Do you have a pet rabbit suffering fur loss and scratching? This reader did — and I shared some information I thought would help!
Q: My rabbit seems to really be scratching himself a lot and is starting to lose fur. What could be causing his itchiness?
A: Skin problems aren’t unusual in rabbits, and itching and hair loss are common signs. The “usual suspects” in these cases are parasites such as fleas, rabbit ear mites (Psoroptes cuniculi), Cheyletiella mites and mange mites (Sarcoptes scabei), or environmental allergies to bedding, chemicals used to clean cages or treat fabrics or other materials in the home, such as cedar wood shavings.
Your veterinarian is the only one who can make a diagnosis, and only after examining your rabbit. He or she may suspect ear mites if your rabbit is shaking his head frequently, scratching at the ears and head or has a thick, reddish-brown crust in the ears. If you notice this type of crustiness, don’t try to remove it by cleaning the ears. That would put your bunny in a world of hurt. Your veterinarian will prescribe medication to kill the mites.
Rabbits can pick up fleas from dogs or cats in the home. If they live in an outdoor hutch, they may also be exposed to a different species of flea carried by wild rabbits in the area.
Cheyletiella and sarcoptic mange, caused by different types of mites, are diagnosed through skin scrapings that are examined microscopically for the presence of the mites.
Depending on the problem, your veterinarian will likely prescribe a topical or oral treatment, such as ivermectin, Revolution or Advantage. The medication and dose will need to be tailored to your rabbit, so don’t assume it’s OK to use the same product or amount you use on your dog or cat. Some products can be fatal to rabbits.
If an environmental allergy is suspected, try changing the bedding, washing the cage thoroughly to make sure all traces of cleansers are removed and switching to a scent-free detergent or fabric softener for any items the bunny comes in contact with.