External parasites are a common problem in bunnies. The most common culprits include:
* Rabbit fleas Spilopsyllus cuniculi
* Dog and Cat fleas Ctenocephalides felis C. canis
* Rabbit Fur Mites Cheyletiella parasitovorax
* Ear Mites Psoroptes cuniculi.
It should be noted that any blood sucking insect can transmit myxomatosis from rabbit to rabbit - just an extra reason to control such parasites.
Dog and cat fleas are picked up by the rabbit from dogs and cats in the household. They cause severe pruritis and diagnosis is based on seeing fleas or flea dirt. The rabbit flea is usually found on the face and ears of rabbits. For both these types of fleas Selamectin (Revolution) can be used. Alternatively Imidocloprid (Advantage) can be used at cat doses, however, imidocloprid does not treat for any of the mites.
Fipronil (Frontline) has been associated with adverse reactions in rabbits. Reactions include inappetence, fitting & death. NEVER use Frontline on rabbits.
Ear mites in rabbits are often associated with severe crusting of the outer ear and ear canal. They are a common cause of otitis externa. The mites can spread to other areas of the rabbit via contact during grooming ie. perianal area. Treatment is as for fur mites, Selamectin (Revolution).
Ringworm (various species) can also affect bunnies. In mild cases washing of the affected area with Malaseb is often sufficient. It is not recommended to immerse and wash a rabbit. Not only does this cause a high level of stress, but rabbit fur does not wash and dry well and will frequently matt. In more severe or ongoing cases a fungicide can be used.
Rabbits do not commonly suffer from intestinal parasites and is often a self limiting disease. Prophylaxis, as in the dog or cat, is not necessary. Coccidia, seen as intestinal infection and liver disease, can cause problems in rabbits but often only in intensive housing conditions. Disease usually affects young kits and can cause sudden death. Treatment is very straight forward but cleaning the environment and reducing the number of rabbits housed together is often required.