Do Rabbits Have Sweat Glands?

Sweating is something we humans do without even thinking about it. But have you ever wondered if your fluffy rabbit companion is capable of sweating too? Rabbits have a completely different way of keeping their bodies cool that doesn’t involve sweat at all! In this fascinating deep dive, we’ll explore how rabbits really control their temperature, from the ingenious use of their remarkable ears to clever behavioral tricks. You’ll also get the inside scoop on wet rabbit paws, those musky odors, and how to keep your bunny comfortable in the heat. What you’ll discover about your rabbit’s thermal regulation may surprise you. So get ready to hop down the rabbit hole to demystify rabbits and sweating!

Do Rabbits Sweat?

Rabbits do not have sweat glands like humans do. Humans sweat through pores in our skin as a way to cool down when we get too hot. The evaporation of the sweat from our skin helps regulate our body temperature. Rabbits do not have this ability.

Instead of sweating, rabbits have developed other methods of keeping cool in hot weather. One way is through their ears. A rabbit's large, thin ears are loaded with blood vessels, which allows rapid heating and cooling of the blood as it circulates through the ears. This helps rabbits release excess body heat quickly. The blood vessels in the ears swell to increase blood flow to the ears, and as the hot blood flows through the ears, the heat dissipates into the air, cooling the blood before it circulates back through the body. A rabbit's ears can also help shade their body from direct sunlight on very hot days.

Another way rabbits stay cool is by finding cool surfaces to lie against. Tile or stone floors provide a cool surface for a rabbit's belly and feet. This contact allows excess body heat to transfer from the rabbit to the cool floor. You may also see your rabbit splay out flat on the floor, keeping as much body surface against the cool floor as possible.

Rabbits also stay cool by moderating their activity levels. On very hot days, they tend tend to limit their movements to stay cooler. Wild rabbits may spend more time in underground burrows to avoid the hottest parts of the day.

While rabbits do not sweat, their noses can sometimes feel damp. This is not from sweating, but simply from condensation or a buildup of moisture. A rabbit's nose has moisture to help absorb scents. When the air is hot and humid, this moisture can accumulate on the surface of the nose and feel wet or sweaty, even though rabbits do not actually sweat from their noses.

So in summary, while rabbits do not have sweat glands or the ability to sweat to cool themselves, they have adapted in other ways to regulate their body temperature and keep comfortable in hot weather. Their specialized ears, behavioral changes, and seeking out cool surfaces help prevent overheating.

How Does a Rabbit Control Her Body Temperature?

A rabbit controls her body temperature using the following methods:

  • Ear blood vessels – Rabbits have a network of blood vessels in their large, thin ears. When they get hot, these blood vessels swell with blood, circulating it close to the skin surface where heat can dissipate into the air. The cooled blood then circulates back through the body, lowering the rabbit's core temperature.

  • Behavioral changes – Rabbits reduce their activity levels in very hot weather to prevent overheating. They may spend more time lounging in a cool, shaded area. Wild rabbits will retreat to underground burrows during the hottest parts of the day.

  • Seeking cool surfaces – Rabbits will splay out on cool tile or stones to allow heat transfer from their bodies to the surface. Lying flat maximizes contact.

  • Fur/coat changes – Rabbits will shed some of their thicker winter coat as temperatures warm up in the spring. This helps prevent overheating. The coat may thicken up again in winter to conserve heat.

  • Panting – Rabbits may pant lightly when hot. As moisture evaporates from the respiratory system it has a cooling effect.

  • Water intake – Drinking cool water can help lower a rabbit's core temperature from the inside out. Ensuring access to fresh, clean water is important on hot days.

  • Eating – Temperature regulation is one reason rabbits tend to eat often. The process of digestion produces some heat, so eating frequent smaller meals rather than large ones can help prevent major spikes in body temperature.

So in summary, rabbits have specialized physical adaptations and behaviors to help control body temperature. Large ear blood vessels, coat/fur changes, panting, adjustments to activity levels, water intake, and cool surfaces against the body work together to prevent overheating.

How Do I Know if My Rabbit is Overheating?

It's important for rabbit owners to be able to recognize the signs of overheating and heat stress. Monitor your rabbit closely on hot, humid days where the risk of overheating is higher. Here are some signs that your rabbit may be getting too hot:

  • Rapid, shallow breathing or panting

  • Spread-out posture to maximize contact with cool surfaces

  • Lethargy/lack of interest in normal activities or play

  • Refusal to eat even favorite foods

  • Dampness around eyes, nose, mouth from increased salivation

  • Warm ears – a healthy rabbit's ears normally feel cool to the touch

  • Racing pulse that feels rapid when you check

If you observe any of these symptoms, you should take action to gradually lower your rabbit's body temperature to prevent heat injury. Make sure she has access to shade and cool surfaces. Dampen her ears and paws with a mist of cool water or rubbing alcohol to promote evaporative cooling. Offer bottled frozen water and cold vegetables to help cool her from the inside. Checking the temperature of your rabbit's inner ear canal with a thermometer is also a way to get an accurate reading of her core body temperature.

If your rabbit's temperature is over 104F, contact your vet immediately for emergency cooling advice. Untreated heat stress can lead to organ damage, brain damage and death in rabbits, so early intervention is key. Any time your rabbit seems distressed from the heat, take measures right away to gradually lower her body temperature to avoid a medical emergency.

Do Rabbits Sweat Through Their Feet?

Rabbits do not have sweat glands in their feet or anywhere else on their bodies. So technically, rabbits are unable to sweat through their feet or anywhere else to cool themselves.

However, rabbits' feet may sometimes feel damp or sweaty for other reasons not related to true sweating. Here are some reasons a rabbit's feet may accumulate moisture:

  • Paw pads absorbent – The furless paw pads are made to absorb moisture and give traction. In damp conditions, they can soak up ambient moisture.

  • Saliva/ grooming – Rabbits clean their feet and legs with their mouths, spreading saliva.

  • Dew on grass – If hopping through dewy grass, feet can pick up moisture.

  • Urinary accidents – Rabbits sometimes urinate on their feet and legs, causing wetness.

  • Damp bedding – Wet litter or bedding from drinks/spills can cling to feet.

  • Condensation – In humid weather, condensation can form on the uninsulated paw pads.

  • Medical causes – Foot infections, abscesses or cysts may leak fluid and moisture.

So in summary, a rabbit's damp feet are not caused by sweating but rather by external moisture sources or grooming behavior. Make sure bedding/environment stays dry. Avoid damp grass when possible. Monitor for medical issues if moisture persists. Thoroughly dry feet and check for sources of wetness.

My Rabbit Smells Sweaty

If your rabbit has a sweaty or musky odor, it is not from actual sweating since rabbits do not have sweat glands. However, there are a few reasons your rabbit may give off an unpleasant body odor resembling sweat:

  • Pee/Poo – Accidental urine scald or soiled litterbox can make coat stinky.

  • Overweight – Obese rabbits may accumulate more oils on skin.

  • Scent glands – Particularly bucks when hormones surge. Needs cleaning.

  • Dental problems – Excess saliva from tooth issues can smell.

  • Ear infection – Buildup of pus/discharge can have odor.

  • Skin infection – Bacteria/fungus on skin or in folds may smell.

  • Diet – Musky veggies like broccoli or cabbage can taint odor.

  • Stress – Changes in hormones may alter natural scent.

  • Excess humidity – Can amplify odors in coat and environment.

To find the cause of unusual body odor in a rabbit, start by thoroughly cleaning the areas that seem the smelliest. Trim fur around scent and sanitary areas if matted/soiled. Make a vet appointment to check for dental or health issues. Switch temporarily to simple hay and water diet. Monitor for sources of stress. Ensure proper hydration, nutrition and grooming. Odor should improve as underlying cause is fixed.

How to Clean a Rabbit's Scent Glands

Rabbits have two types of scent glands that can accumulate oils and give off odors – chin/lip glands and anal glands. Here is how to safely clean and de-scent these glands:

Chin and Lip Glands:

  • Use small grooming scissors to carefully trim fur below chin and around lips if matted.

  • Dampen a cloth or cotton pad with witch hazel, unscented baby wipe or gentle pet wipe.

  • Gently wipe the chin, lip corners and dewlap to remove aromatic oils.

  • Dry area thoroughly afterwards. Do not leave damp.

Anal Glands:

  • If musky odor is strong around genitals/anus, anal glands may need expression.

  • Place rabbit bottom-up on lap, while gently holding. Wear old clothes.

  • Put on protective gloves, as secretions are strong-smelling.

  • Locate two small slit-like openings around anus, 4 & 8 o'clock.

  • Apply warm compression to relax area.

  • Gently squeeze anal glands to express tiny amount of dark fluid. Stop if rabbit shows distress.

  • Wipe away any secretions that emerge. No need to forcefully empty.

  • Clean rabbit's bottom with unscented baby wipes after.

  • Finish with dry cloth to remove all moisture.

For challenging odor or impacted glands, see an experienced rabbit vet for proper treatment. Proper diet and hydration helps minimize smelly gland secretions.


In summary, rabbits do not have sweat glands and thus are unable to sweat as a means of cooling themselves. However, they have specialized adaptations like ear blood vessels and behaviors that allow them to regulate body temperature in hot conditions. It is important for rabbit owners to recognize signs of overheating and take steps to gradually cool down a rabbit at risk of heat injury. While damp paws or "sweaty" odors are not from sweating, addressing diet, hygiene, environment and health can help resolve these issues. Being informed about a rabbit's temperature regulation and working to meet their needs is key to keeping bunnies healthy and comfortable as the weather warms up.


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