Ectoparasities are parasites that live on the surface of the host, e.g. fleas, lice and mites.
The fleas most commonly found on domestic rabbits are the same species of flea as will most likely be affecting all other pets, and you, in the household. Rabbits’ symptoms can be varied, from itching to severe scratching of the neck and biting of the area around the base of the tail and some show no signs at all. Treatment should focus on an animal and environmental approach so as to minimise the level and persistence of infestation. Only use treatments and medicines designed for rabbits, some treatments/medications designed for other animals can be harmful and in some cases fatal to rabbits – speak to your vet from more advice.
The incidence of lice infestation in rabbits is low however, if your vet believes that the risk to your rabbits is high, lice can be prevented with treatments similar to those for fleas and flies. Similarly, treatment of the environment with an approved rabbit-safe environmental insecticide would also reduce the level and persistence of infestation.
Cheyetiella is a type of skin mite that can affect rabbits; it lives in the fur, and causes areas of thick crusting and dandruff type material to develop. It is often termed ‘Walking Dandruff’, with affected areas most commonly being at the back of the neck and at the base of the tail. Your vet will easily be able to diagnose these mites by examining some of the dandruff material under the microscope, and will then be able treat your rabbit effectively. Rabbits can also be affected by ear mites that cause crusting and ulceration of the ear canals – seek vet advice.