A few years ago when I got my first pet house rabbits, one of them was suffering quite badly from hutch burn. That’s because the person I got him from had not bothered to clean out his hutch correctly since he’d bought him, or to try to heal the scabs that his hutch burn had caused when it was obvious that was the problem. So, what is hutch burn? Is it serious, and how do you treat a rabbit that’s suffering from it?
Hutch burn occurs in dirty cages – Hutch burn, also known by its other name ‘urine scald’, is a particularly nasty disorder that afflicts a pet rabbit. More often than not it’s due to an owner not cleaning out a cage properly, or not cleaning it often enough, forcing the rabbit to walk in and sit in its own urine.
The urine ‘scalds’ the rabbits feet and genital area, and if not treated quickly will eventually eat into the skin, cause oozing scabs and sores. You will usually find hutch burn on rabbits who spend most of their time in a small cage or hutch, as any rabbit that has a pen or somewhere else to sit won’t sit in its own urine by choice.
Hutch burn, of course, is completely preventable by simply cleaning your rabbit’s cage often, and by paying particular attention to where your rabbit pees. Checking your rabbit’s feet and genital area daily will also ensure he doesn’t get hutch burn, as the minute you see any soreness forming, a typical hutch burn treatment will usually treat it successfully.
Typical Treatments for hutch burn or urine scald – When I got one of my first rabbits home and realized he had hutch burn, I wasn’t honestly sure how to treat it. I’d had pets in the past before, and not one of them had ever had anything like hutch burn.
So, I trotted off to my excellent vet to have the bunny checked, and to also find out what were the typical treatments for hutch burn and which were the best for my rabbit.
Topical antibiotics – The first thing my vet prescribed for my rabbit’s hutch burn was a topical antibiotic. All I had to do was carefully apply it to the protected area two to three times a day, and can an eye on the infection. Within four or five days, the area was beginning to heal up nicely and, three weeks later, my rabbit’s hutch burn sores were almost gone.
Green tea wash – As I currently live in Asia, I’m used to using green tea for a number of things that don’t require drinking it. So, when my vet told me to make a cup of green tea and use it to clean my rabbit’s rear end as a ‘tea wash’, I wasn’t that surprised. Green tea, after all, has antibacterial properties and is often used by Asian pet owners to treat dogs, cats and rabbits that have bacterial infections.
Clean the cage thoroughly – If your rabbit is suffering from hutch burn, don’t just apply the usual treatments and then put him back in the cage that caused the problem in the first place.
If the cage is too small and it’s causing him to have to sit in his own urine as there is nowhere else to go, he needs a new cage.
If the cage has a wooden floor (the usual hutch burn culprit), clean the floor thoroughly with white vinegar and water and let it dry. Then add a thick layer of timothy hay to cover the floor so your rabbit has somewhere comfortable to sit. On half of this area, add a fleece pad so he has a soft surface to walk on. Remember, his feet are covered in sores, so it’s incredibly painful for him to walk on them.
Finally, to ensure your rabbit doesn’t contract hutch burn again, remember to clean out his cage daily and thoroughly dry any urine or water spills before you put him back in there. Keeping him dry will not only make sure he doesn’t get hutch burn again, it will also go a long way to making sure he lives a long and healthy life.
For an idea of what hutch burn looks like, there’s a particularly bad case of it at The Rabbit Haven. Just be warned, the photographs are quite upsetting.