Humor and pirate talk aside; rabbit mites can be a highly irritating and potentially serious condition that affects a rabbit’s health and well being. As parasites, rabbit mites not only cause a plethora of problems for an infected animal, they can also spread out to other species such as dogs, cats, and even humans.
WHAT ARE RABBIT MITES AND WHAT DO THEY DO?
Classified as parasitic arachnids, rabbit mites are physically similar to that of more observable mites like the tick, but are much smaller in size than most arachnids. Despite their diminutive size, these microscopic, eight legged invaders find that overwhelming a mammal poses little difficulty. Making a home by either burrowing into or living on top of its victim’s skin, rabbit mites feed off of dead skin cells and blood.
WHY ARE RABBIT MITES BAD?
As mites reproduce, larger numbers become a source of itchiness for the infected rabbit. As the annoyance worsens and the rabbit begins to scratch, skin inflammation and soreness occur and lesions can develop over time. Lesions under the fur or inside the ears of a rabbit encourage unhealthy and potentially life threatening bacterial infections and possible permanent abnormalities of the ears or skin.
A further concern during an epidemic of rabbit mites is the contagious nature of the mite. Once a rabbit has become infected, there is a good chance that parasites will transfer into the environment as well as to other mammals in the vicinity. Much like lice, rabbit mites are spread through contact and to further the problem, their eggs can be transferred as well. Humans who become infected with rabbit mites typically experience only mild itchiness and irritation for a limited time, but in some cases skin lesions can appear and present more serious problems.
HOW TO DETECT RABBIT MITES
As with any disease or illness, early detection is the greatest weapon against permanent or deadly results. Below is a simple list of warning signs to look for if rabbit mites are suspected:
- Mites may be visible to the eye. Check both a rabbit’s fur and ears for tiny, white crawling bugs.
- Watch for incessant scratching, head shaking, or minor amounts of hair loss.
- Look for dandruff or open lesions on the rabbit’s neck and back.
- Examine the rabbit’s nose, mouth, and genitals for sores.
HOW TO TREAT RABBIT MITES
Upon detection of mites, it is important that a treatment plan be quickly implemented. As there are a variety of mite types, specific medications may be prescribed for the animal. However, most veterinarians suggest the following procedures to eliminate current and future contamination:
- As infestation can occur rapidly and spread to surrounding environments and hosts, it is necessary to remove, replace, or thoroughly sanitize any bedding or surfaces with which the rabbit has made contact. Be sure to wear protective gloves when dealing with polluted areas.
- Apply or feed mite ridden rabbits the appropriate medications. A veterinarian will determine the correct dosing, form, and type of prescription; simply follow the instructions completely.
- Once the rabbit becomes mite free, be sure to maintain a high level of cage sanitation and keep a close eye on its behavior. If signs of re-infestation become apparent, repeat the necessary steps of elimination.
- If rabbit mites become a recurrent issue, other animals may be the culprit. Make sure to check any cats, dogs, or rodents in the household for parasites as they may be carriers. If mites are found on a separate host, isolate both animals and treat according to the advice of a veterinarian.