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Most mites are so tiny that seeing them with the naked eye is difficult, if not impossible. These minute creatures can cause your bunny a world of misery if he becomes infested. Mites consume the keratin layer of your pet's skin, with an excreted enzyme causing skin irritation and inflammation.
Types of Rabbit Mites
Rabbits are prone to several type of mites, some of which also can affect household cats and dogs. These pests include Sarcoptes scabei, which causes mange; Cheyletiella parasitivora, also known as walking dandruff; Psoroptes cuniculi, which causes a painful ear canker; Trixacarus caviae, the burrowing mange mite and Ornithonyssus bacoti, the tropical rat mite. The latter lives only in temperate climates.
Signs of Mites
Signs and severity of mite infestation depend on the type of mite afflicting your rabbit. While constant scratching accompanies most mite infestations, rabbits suffering from mange also develop painful, oozing skin lesions. Fur loss, including hair lost in clumps, can signify an infestation. Excessive dandruff -- especially if it moves -- are signs of Cheyletiella parasitivora. In rabbits, lesions usually occur on the ears and face, with hair loss along the back and shoulders.
Treating the Rabbit
Your vet takes a skin scraping or aspirates mites with a vacuum to determine what type of mite is involved. She examines the scraping or aspiration under a microscope. After your vet diagnoses the type of mite infesting your bunny, she might treat your pet with the dewormers ivermectin or selamectin, which also eradicate mites. While this treatment alone usually clears up the symptoms relatively quickly, severely affected rabbits might require topical medications on lesions or antibiotics if infection is present. Since warm-blooded animals generally pick up mites from a prior host, you must treat every pet in your household, even those who are asymptomatic.
Treating the Environment
Just treating your pet isn't sufficient to eradicate mite infestation. You also have to treat his environment. If he has access to certain areas of your house, that means thoroughly vacuuming carpeting and upholstery, then putting down veterinarian-approved miticide powder. It's not a one-time process. You'll have to repeat the powder procedure again to kill the eggs. The interval between applications depends on the miticide product. Throw out your rabbit's old toys and dishes and provide him with new ones, along with replacing his bedding. You'll also have to clean and powder his cage or hutch.
- University of Miami: Fur Loss and Skin Problems in Rabbits -- Common Causes and Treatments
- Rutgers Cooperative Extension: Common Mites of Your Rabbit and Small Animal Part I -- Fur Mites
- House Rabbit Society: Skin Diseases in Rabbits -- Common Causes, Common Treatments
- MediRabbit: Common Fur Mites or Cheyletiellosis
- George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images