Fur Mites in Rabbits

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.

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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 usually short-lived.

Teen girl with gray pet rabbit

Where did fur mites come from?

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.

How to eradicate fur mites in rabbits

  • Cat or kitten flea powder should obliterate the adult fur mites in rabbits.  A second dusting 10 days later is very important in order to kill newly hatched mites. The two treatments should solve the infestation, but if necessary, a third application 10-14 days after the second dusting is acceptable.

  • Ivermectin, topical, oral or subcutaneous is also effective. If injecting, use 1% Cattle Injectable Ivermectin, 0.018cc per pound. (That's a teensy amount.) Administer upon discovery, and then again 10-14 days later. A third dose is acceptable, given 10-14 days after the second dose.

  • Revolution® (Selamectin) is related to Ivermectin and can also be used.

    Use the Revolution sold at right on rabbits 11 pounds (5 kg) or more, and at your own risk.

  • Do NOT use Frontline® or Advantage® on rabbits. The manufacturer of Frontline products strongly recommends against using it on rabbits as the side effects can be severe, including death, and Advantage is not effective against fur mites.

  • Please consult your rabbit-savvy veterinarian as needed.

  • To avoid a re-infestation, you’ll need to thoroughly clean, and then treat the rabbit’s environment. Borax and diatomaceous earth are effective natural choices.

  • The healthier your rabbit is, the better it can repel parasites.

  • Be sure to recheck your animal after a full course of treatment, to ensure the mites are gone.

  • Also check the family pets, and any other rabbits that live with or near an infested rabbit, and treat as necessary.

The Merck Vet Manual may offer additional information

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