What are Rabbit Allergies?
An allergy is the result of the body’s attempt to defend itself against an amino acid that it perceives as a threat. The body uses the immune system itself to try and fight the invaders and releases histamine, inducing swelling and itching where it makes contact. An allergic reaction doesn’t happen the first time an individual is exposed to the irritant, but rather after repeated exposures. Any substance can trigger an allergic reaction, but allergies to rabbits and their meat are relatively uncommon in canines. Rabbit meat is also sometimes associated with allergies because it can be employed as a novel protein suitable for an elimination or replacement diet.
Although allergies to rabbit meat can develop, they are somewhat uncommon. If your dog lives or is in close contact with a rabbit, they may also develop an allergy to rabbit dander.
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Symptoms of Rabbit Allergies in Dogs
Although most dogs acquire food allergies after the age of three, food allergies in canines can develop at any age. Contact and environmental allergies, like allergies to rabbit dander, will generally not include the gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea and diarrhea. Allergies that remain unaddressed in young dogs may lead to poor growth and development. Skin reactions are often clustered around the face and groin, as well as being found under the front legs and between the toes.
- Bald patches
- Chronic ear infections
- Chronic gas
- Chronically inflamed feet
- Face rubbing
- Head shaking
- Obsessive licking
- Paw biting
- Poor puppy or adolescent growth
- Skin infections
- Skin rashes
There is more than one type of allergy that a dog can develop to rabbits. The most common allergy that occurs is an allergy to the proteins in the rabbit meat itself. An estimated 60-70% of the cells of the immune system in canines actually reside within the digestive system. The process of digestion is designed to break down food particles into their smallest parts, known as amino acids. These minuscule particles are then absorbed by white blood cells called enterocytes. When proteins are not properly broken down during digestion, these enterocytes see them as intruders and attack. Dogs can also develop contact and environmental allergies to rabbit fur, dander, urine, or saliva. Dander and saliva are the most typical of the rabbit contact type allergies, so they tend to occur most often in multiple pet households that include both dogs and rabbits.
Causes of Rabbit Allergies in Dogs
Canine allergies are the hostile response of specialized immune cells in the dog’s body to a protein that it sees as an invader. The body uses both enterocytes and mast cells in the fight to protect the body, and these cells stimulate the release of histamine into the bloodstream. Histamine has an inflammatory effect on the tissues it comes into contact with, resulting in the itchy and inflamed skin conditions that are characteristic of allergic reactions in canines, as well as the digestive symptoms that usually accompany food allergies.
When the cells in the eyes and sinus cavities are affected by the irritant, and the sign of a runny nose and sneezing are activated. These symptoms are more commonly seen in environmental allergies, like allergies to rabbit dander. Over time the response of these cells usually becomes more aggressive, and symptoms will intensify.
Diagnosis of Rabbit Allergies in Dogs
If your dog develops an allergy, the symptoms of itching and inflamed skin that are exhibited by your dog due will prompt the examiner to collect a skin sample from the areas affected by the allergy, for a microscopic evaluation of the skin cells known as cutaneous cytology. Cutaneous cytology is prepared to look for problems with similar dermal symptoms, such as yeast infections, mites, or other diseases. The results of these tests may lead your dog’s doctor to suspect an allergy. If a food allergy is alleged to be the cause of the symptoms, an elimination diet can be used to diagnose the existence of an allergy, and may be able to deduce which ingredient is causing the reaction. An elimination diet involves changing the dog's food to either a diet of unseasoned human grade food or reduced ingredient commercial food.
Any foods or food groups you’re your pet has not yet been exposed to may be used as a novel ingredient that can be utilized for the elimination diet. Allergies to rabbit meat are not particularly common, and it is sometimes used as a protein source for an elimination diet if it was not a part of the original diet. Allergies to dander are more likely to be diagnosed by an intradermal skin test, also known as a patch test. Minute amounts of the antigens that are suspected to be causing the reaction are injected under the skin to induce a localized reaction, which will pinpoint the specific allergen.
Treatment of Rabbit Allergies in Dogs
Allergies to rabbit meat are more common than reactions to their dander, and it can take many weeks for an elimination diet to reveal which allergen is responsible. The novel protein that is chosen will be the only protein source allowed to the patient until the skin conditions clear up. If your dog is showing allergy symptoms but has never had rabbit, it may be chosen as a novel protein in its own right. Antihistamines to calm the itching may be recommended by your veterinarian as well as corticosteroids to reduce swelling. Use of these treatments may make it difficult to establish if the symptoms are eliminated due to the change in diet or because of the application of the medications, so many veterinarians prefer to get the results from the elimination diet before treating the symptoms.
Any new exposure to the protein that caused the initial reaction is also capable of causing a relapse. If the primary protein you have chosen is rabbit meat, treats should also be rabbit based, and it is best to use unflavored toys during this process. If the allergy is to the rabbit's dander or saliva rather than the meat, avoiding the source of the allergen is the best course of action, however, in multiple pet households, this may prove to be difficult.
Immunotherapy can sometimes be applicable for animals affected by allergens that they are unable to avoid, especially in reactions that occur for at least four to six months of the year and are resistant to antihistamines. After an intradermal test to confirm the actual allergen, an injection is prepared with the correct altered rabbit based antigens. The patient is injected with this personalized formula either weekly or monthly, which desensitizes them to the allergen. This method of treatment can be expensive and time-consuming, however, it has a very high success rate, especially in younger dogs.
Recovery of Rabbit Allergies in Dogs
Once the allergen has been identified, the best course of action is to avoid it. In some cases, the allergen may not be avoidable, necessitating more advanced treatments. Secondary skin infections frequently occur in allergic canines, and oral or topical antibiotics may be prescribed if this occurs. Certain supplements to support the proper functioning of the immune system, such as probiotics and Omega-3 oils, may be recommended as well. These supplements are often added to the patient’s regimen even after the treatment has occurred. These enhancements to your pet’s diet may assist your canine’s body in handling any accidental exposure to allergens and to prevent the cultivation of new allergies.
Rabbit Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My 1 year old pup has gotten a rash around her eye and now is experiencing hair loss around her eyes my other dog that sleeps right next to her every night hasn't had these issues. she has gotten three bunny from the yard in this last week. Vet can't get her in till Monday. She is rubbing her face the carpet as well. She is up to date on all her shots and is acting like her spunky self. This ll started a week ago
It is possible that Betsy has Demodectic mange which can present as hair loss around the face or other parts of the body; it is common in puppies and dogs with weak immune systems which is probably why your other dog is unaffected. Demodex usually results in no rash unless there is a secondary bacterial infection. Other causes may be due hormonal conditions. Ointments may help if it is Demodex or even dips with Amitraz. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Is there anything I can do at home to subside the itching until vet visit on Monday?
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My dog developed a rash on his stomach about 2 weeks before thanksgiving. Everyone that seen it thought it was ringworm. I bought athletes foot cream and used a tube and a half. The rash moved from the big clusters to small clusters. So I got Antifungal shampoo from walmart and started using it. That worked better. Now the rash is moving up towards his under arms. And five days ago he started having mucusy stool. I think it might be a allergic reaction to my four rabbits. Please help me.
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