Rabbit urine scald, hutch burn, or wet tail refers to the burning or scalding of this animal’s rear end or bottoms (genital as well as ventral areas) as a result of continuous wetting or soaking of fur and skin on these areas by urine.
It can also occur on the paws and under their belly if these animals continuously sit on floors that have their urine.
Various diseases and conditions can cause urine scalding and it is a serious condition that needs immediate treatment. It often causes symptoms such as an obnoxious smell, baldness (fur loss) and an irritated red raw skin that is quite painful (an inflamed skin).
If left untreated, the skin around this area may begin to crack, bleed, and give ways for skin infections (bacterial and fungal infections), and the wetness may attract blowflies that may lay eggs on these areas leading to a fly strike.
Causes of a wet tail in rabbits
The cause primary cause is the wetting of fur and skin on a rabbit’s bottoms or any other areas by urine which will, in turn, cause a scald.
It can be due to husbandry problems (rabbit sits on its urine), health issues affecting its ability to control urine flow or inability to assume the right urinating posture.
During urination, the hindquarters are supposed to be elevated to give a chance for urine flow away.
There are several factors that may encourage or trigger this wetting and they include the following:
a). Bladder stones
Urolith or bladder stones occur due to precipitation calcium or oxalate salts. This forms a solid mass inside your bunnies bladder that may result in dribbling and urinary incontinence. Diagnosis is by radiography and their treatment is by surgical removal.
b). Bladder sludge
Since these animals must maintain a certain amount of calcium to phosphorus ratio, the excess calcium and oxalates precipitates are often excreted via their urinary tract.
The calcium and oxalates precipitate are what makes their urine to appear ‘milky’ or ‘chalky’.
Whenever there is an excess amount of these calcium and oxalate precipitates, they may form a sludge that may be as thick as toothpaste and resemble curry.
This sludge is quite painful to be passed out and if it builds up, it can cause incontinence and urine to leak, and consequently, scalding will occur.
We have more details on bladder sludge in rabbits including causes and treatments in a different post. You need diets with less calcium, provide more water and other ways to deal with this problem.
Urinary tract infections in rabbits or UTIs can affect not only the kidney but also the bladder leading to urine incontinence in these animals.
Your vet will diagnose the condition via cystocentesis followed by culture and sensitivity testing. Also, a microscope examination for white or red blood cells may be necessary.
Chloramphenicol may be a good way to cure any UTIs in these animals after a positive diagnosis by your vet.
d).Spine and pelvis arthritis
Arthritis affecting the pelvis and spine may cause pain that is likely to prevent your rabbit from taking the correct urinating posture. This will consequently lead to it soaking its hindquarters and hence a urine burn may occur.
Is your rabbit arthritic? You need to know more about the signs and treatments for arthritis? Once radiography proves this is the problem, NSAIDs such as Banamine and Rimadyl may be helpful. Strictly let your vet handle arthritis and guide you on support care, where necessary.
e).Paresis of the pelvis or the rare limbs and neurological problems
Sometimes, bunnies may partially or fully lose their ability to move their rear limbs or their pelvis (partial or total paralysis). Commonly noted in old bunnies, this can be due to arthritis, various skeletal problems or degeneration of their discs.
Furthermore, E. cuniculi is also suspected by some vets to be a possible cause of this paresis (though there is still no conclusive research). Paresis, like arthritis, affects the ability of a rabbit to take the correct posture while urinating and it may wet its bottoms, consequently leading to scalding.
f).Injury especially on the limb, pelvis, and spine
Your bunny is likely to suffer from urine burn if it had an injury that affected its ability to get into the right posture as it passes out urine. This consequently leads to it peeing on itself.
g).Obesity and weight gain
Poor diets, lack of exercise and other conditions may make your rabbit obese. When this occurs, the rabbit will not only be unable to groom, participate in cecotrophy but also be unable to get into their correct urinating posture. The result will be wetting and scalding.
An unneutered female bunny aged above two years, scalding may be due to uterus changes including the development of uterine cancer or endometriosis. Neutering such bunnies may help resolve this issue.
Also issue such as renal failure, polyuria, wet bedding, kidney conditions, rabbits with disabilities, small cages (prevents correct urination posture), hip dysplasia, a fluffy coat, amputation, splay, complications arising from male neutering have been associated with this problem.
Treating urine scald in rabbits
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause. You should first treat the exact cause to prevent further instances of urine scalding.
Your vet will conduct a diagnosis and recommend the right treatments. This might include corrective surgery.
Secondly, you should consider the below treatments of scalding in rabbits. They are mainly aimed at reducing pain, healing the scald but not treating the underlying causes.
- Sedation and clipping any urine-soaked and matted fur especially for those that have long fur to reduce further irritation except for fur on planter feet surfaces.
- Use Sudocrem to help in soothing the inflamed raw skin and act as a barrier. This product also has antiseptic properties that will prevent infections.
- Other creams to use include silver sulfadiazine cream (such as Smith & Nephew, Flamazine cream A&D original ointment), Neo-predef (relieves inflammation and pain), Panalog, Heal-X, among others (1). Strictly let your vet advise you since some like silver sulfadiazine may retard wound healing in rabbits. (2)
- Apply Vaseline on the affected skin to create a barrier over the skin to help prevent further scalding. Castor oil and zinc will also help cover the area.
- Use of creams containing white Vaseline (60gr), zinc oxide (20gr), chloramphenicol (1gr), Cold liver oil (20 gr) 
- Consider a dry or wet butt bath. We have a good resource to guide on bathing your rabbit’s messy bottoms. Use a dryer if your bunny will allow you to do so to ensure the area is dry after bathing it.
- In the case of inflamed skin, consider analgesics to reduce pain.
- Antibiotics may also be recommended to prevent secondary infections.
Also, you can consider other home remedies such as the use of Rescue cream, Calendula Cream and Bag Balm 
Prevention of rabbit urine burn
The first way to prevent it from happening is to check your bunnies hindquarters to see if they are wet or soaked with urine.
Secondly, use your rabbit comb to brush any matted fur on your rabbit’s bottom. Matting often encourages flystrike, moist dermatitis and so on as it slows the drying process.
Also, ensure you keep proper hygiene, reduce calcium in their diet, clean their cage once it is wet, use synthetic fleece bedding, incontinence pads, among other ways that your veterinary may recommend depending on the primary cause.
Finally, in case of disability, your vet may teach you manual bladder expression for manual emptying.