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Endo and ectoparasites in rabbits

02 March 2019
8 mins read
Volume 10 · Issue 2


There are numerous endo and ectoparasites that can affect domestic rabbits. Many of these may not have a clinical effect on the rabbit and treatment may not therefore be required. However, for those that cause clinical signs it is imperative that early diagnosis and correct treatment is implemented, since any delay in this can have serious consequences for the rabbit's health and welfare, as well as human health, as many are zoonotic.

Rabbits can be affected by both endo and ectoparasitic infections. While some of these can display clinical signs, others may be asymptomatic or show very mild clinical signs, especially during the initial stages. As with other species presented to the practice a thorough clinical history and examination should be initially carried out and diagnostic tests are usually indicated to make a definite diagnosis (Keeble, 2018).

Some parasites are also zoonotic, therefore correct identification and treatment is vital.

Treatments are often based on information extrapolated from what is effective in dogs and cats, and products may not always be licensed for use in pet rabbits.

The rabbit fur mite, Cheyletiella parasitovorax is often termed as ‘walking dandruff’ as it is sometimes possible to see the mite moving with the naked eye (Figure 1). The non-burrowing mite lives on the keratin layer of the epidermis, causing crusting and scaling, and it is thought that the majority of domestic rabbits carry the mite with no clinical signs. However, when the rabbit's immune system is compromised either physically or psychologically, or normal grooming is inhibited, serious infestations can occur, especially in young or elderly rabbits (Keeble, 2018).

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