Rabbits have scent glands at various parts of their body. For example, they smell really sweet just behind their ears, and they will use the glands on their chins to ‘claim’ places and objects. (1)
The scent glands we’re tackling here, though, are near to their bottoms. They produce a strong-smelling waxy substance. This is completely natural.
On either side of the vent there are slits. If you gently ease these slits open the waxy substance, looking a bit like earwax, but much smellier, will be visible.
In healthy rabbits, of a good body weight and able to clean themselves, there is usually no problem with these glands and they should not need to be examined. For overweight rabbits, or those with mobility problems the glands can become overfilled with wax and very smelly. In more severe cases they can also become infected.
If your rabbit is unable to clean herself, then you need to keep a check not only on urine or faeces sticking onto the underside, but also the scent glands. If there is a lot of wax and the area is particularly smelly, you will need to clean the glands. This needs to be done very gently and carefully. Dampen a cotton bud and use that to very gently ease excess wax out of the gland. It’s not a pleasant job but can be done quickly and shouldn’t hurt your rabbit at all.
Consider this a bit of a red flag! If your rabbit cannot clean themselves well around there, they may also not eat caecotrophs or groom dead fur, and are at a higher risk of flystrike
If you believe there is any infection in the area, you will need to take your rabbit to a rabbit friendly vet where she can be treated.
(1) Richard Saunders, Debra Fews, and Sarah Elliott (2018)
Granuloma formation associated with the ventral submandibular scent glands of rabbits: a case series
Companion Animal 2018 23:7, 414-417