Wild rabbits are host to a variety of parasites that can be transmitted to domestic rabbits. Pet rabbits can also get parasites from dogs or cats that are kept in the same environment. A description of a few of the more common parasites follows.
Ctenocephalides canis or felis the common dog and cat flea are the usual fleas found on pet rabbits. They normally acquire them by living in a household inhabited by dogs and cats. They usually cause intense itchiness and allergic dermatitis can occur. It is much less common to find wild rabbit fleas but they are much more of a concern as they can carry diseases such as myxomatosis. Fleas and flea dirt can be found on the rabbit by combing with a fine tooth comb.
Treatment. Selamectin (Revolution produced by Pfizer) is effective to control fleas that are caught from dogs and cats in the household.
Psoroptes cuniculi is the common ear mite that causes crusting and ulceration of the ear canal. Often the ear can be completely filled with debris & discharge. Often both ears are affected but occasionally only one. The ears are usually very itchy. Occasionally the mites can be spread during grooming & this can cause crusting around the perineal (bottom) area.
Treatment Usually an injection of ivermectin is given although Revolution can be used. Do not attempt to remove the crusting from inside the ear canal as the ear is often ulcerated & sore & attempts to remove the scaling cause pain & distress. Any remaining debris can be removed after treatment when the swelling & soreness has reduced.
Cheylietiella parasitivorax is a fur dwelling mite which is common in pet rabbits. They cause areas of excessive dandruff and flaky encrusted skin along the back and on the neck. Cheylietella can be zoonotic (can affect humans) and people can get a red itchy rash after handling affected animals.
Rabbits which get cheylietiella often have other underlying disease such as dental problems or arthritis of the spine, preventing them from grooming properly.
Treatment is with ivermectin injection given as two injections at 10-14d intervals.