Rabbits can contract three different types of mites: fur mites, mange mites, and ear canker mites. Each species of mite is capable of crossing over to other species, including humans, so it’s imperative to thoroughly rid the infestation. Mites can be treated with medications, as well as their habitat will need to be meticulously cleaned and then treated. Early detection is the best way to prevent a full-blown infestation.
Because mites are spread through direct contact, rabbits are more likely to become infested with mites when they’re kept with other susceptible hosts. The symptoms of fur mites include: mild itching, flaking skin, and bald patches. Mange mites are relatively uncommon in rabbits. In most cases, a veterinarian is needed to detect these microscopic creatures. Ear canker mites can be quite severe. Symptoms can include a brown crust that forms around the ear canal, hair loss, and hair peeling.
THE LIFE CYCLE OF MITES
All mites, including skin and ear mites, live approximately three weeks on a single host. Mites begin as eggs, and have three life stages: larvae, nymph, and adult. It’s very difficult to spot an adult mite because these creatures only grow to be between 0.3 mm and 0.5 mm. Mites feed on the keratin layer of the dermis, but it’s their secretion that causes skin to become inflamed, itchy, and irritated.
Mites are treated using pesticides that contain one or more of these active ingredients: lime sulfur, ivermectin, selamectin, permethrins, pyrethroids, and phenylpyrazoles. It’s important to read and follow all directions before applying the treatment. In general, the medication will be applied between the shoulder blades, on the back of the neck, and on the rabbit’s rump. Treatment will need to be repeated two to three times. All susceptible animals must be treated (even if they’re not showing symptoms of an infection).
CLEANING UP TO PREVENT REINFESTATION
Environment plays a huge role in infestation. Everything needs to be cleaned and then treated with a mite-killing dust, powder, or liquid. It’s not recommended to steam clean furniture or bedding because mites are attracted to damp environments. Instead, vacuum, scrub, and then dry infected areas. The most common areas that need to be cleaned are the rabbit’s shelter, bedding, toys, and any household areas she frequents. Pesticides are able to better penetrate fabrics when they are cleaned. Make sure to follow the pesticide’s instructions, and do not reintroduce your rabbit until the recommended time has passed.