Mites & Fleas
Article written by Dr Narelle Walter, BVSc, MRCVS
Melbourne Rabbit Clinic, Veterinary Referral Hospital
18/151-159 Princes Highway, Hallam Ph: 0418 372 435
Rabbits can have a number of external parasites that can cause discomfort, hair loss and often disease. You should
regularly check your rabbits coat to make sure there are no signs of mites or fleas and it is recommended that all
outside rabbits are regularly treated for fleas as they can carry disease.
Hair loss, although often a sign of mites or flea infestation can sometimes be due to over grooming caused by hormonal
imbalances, especially in entire females. So if your doe is not responding to treatment for fleas or mites please have
her check out by a rabbit savvy veterinarian as it might be due to uterine cancer or ovarian cysts.
There are two types of fleas seen in rabbits. The common flea (Ctenocephalides canis or felis) is often seen on rabbits
and if your rabbit lives closely with a feline or canine companion then they are very likely to get fleas occasionally.
Fleas can cause skin irritation and over grooming and can predispose the skin to bacterial infections once the skins
protective barrier is damaged with scratching and biting.
Rabbits can also get the Spanish Flea, Xenopsylla cunicularis smit. This is a flea that is specific for rabbits, it was
released into Australia in 1993 to try and aid the spread of Myxomatosis in the wild rabbit population. This is a very
real threat to our outside rabbits and I would strongly recommend regular monthly flea treatments to help prevent
Psoroptes cuniculli are a small microscopic mite that lives in the ears of rabbits. Because rabbits have very long
narrow ear canals it can often be difficult to see these creatures even though they are visable to the naked eye. These
mites cause severe irritation and large numbers of crusty painful scabs that can be seen in the ear. Your vet can find
these mites by examining the wax and crusting from the ear under the microscope. The damage that is caused in the
ear of rabbits with an infection of Psoroptes cuniculli can predispose them to ear infection that can extend into the inner
ear. Ear mites are treated with ivomec injections by your vet, alternatively monthly Revolution, a spot on active against
fleas and mite has also been used to control ear mite infections.
Rabbit lice (Haemodipsus ventricosus) are rarely found on domestic rabbits, but can be occasionally found in their wild
counterparts. They are quite large and at 1.5 - 2 mm in length easily seen with the naked eye.
Cheyleteilla parasitovorax, is commonly called walking dandruff, as the mites themselves can be visible to the naked
eye. They live on the surface of the skin around the hair shaft and cause damage to the shaft resulting in hair loss,
especially on the tail base can be a sign that you rabbit has mites. Cheyleteilla is a common condition in rabbits anis
often brought into the home on hay and straw. If you are concerned that your rabbit might have mites then see you
veterinarian, they will be able to check the presence of these tiny insects under the microscope. Treatment is often
straight forward with an application of Revolution.
Burrowing mites, that live in the hair follicles rather then the hair shaft can occasionally be found on rabbits. They are
not very common and their presence can be diagnosed with a deep skin scraping or more often with a skin biopsy.
Unfortunately there are no treatments that are registered for use in rabbits, although there are a few products that have
been used extensively and are known to be safe.
Revolution is a monthly flea treatment for cats and dogs and is helpful in treating fleas, mites and ear mites in rabbits.
It should not be used in kits younger then 12 weeks. Please see your veterinarian for the correct dose.
Advantage is also safe for use in rabbits, again see your veterinarian for the correct dose. Be careful not to use in kits
under 12 weeks of age. Advantage is only affective against fleas.
DO NOT use Frontline on rabbits as it has been known to cause fatal seizures, even 5-7 days after application.
Other flea products such as washes, powders and collars should not be used in rabbits as some can cause severe
illness and death. If in any doubt at all, do not use it until you have talked to a veterinarian.
If your rabbit shows signs of
dry, flaky skin, there is a strong
possibility that they have mites
Do Your Bit