Fur Mites in Rabbits: Learn how to identify and eradicate this non-burrowing parasite in your rabbit. Plus, treating your rabbit's environment to prevent re-infestation.
The other day I picked up one of our rabbits. I held her close and petted her, rubbing her head and ears, and stroking her over her back. (Rex rabbits are like that...difficult to stop holding and petting because they're so...mmmm...plush.) As I did so, I felt something like scabby lumps in the triangle just behind her ears. Further investigation revealed fur mites.
Fur mites (Cheyletiella parasitovorax) are non-burrowing little arachnid parasites that like to chew on your rabbit's fur and skin. Feeling those little scabby lumps where you should be feeling smooth fur is sometimes the first clue to their presence.
The incidence of fur mites in rabbits rises in the spring as the weather begins to warm up. Rabbits with weaker immune systems are more likely to suffer an infestation (that's definitely a clue to generally keep a close eye on my doe), while some very healthy rabbits play host to fur mites yet show no symptoms at all.
Mites are itchy to the rabbit, apparently. As the rabbit scratches the infested area, often the neck at the base of the ears, she might nick her skin and draw a little blood. Plus, the tiny skin bites release bits of serum. I was feeling all of that.
Severe infestations cause dandruff, seborrheic (waxy) lesions, and fur loss. You'll typically see bare spots, or a triangle of short new fur behind the ears continually trying to grow in.
Just so you know, it is possible for fur mites to give
people a temporary rash, though since we are not 'furry,' the problem is
We keep our rabbits in all-wire cages, which means they are not normally exposed to fur mites. But we do attend rabbit shows now and again, so our doe may have picked them up from other rabbits or from the new environment.
Rabbits can also pick up fur mites from the family dog or
cat, and from its own environment, including inside the home and in the yard if
given access to these areas.