired, fuzzy, angora.
The new hair is generally darker.
When a rabbit is shedding, it should be brushed daily. This prevents matting and ingestion of hair when the rabbit grooms itself or is groomed by another rabbit. Hair that has accumulated in the stomach can lead to the formation of a mass and since rabbits cannot vomit, this accumulated hair can cause a partial blockage (stasis, ileus). Combined with decreased food intake and dehydration, fatal health complications can result.
Molting-related naked patches of skin should not be confused with alopecia caused by skin parasites, diet-related nutrient or vitamin deficiencies (e.g., orange colored points of hairs on a dark fur), sebaceous adenitis, cutaneous lymphoma, hormonal diseases or hair plucking in pseudopregnant females.
Thanks to Bonnie Salt, Kim Chilson, Debbie Hanson, Tal Saarony for sharing the pictures of their shedding rabbits.
Thanks also to the rabbits Duncan, Grizelda, Skyler, Motek, Gozal, and Kaspi.