how to get rid of walking dandruff on rabbits
Health and Wellness

How to Treat Walking Dandruff in Rabbits (Cheyletiellosis)

Dandruff on a rabbit signifies a form of mild dermatitis. Static dandruff is a little dry skin, which can be rectified. If the dandruff appears mobile, it means that your pet has a mite infestation.

How is walking dandruff in rabbits treated? Start treating walking dandruff (Cheyletiella parasitovax) with an over-the-counter treatment, such as Beaphar Anti-Parasite Spot On. For larger mite infestations, prescription medications such as Ivermectin or Revolution, will clear up the problem in a few weeks. Alternatively, your vet can administer injections that will kill the mites.

You’ll then kill any lingering mites and eggs in your rabbit’s hutch to prevent them from returning in the future. At the first sign of dandruff in your rabbit, you should start a treatment plan right away.

My Rabbit Has Dandruff

Dandruff in rabbits looks similar to human dandruff. It manifests as a series of white flakes in a rabbit’s fur. It is easier to spot in rabbits with darker coloring. Dandruff is camouflaged in white fur.

This means that you’ll need to groom and check your pet’s fur regularly. Pay particular attention to the ears, scalp, neck, and back. This is where you’re most likely to find signs of dandruff.

If you do find dandruff, investigate further. There are two primary forms of dandruff in rabbits:

  1. Localized Dandruff. This is static, traditional dandruff caused by flakes of dead skin.
  2. Walking Dandruff. This dandruff is mobile. That’s because mites are living in the rabbit’s fur.

Knowing what kind of dandruff your rabbit has is the first step to treating it. Naturally, differing causes require different remedies.

It will also help you understand why your rabbit has dandruff in the first place. This, in turn, will minimize the risk of the problem reoccurring.

Does My Rabbit Have Dandruff or Mites?

Learning which form of dandruff is impacting upon your rabbit is critical. Treating walking dandruff with localized dandruff techniques will be ineffective.

Know where to look for warning signs. Often, dandruff will initially start as dry skin on a rabbit’s ears. Check your pet’s shoulders, back, and hindquarters too.

If the dandruff is moving, it’s a case of Cheyletiellosis, or fur mites. You’ll need to get these mites cleaned up. If it stays put, it may just be dry skin. That’s not a certainty, though.

Look a little closer at your rabbit’s skin. Does it look otherwise healthy, other than being flaky? Or does it show other warning signs of ill health? Common symptoms of mites include:

  • Constantly – and excessively – grooming a particular part of the body.
  • Shaking and tilting the head.
  • Sizable bald patches and hair loss.
  • Dirty and waxy ears.
  • Lumps and bumps on ordinarily smooth skin.

If you’re sure that your rabbit doesn’t have mites, you can treat their dry skin. It’s better to be safe than sorry, though. Assume that your rabbit is at risk unless you have proof this isn’t the case.

How Do Rabbits Get Walking Dandruff?

Walking dandruff is a form of mild dermatitis, caused by live mites in your rabbit’s fur. The scientific term for walking dandruff is cheyletiella Parasitovorax, as cheyletiella mites cause the problem.

Cheyletiella mites are highly contiguous, and can be caught from any animal or human. Even if you don’t have other pets, your rabbit is not immune. Mites can be found in the environment, and attach to your bunny while they exercise.

Your rabbit is likelier to struggle with cheyletiella Parasitovorax if it has weak immunity. Ensuring your rabbit gets enough Vitamin C, and avoiding stress, will help. The mites are sometimes unavoidable in mild weather, though.

cheyletiellosis

Typically, cheyletiella mites are quite large. They also do not burrow into your rabbit’s skin. This means that you’ll often be able to see them. If the dandruff flakes are small, place them under a microscope. You’ll then see if they move.

Despite this, the presence of cheyletiella mites is not always obvious. If you can’t see dandruff, they can go undetected for months. Some rabbits show no outward signs or symptoms of infestation.

My Bunny explains that these parasites live for around five weeks. During this time, they will lay a range of eggs. These, like flea eggs, can live in the fur or the home. This can result in a constant scourge of infestation.

Can Walking Dandruff Kill Rabbits?

It’s not necessarily an immediate concern, but walking dandruff can prove fatal eventually. Any time that Cheyletiella Parasitovorax is left untreated is too long, though. Even if your rabbit shows no symptoms of discomfort, it’s dangerous.

If you do not remove mites from your rabbit’s fur, they’ll multiply. The more mites take hold, the more irritation your rabbit will experience. Eventually, this will affect their quality of life.

Mites also bite, which has a range of side effects. Your rabbit may be allergic. Like fleas, mites can cause a hypersensitive reaction in rabbits. The impact of this ranges from mild to severe.

If your rabbit is sufficiently irritated, they may scratch so much they develop open sores. If you see open wounds on your bunny, escalate the treatment to a professional.

There is the ongoing impact of constant bites. Each one will weaken your bunny. Initially, they won’t notice this. Over time, they’ll grow weaker. Eventually, they’ll struggle with basic movement.

There’s the risk of disease being transmitted by mites. These bugs can carry maladies, and share them between animals. As the All Animals Vet Clinic explains, myxomatosis is the biggest risk.

There is no cure for myxomatosis, and it kills rabbits – painfully – in a short time. Vaccinate against the disease if you can. If this is not an option, don’t take any chances with mites.

How to Get Rid of Walking Dandruff on Rabbits

You must take action the moment you discover an infestation of cheyletiella mites on your rabbit.

Seek out a topical remedy. This could be a spray, or spot-on treatment. Some of these treatments are more effective than others.

If you’re lucky, this will eradicate the mite infestation. If so, you can skip ahead to the aftercare stage. It’s possible that the mites will remain, though. In such an instance, you’ll need the help of a vet.

Vets can prescribe professional medication to deal with a mite infestation. As the Animal Hospital of Soquel explains, there are two popular treatments:

  • Ivermectin. This is an injectable medication. It’s often provided to humans that are living with skin complaints, such as rosacea. It will need to be applied at a vet surgery.
  • Revolution. This is a brand name for a Selamectin product. It’s a topical treatment that kills mites almost immediately. This can be purchased and applied at home.

Both treatments require a prescription, as they are stronger than anything available over the counter. Like all prescription medication, you’ll have to watch for side effects. They are widely generally rabbit-safe, though.

There is also a note of caution surroundings Revolution. Unlike Ivermectin, this product is not safe for humans. Handle this drug with care. Exposure to human skin can cause severe irritation.

What to Do Once a Rabbit is Cured of Walking Dandruff

Simply eliminating the mites on your rabbit’s fur is not the end of the process. You’ll need to ensure that the infestation does not recur. Steps to take here include:

  1. Wash your rabbit thoroughly.
  2. Deep clean your rabbit’s hutch from top to bottom.
  3. Wash any clothing your rabbit has had access to on high heat.
  4. Wash any soft furnishings in your home on high heat.
  5. Vacuum your entire home, from top to bottom.
  6. If you have carpets, steam wash them.
  7. Bathe and inspect any other pets in the home for signs of infestation.

This should deal with any eggs that the mites laid. It’s also an opportunity for a good spring clean of your home. If you have too much clutter, you are making a welcome environment for mites.

Observe your rabbit after you have treated their walking dandruff. It may take a couple of cycles to purge all mites. It’s frustrating, but it’s an important part of pet ownership.

How to Prevent a Rabbit Getting Walking Dandruff

Prevention of mites is always preferable to dealing with an infestation. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do to prevent them. All the same, there is plenty to gain by taking evasive action.

Keep your rabbit happy and healthy. The more robust your rabbit’s immune system, the less likely they’ll be bothered by cheyletiella mites. This doesn’t mean they won’t attract them. It does minimize the damage the mites can cause, though.

You should also monitor where you purchase bedding and litter for your rabbit. Wherever possible, buy this in a vacuum-sealed bag. If it’s an option, freeze the materials before applying to your bunny’s hutch. This will kill any mites present.

If you are constant and vigilant with your rabbit’s cleaning regime, this will also help. Give your bunny’s hutch a thorough deep clean at least once a week. Consider doing so twice in mild weather, such as the spring.

Just ensure any product is designed especially for rabbits. In many cases, the medications for cats and dogs are toxic to rabbits. They release more chemicals than a rabbit’s small body can comfortably absorb.

Can I Get Walking Dandruff from My Rabbit?

Cheyletiella Parasitovorax is a zoonotic disease. It may not manifest in humans as dandruff, but the mites can live on our bodies. This will lead to itchy skin and dermatitis. Luckily, as we’re not furry, they do not survive long.

The easiest way to avoid cheyletiella mites is to keep them off your rabbit. Check your pet regularly, and take immediate action if you spot an infestation. You’ll also need to clean your home thoroughly at any sign of mites.

Until your bunny is mite-free, wear gloves and long sleeves while handling them. Immediately wash any clothes that you wear on a hit laundry cycle, too. Mites cling to fabric and lay eggs within clothing fibers.

It’s not only humans that are at risk from cheyletiella mites, either. These arachnids are not fussy. They will happily set up home on a dog, cat, or other small animals.

What Causes Dry Skin in Rabbits?

If you can see patches of dry skin on your rabbit, it’s a source of concern. If their fur is falling out or balding, something has made this happen. Infection is a common explanation for dry skin in rabbits.

  • Bacterial Infection. If your rabbit’s hutch is not cleaned regularly, a bacterial infection is an ever-present risk. Keep your bunny’s home clean, and provide plenty of air circulation.
  • Fungal Infection. A common fungal infection affecting a rabbit’s skin is ringworm. This contagious skin disease is zoonotic, so it can be spread between animals and humans.

Don’t forget our old foe the parasite, too. We’re not just talking mites now, though. Flea and tick bites can also cause an inflammatory reaction in rabbits. This dries out the skin, and leaves the bunny prone to problems.

All the same, be aware of burrowing mites. These arachnid parasites will not move, and are thus unrelated to walking dandruff. They get under a bunny’s skin though, causing mange, scabies, and other unpleasant skin conditions.

can walking dandruff kill rabbits?

There is always the chance that your rabbit is just unlucky. Some bunnies inherit skin conditions from parents, especially when they come from poor breeding. This will need regular treatment.

Common Rabbit Skin Problems

Rabbits can be prone to a number of skin complaints. Remember, if you can see patches of skin, something has gone awry. Some of the most common include:

  • Mange. Like walking dandruff, mange is caused by mites. The mites in question are a different sub-genus, though. These parasites feast on a rabbit’s skin, rather than their fur.
  • Ringworm. This fungal infection is so-named by its appearance. It causes the fur to fall out, and leaves angry, itchy circular markings on a bunny’s skin.
  • Alopecia. This is the scientific term for hair loss. It’s relevant, as rabbits often tear their fur out when stressed or upset. They may damage their skin in the process.
  • Allergies. If your rabbit has a sensitivity to their environment, this may be reflected in their skin. Hives, hot spots and rashes are all possible.
  • Bacterial Disease. Rabbits have a range of bacteria in their bodies. These are dormant unless provoked by unsanitary living conditions. An example is rabbit syphilis.
  • Sunburn. Like any human or animal, a rabbit’s skin can blister if exposed to the sun’s rays. Moderate your pet’s time in the sun.
  • Hereditary Skin Disease. Some rabbits are just prone to itchy, flaky skin. This must be managed carefully on a bespoke, case-by-case basis.

Whatever is causing your rabbit’s dry skin, it needs to be addressed. Dandruff isn’t nice to look at, for a start. In addition to this, the underlying cause could become increasingly dangerous.

Dry skin is sometimes linked to liver failure, and other organ issues. Such major problems will usually be picked up at an annual health check. All the same, nobody has ever regretted being cautious and vigilant over their rabbit’s health.

How to Clear Up Dry Skin on Rabbits

A vet can run tests, perform a diagnosis, and provide prescription medication. This could be a cream or ointment, an injection, or an oral steroid.

There are caveats to this. You need a rabbit-savvy vet, familiar with these animals. Not all vets understand the complexities of bunny care. They may inadvertently do more harm than good. Rabbit skin is more fragile than that of cats or dogs.

Before approaching a vet, you may wish to attempt home treatments. Pet stores stock anti-mange spray, for example. You’ll also find creams for fungal infections. Just be aware that these remedies are not always effective.

You could also take a holistic approach. Tea tree oil is effective against a range of skin complaints in rabbits. Sudocrem and Vaseline are also rabbit-safe, in small doses.

How to Prevent a Rabbit Developing Dry Skin

Keep your rabbit’s skin healthy through diet and exercise. This will not necessarily prevent them from developing an infection. They’ll be stronger if they do, though.

Regular grooming and spot cleaning will also help. If you’re vigilant about checking your rabbit’s skin, you’ll notice problems early. You’ll have to be equally attentive to their hutch.

Ensure that your rabbit’s hutch has sufficient ventilation. This will aid their skin in breathing. Also, consider adding an over-the-counter supplement to their diet.

Can I Wash My Rabbit with Anti-Dandruff Shampoo?

You may be tempted to think that regular bathing will help your bunny. After all, damp skin is the opposite of dry skin. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though. Regular exposure to water is harmful to a rabbit’s skin.

The more time a rabbit spends in the water, the likelier they are to develop bacterial infections. Bathing a rabbit is something to treat with caution. Most rabbits fear it, and will resist with all their might. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, though.

If you are going to bathe your bunny, pick up a rabbit-specific shampoo or soap. Some cat shampoos are suitable, but not many – it’s not worth the risk. You certainly cannot use human shampoo, no matter how effective it is on you.

Rabbit skin is gentle, and easy to damage. A shampoo with an inappropriate pH balance can leave them in agony. Remember that washing alone does not treat rabbit dandruff.

If you spot dandruff on your rabbit’s fur, something is up. It’s not one of those things, and it will not rectify itself. Your bunny needs you to take control of the situation, even if they’re not in obvious discomfort.

Learn what kind of dandruff – localized or walking – is affecting your pet. Then, begin an immediate and effective treatment plan. If you delay, the cause will only magnify.