Why Do Rabbits Have a Dewlap?

If you’ve been a human companion to rabbits, you’ve probably noticed how different their necks can be.

Some of your bunnies probably have really thin necks, while others seem to have none at all!

This extra roll of fat found on your rabbit’s neck is a dewlap, and today we’ll find out exactly why some of your bunnies have dewlap while others don’t.

Let’s get started!

Why Do Your Rabbits Have a Dewlap?

People often associate dewlaps with poor diet or their bunnies being overweight, but that may not be the case at all.

Dewlaps aren’t indications of sick or overweight rabbits.

They actually develop during a female rabbit’s nesting period.

But before we get into that, let’s first find out what a dewlap is and everything else you should know about it.

Characteristics of a Dewlap

At its most basic form, the dewlap is a little bump under your rabbit’s chin that usually resembles a double chin.

It might be difficult to notice it if your rabbit is small, but in bigger rabbits, it is usually more pronounced.

Dewlaps are folds of skin that hang under the rabbit’s lower jaw.

They can also be found over your doe’s neck and is usually just a normal part of their physical development.

Larger dewlaps often look like a pillow formed all-around your bunny’s head.

They are more distinctive in larger breeds of rabbits and usually only form in female rabbits.

It is important to know that dewlaps come in a variety of types and sizes.

If your rabbit has a bigger one, you shouldn’t worry; it’s probably just because they’re a bigger breed of bunny!

Why Do Some Rabbits Have Dewlap While Others Don’t?

If you have multiple rabbits as pets, you must have noticed how some of your bunnies have a dewlap, but others don’t. That is perfectly normal!

It is important to keep in mind that some breeds of rabbits develop dewlaps, but others don’t. Genetics play a major role in determining whether your rabbit will have this chubby double chin.

On the other hand, dewlaps are more common in female rabbits than male rabbits.

Certain breeds of female rabbits need to have dewlaps in order to nest properly. These include the Californian rabbits, the Flemish Giant bunnies, and the French Lop.

Most rabbit breeds develop dewlaps by sexual maturity if they haven’t been spayed before this point. This usually occurs as they reach an age of 4 to 6 months.

Once the dewlap starts to appear, it will slowly grow in size for the next few years of your rabbit’s life.

The final size of your bunny’s dewlap depends on its genetic so that it could be small or really large.

Rabbit owners often notice their bunny’s dewlap getting bigger all of a sudden.

This could either be due to your rabbit being pregnant, false pregnancy, or sudden weight gain. Before we get into this, let’s first understand what the actual purpose of the dewlap is.

Purpose of a Dewlap

Dewlaps usually start t develop when your female rabbits reach sexual maturity. This is because they can now start reproducing.

Expecting rabbits go through a nesting period before their babies arrive.

During this time, female rabbits pull out fur from these extra skin folds to line the nest for better insulation. This helps keep their young ones safe and warm.

What if My Female Rabbits Don’t Have a Dewlap?

Not all female rabbits develop dewlaps, and that’s okay! Some breeds of rabbits simply don’t develop dewlaps.

Moreover, smaller rabbits develop a dewlap so tiny that it’s hardly noticeable.

You should also keep in mind that spayed females usually don’t develop dewlaps either.

This is because of the lower levels of hormones released in their bodies.

Do Male Rabbits have Dewlaps?

Rabbit owners often think something is wrong when they notice their male rabbits developing a dewlap.

After all, they won’t be nesting, so what do they need all this extra fur for?

The reality is that male rabbits can have dewlaps too, but they are far less common than in female rabbits.

Male rabbits also have smaller dewlaps than their female counterparts.

Usually, if a male rabbit starts developing a dewlap, it indicates high estrogen levels running through his little body.

This could be a result of genetics or due to being desexed at a younger age.

The development of a dewlap in your buck could also be an indicator of them being overweight.

Does a Dewlap Mean the Rabbit is Overweight?

Dewlaps are usually perfectly normal and indicate healthy development in female rabbits.

However, particularly large dewlaps could be due to your bunnies being overweight.

Unspayed female rabbits, rabbits with looser skin, and larger rabbit breeds are more likely to have larger dewlaps.

However, if the dewlap is excessive, it might be time to consider a weight loss plan.

Your vet is the best person to take advice from regarding overweight bunnies. He will recommend reducing the number of treats given to your rabbits each week.

You will also be asked to feed them lesser fruit and low-fiber veggies.

You should remember that even after losing weight, your rabbits will continue having a small dewlap.

That’s perfectly okay and shouldn’t be a cause of concern unless you notice any health issues!

Health Issues Associated With Dewlaps

If you’ve noticed your rabbit’s dewlap appearing to be larger than usual, it is best to see a vet immediately.

Hopefully, it will be nothing to worry about! It is important to note that there are a few health issues associated with particularly large dewlaps, though.

Lack of Proper Grooming

If your rabbits’ dewlap has gotten bigger than usual due to being overweight, this could be a serious cause for concern.

That’s because they will face difficulty in grooming themselves and reaching various spots around their bodies.

When your rabbits cannot groom properly, they are more likely to have leftover food and debris trapped in the folds of their dewlap. These areas will quickly become home to bacterial growth, leading to infections and other health issues.

Therefore, if your rabbit’s dewlap has gotten bigger due to being overweight, you need to get them on a diet ASAP.

You should also learn to groom them yourself until their dewlap gets smaller.

Regular grooming, especially during shedding season, will protect your bunny’s body and stop it from getting matted or dirty.

In severe cases, vets may even recommend surgery to reduce the dewlap’s size and help your bunny live a better and healthier life.

Developing Wet Dewlaps

Has your vet talked to you about the possibility of moist dermatitis?

That is what wet dewlaps are, and it can be an increasingly uncomfortable skin condition in your rabbits.

Moist dermatitis and skin fold dermatitis are quite common in older does. They occur in the sagging skin right below your rabbit’s chin.

This area collects water that isn’t dried off completely due to the skin folds.

The moisture left in your rabbit’s dewlap will cause the skin to become irritated. It can even get infected over time, causing health issues in your does.

Dewlaps stay wet quite frequently due to the following reasons:

  • Leaking water bottles
  • Dental problems leading to your rabbits drooling or hyper salivating.
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Being overweight

If your rabbit’s dewlap looks red or sore, it is probably due to an infection.

These sores will attract flies and other insects that lay eggs in that area and worsen your bunny’s health.

That’s why it is always better to seek professional medical help immediately.

How to Prevent Wet Dewlaps

Noticing your rabbit’s wet dewlap early on will help you offer them the right treatment without any major health problems.

Reach out to a vet and discuss what would be the best mode of action.

Usually, vets will shave the fur around the dewlap so the skin folds can dry completely.

They may also prescribe antibiotic powders and offer you instructions on how to ensure the dewlap stays dry.

Here are some more tips to ensure your rabbits don’t have to deal with this terribly painful ordeal:

  • Make sure the water bottles don’t leak.
  • Trim the fur around the dewlap regularly.
  • Keep the rabbit’s cage clean and hygienic.
  • Remove wet bedding regularly.
  • Offer a sufficient supply of hay to prevent dental problems.

In Conclusion

To sum up, why rabbits have a dewlap, it is important to remember that they are more common in mature females than males.

But some bucks will develop dewlaps too, and you shouldn’t be too worried about it.

Dewlaps may resemble rolls of fat, but they’re actually just skin folds that will make your bunnies look like they have double chins.

These dewlaps develop between 4 to 6 months of age, and the sizes vary depending on your rabbit’s age.

The best way to ensure the dewlap doesn’t interfere with your rabbit’s health is by getting them spayed as soon as your vet gives the green light.

Since spaying also offers a better quality of life for your bunnies, it is the best decision you can make for them!

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