Parasites of Rabbits
Parasites of Rabbits
Dr. Maggie Wood
and edited by Susan Horton, DVM
Skin parasites (ectoparasites)
The common rabbit fur mite is called Cheyletiella.
This mite causes flaking, dryness, and thinning of the fur
predominantly on the rabbit’s back.
Therefore, it is sometimes referred to as “walking
Rabbits can also get
ear mites, which can cause inflammation, dark crusts, and itching
of the ears. It is
important to differentiate between a mite infestation and a
bacterial or fungal infection since they can have similar
symptoms. Mites can be
diagnosed by taking samples to examine microscopically pictured
Rabbits are also
susceptible to fleas, especially if they live in a household with
dogs and cats. Usually
the cat or dog is the one that brings the fleas into the household
and perpetuates the flea infestation, so it is important to treat
the cat or dog also. Many
products sold for cats or dogs can be toxic for rabbits, so it is
important to consult with a veterinarian to provide the correct
Flies can also lay eggs on rabbits that then develop into
larvae. This is most
common in rabbits housed outdoors, so it is recommended to keep
your rabbit indoors to avoid this issue.
There are 2 main types of larvae.
The first type is called Cuterebra.
These are quite large and only 1 larva is present at each
site under the skin. They
appear as a bump or swelling with a tiny “air hole” at the
surface of the skin pictured below. These must be surgically
removed. Never attempt to pull them out through the hole as
this may cause a fatal anaphylactic reaction!
The other type of
fly larvae are small maggots.
These are most commonly found in rabbits that have a wound
or skin infection, especially if the rabbit is debilitated or
unable to groom himself properly.
There are usually many maggots present in one spot and they
will eat away at the rabbit’s skin if they are not removed
affecting nervous tissue ( brain, spinal cord, etc)
E. Cuniculi is a rabbit parasite that can infect the brain
and other organs in the body.
They are infected by oral ingestion of the microscopic
parasite eggs found in the urine of affected rabbits.
They can be chronically infected for quite a while before
any symptoms are seen, which unfortunately makes it easier to
spread from one rabbit to another.
Neurologic signs may include a head tilt, circling, rolling
or falling to one side, tremoring, weakness, and rapid eye
movements. E. Cuniculi
can also cause kidney problems, urinary incontinence, and eye
problems such as cataracts and uveitis (inflammation of the eye).
Rabbits that are housed outdoors and exposed to raccoon
droppings can become infected with a raccoon parasite called
Baylisascaris. It can
migrate to their brain and cause neurologic symptoms similar to E.
Cuniculi. It is best
to prevent Baylisascaris by keeping your rabbit indoors, since it
does not usually respond to medical treatment.
Bacterial infections of the inner ear can also cause
similar neurologic symptoms to E. Cuniculi, so it is important to
remember that not every rabbit with a head tilt or circling to one
side has a parasite. They
can respond to antibiotic therapy if it is caused by an ear
Gastrointestinal Parasites (endoparasites)
Coccidia are the most common intestinal parasites of
rabbits. Symptoms may
include diarrhea and weight loss.
Baby bunnies are more susceptible to coccidia, and they can
become very sick and dehydrated.
One type of coccidia can cause liver disease also.
With an acute infection, this can cause severe illness due
to liver dysfunction and obstruction of the bile ducts.
With a more chronic infection, it can contribute to the
development of tumors of the bile duct.
Rabbits can also get
other parasites such as pinworms, tapeworms, and stomach worms.
Not all rabbits with intestinal parasites show signs right
away, so it is recommended to have a stool sample checked for any
new rabbit that you bring into your household.
Since most parasites are contagious and are spread between
rabbits, it is important to isolate affected rabbits until they
are free of the parasite and determine if any other rabbits in the
household have been exposed. It
is also important to clean and disinfect the environment during
If you rabbit is showing any of these
symptoms, please call us at 847-329-8709 to make an appointment!
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