Common Parasites in Small Animals
Does your pet have an unusual shedding problem? Excessive scratching!? Fur loss!?
If you notice your bunny shedding excessively, leaving heaps of fur on your clothes after carrying or stroking, having constant blotchy fur or bald patches, coupled with constant scratching, shaking of head... Then you should take a closer check on your pet! A healthy clean rabbit will not shed all year round, their hair is much like human hair, only dropping a few strands a day. They only go into full coat of shedding twice or thrice a year, and this lasts from 1-2months possibly more, depending on individual. If your rabbit has been shedding since forever, your pet may have external parasites.
Here I'll explain about the common external parasites found in Singapore's rabbits and guinea pigs. Due to our warm and humid weather, these pesky external parasites are happy to thrive and flourish. These mites/ticks/fleas can come from external environments such as grass patch, gardens, floor, other pets or simply from our clothes. More often, these parasites are left behind by other animals or passerby that had been carrying them on its body. These creatures have strong grip on our clothes and could accidentally transfer from our clothes when we get into contact with other infested pets environment, and pass onto our pets. They may come from hay or just about anything. It is really very common. More than half of the bunnies that come for grooming are down with fur mites and many owners are unaware of it. So I hope this serves as a form of awareness so that you'll keep your pet in check and in health.
One thing to note though - it is NOT fatal to your pets, just something that we rather not have on the animals. It causes excessive itching which irritates the animals and in more severe cases, causes infection, allergy, permanent scarring or mutilation, wry neck, malnutrition, decline in health of your animal. I noticed that some bunnies in severe cases of mites infection (maybe the bunny had some form of internal parasites as well), don't grow fat no matter how much they eat, and the bones of the spines can be felt, though the stomach is bloated with food. Fret not, positive effects are seen within 1-2 weeks of medication.
wry neck pic from http://wabbitwiki.com/wiki/Head_tilt
The most commonly diagnosed parasites in rabbits and guinea pigs that I encounter on a weekly basis. Spreads really fast, but very easy to rid off. Their size is as large as 1 pepper speck. There are 2 types of fur mites that we usually see in Singapore. Pictures and Videos (coming up) below.
The more common type is Listrophorus gibbus fur mites, which common seen on both rabbits and guinea pigs - They appear off-white on dark coloured fur and brownish/maroon on light coloured fur or you may see the whole body if you have a keen eye. Part the rabbit's fur and when u stare carefully, you'll find these specks clinging to strands of fur, THEY MOVE. Try using a Samsung phone camera and zoom in, you should be able to see.
The less seen and harder to find is Cheyletiella parasitivorax fur mites also known as rabbit fur mites - They are pale yellow in color and mostly seen crawling really fast on the skin or on fur near the skin. Easier to spot on neck. Almost impossible to get a still pic of them on the rabbit's body.
Fur mites infestation causes dandruff-like skin, and this is what causes the excessive shedding. I have also seen rare cases where the an infested rabbit's skin is in perfect condition (totally unaffected by the mites). Remember! A rabbit does NOT shed all the time (only when in molt). These parasites feed on the skin and plasma of your pet. It causes pet to itch, the skin flakes and drops, hair drops, new skin grows, new hair grows, skin gets eaten and hair drops again.. so you see why your bunny is shedding, and scratching non-stop?
"Frequency of Fur/Skin/Ear Mites Found commonly in wild and pet populations of rabbits and rats, more common in mice. Almost universal in hamsters.
Transmission Mites are transmitted by direct contact with an infested animal or the environment of that animals (bedding, incompletely cleaned cage"
- Charles River Laboratories International Inc 2009
Little hamsters, can also carry little mites and may pass them onto your bunnies. By the way ah, please do not panic about your rabbit having mites if any of the pictures may seem similar to how your pet looks now. When your rabbit is just going through a normal seasonal heavy shed, they can also look patchy like the picture below.
uneven fur pic from http://www.medirabbit.com/EN/Skin_diseases/Parasitic/furmite/fur_mite.htm
Flaking skin on adult rabbit
Listrophorus gibbus fur mites on head of dark colored rabbit head (whitish specks) - click to enlarge
Listrophorus gibbus fur mites on back white colored rabbit head (blackish specks, on white fur) - click to enlarge
Finally we have videosssss..
Tick pic from http://www.medirabbit.com/
A tick found on a rabbit we groomed - see my finger size for a gauge of how small a baby tick can be
These are mainly found in the ears of bunnies. The ear mites deposit brownish fecal matter into the ear and causes a lot of itching and buildup in the ears, lop owners please take extra care. Your bunnies will tend to shake its head a lot. Severe inflammation and infection can cause wry neck, its a permanent damage to the nerves in the neck/ear. Ear mites infestation in the ears will cause the ear to swell, and cause permanent thickening of the ears.
Ear mites pic from http://atthevets.co.nz/services/rabbit-medicine/rabbit-ear-mites-before-treatment/
This is very easy to spot. If you notice the edges of ears, nose, tail and feet of your bunny are dry and flaky, and overtime it forms crust and growth and have a bit of dried blood. And when peeled off causes bleeding, your rabbit has scabies/mange. Regular doses of ivermectin (commonly used to treat mites) are not very effective against this type of sarcoptic mites. In my expereince revolution is most effective against this. In severe cases, the ears get chipped off at the edges, the nose look like it is going to drop off¦ Every edge of the bunny look like it is falling off..
Mange pic from http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/furloss.html
*Mites/Ticks do not exactly harm or feed on humans. The common ones just feed on pet's dander and skin. So don't worry.. the ticks just crawl around like ants, but it is really a pest issue. Fleas that can jump may be a bit of an issue though..
** These parasites WILL SPREAD! So if you notice one of your pet has it, do a thorough cleaning and treat all pets in the house. When your rabbits scratch, some of the mites fall off and move in search of a new host.
***FRET NOT! I have the solution for you! Revolution Drip-on! For puppies/kittens, safe for use on rabbits/guinea pigs. This is by far the most effective against all sorts of parasites internal and external, including scabies.
You may purchase Revolution for your rabbits HERE
PLEASE DO NOT USE FRONTLINE ON RABBITS. IT IS DANGEROUS/POISONOUS.