Rabbit External Parasites
Wild rabbits are host to a variety of
parasites that can be transmitted to domestic rabbits; I will describe
some of the more common ones and their treatment.
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 toothcomb.
Treatment. Imadicloprid (Advantage 40 produced by Bayer) is effective to
control fleas that are caught from dogs and cats in the household.
Selamectin (Revolution produced by Pfizer) is also effective.
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 & occasionally cause crusting around the perineal
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
Treatment is with ivermectin injection given as two injections at 10-14d