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While an infestation of fleas in your rabbit will be very uncomfortable for him, it will also lead to an increased risk of bacteria being transmitted into your rabbit’s bloodstream. In addition to extensive itching, the presence of fleas can also lead to myxomatosis and anemia. You will want to bring your rabbit to the veterinarian as soon as possible in order to eliminate the fleas and restore your rabbit’s comfort.
A flea is a very small parasite that can barely be seen unless under a microscope. A flea will attach itself to a host by biting it and will then suck its blood for nourishment.
Fortunately, it is not hard to notice when your rabbit is infested with fleas. You may see the fleas and dirt in the coat of your rabbit and will likely notice that your rabbit is frequently itching. Other symptoms include:
There are multiple types of fleas that can infect your rabbit.
While your rabbit can be bitten by fleas at any time of the year, they are most active during the springtime. This is when fleas feed and lay their eggs. As homes are kept warm during the winter time, fleas often have an environment that allows them to thrive. It is easy to dismiss the need for anti-flea measures during the winter, however, you will want to take precautions to protect your rabbit year-round.
Fleas are able to jump from one pet to another; often rabbits acquire fleas from being exposed to another animal that already has them. Even sleeping in the same area or occupying the same spaces can lead to fleas infesting your rabbit.
You will want to take your rabbit to the veterinarian at any sign he is experiencing a flea infestation. Your veterinarian will perform a complete examination of your rabbit. A flea bite may or may not be visible, and the veterinarian may be able to see the fleas in your rabbit’s fur. As the fleas are very small, the veterinarian will likely want to conduct further testing to confirm that your rabbit is indeed experiencing an infestation of fleas, as opposed to other parasites (like mites or ticks), or if to verify if he is experiencing a different condition that causes similar symptoms.
The veterinarian will comb your rabbit’s fur with a flea comb and may test the skin of your rabbit for a secondary infection. Further tests may include taking a blood and urine sample. Your veterinarian will want to determine if your rabbit has anemia as a result of the infestation, so that he can begin treatment immediately.
There are options of treatment available to eliminate the fleas that are affecting your rabbit. The medications may be in the form of a gel, a spray, or a powder. Your veterinarian will provide information on which is the best option for your rabbit based on his weight and condition. Options include:
- This will kill adult fleas on contact. Products that contain this drug have shown success in treating rabbits. Advantage is a product where one single application is usually enough to eliminate the fleas. If it is not successful, a second dose can be given in 30 days.
- In the US, it is available as Revolution and in Europe as Stronghold. The dose is topical and one dose should eliminate fleas. If not, administer a second dose in 30 days.
- Available as Program, one treatment should be successful; if not, a second can be given after 30 days.
Do not use Fipronil as it is potentially toxic in rabbits. Flea collars are not recommended for rabbits. If you have cats and dogs in your household, each one should also be treated for fleas as typically the original host is not your rabbit. You will also want to treat your rabbit’s environment using a product that can eliminate the fleas. You will not want to do this while your rabbit is in his environment, as the chemicals that kill the fleas can harm your rabbit.
In many cases, fleas will be able to be eradicated with one treatment. In some cases several treatments may be required. Should there be a secondary infection along with the flea infestation, or if your rabbit is suffering from anemia, your veterinarian may recommend a follow-up appointment.
As noted, you will want to treat your rabbit’s environment as well as your rabbit. There are a variety of products that can eliminate any fleas in the areas where your rabbit spends time. When treating the carpet, it is important to first vacuum the carpet so that the spray or powder you are using can be more effective. It is recommended that you avoid shampooing and steam cleaning. While you are treating your rabbit’s environment, you will want to keep your rabbit in another place so that he is not exposed to the treatment products.
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