What is Scratching?
You may see your rabbit scratching himself for relief, lifting his leg frantically to scratch his ear, or biting his side furiously until his fur falls out. Scratching in rabbits is really no different than scratching in cats and dogs. It is normal for rabbits to scratch themselves, but if you observe your rabbit biting or scratching himself relentlessly, a health issue may be the reason and you should contact your veterinarian immediately. A visit is warranted any time your rabbit looks distressed or uncomfortable. The veterinarian will diagnose what is causing your rabbit's itchiness and then determine the best way to treat it.
Scratching in rabbits is also known as pruritus. This is a condition that often results in intense chewing, itching, licking, rubbing, and scratching. It frequently causes inflamed and sore areas on the skin.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Scratching in Rabbits
Your rabbit's skin is a very important part of his overall state of health. Skin conditions are not only common, they can be irritating, as well as life threatening. In addition, some skin conditions are contagious to humans. If you observe any of the following symptoms listed below it is important that you contact your veterinarian immediately.
- Hair loss
- Inflamed or sore skin
- Self barbering
- Self inflicted trauma
- Severe chewing
- Severe itching
- Severe licking
- Severe rubbing
- Severe scratching
If your rabbit is showing any of the symptoms listed above, call the clinic without delay. If left untreated, a skin condition may progress quickly and can become serious.
Causes of Scratching in Rabbits
The most common cause for scratching in rabbits is usually parasites. Other causes for scratching in rabbits include:
- Bacterial and fungal dermatitis
- Ear mites
- Fur mites
- Pin worms
- Skin tumors
Diagnosis of Scratching in Rabbits
When you arrive at the veterinarian office, your veterinarian will perform a thorough examination to find out the exact cause of your rabbit's scratching. The first thing your veterinarian will want to do is examine your rabbit's hair and skin for signs of parasites or other infectious skin conditions.
Next, she'll perform blood tests as well as a fungal culture to check for any underlying causes that may be affecting your rabbit and causing his itchiness. If allergies are suspected to be the reason for your rabbit scratching, your veterinarian will screen for allergies and may need to conduct further testing to determine what is causing the reaction.
- Allergen blood tests
- Diet trials using an hypo-allergenic diet
- Skin Tests
It's important to note that there may be times after conducting complete and thorough examinations that the underlying cause for your pet’s itchiness may not be fully determined. When this occurs your veterinarian will usually prescribe a treatment option based on your rabbit’s symptoms to help control his discomfort.
Treatment of Scratching in Rabbits
Once your veterinarian has determined the cause of scratching in your rabbit, she will let you know her findings, decide what the best treatment option is, and begin treating your rabbit. If your rabbit has allergies, an antihistamine will be prescribed and any identified allergen will be removed from your rabbit’s diet or environment. If your veterinarian suspects skin tumors she will test for cancer and a treatment will be based on the results. For parasites, your veterinarian will recommend that your rabbit's housing be thoroughly cleaned inside and out, and will provide your rabbit with a parasite treatment. If your rabbit has irritated or inflamed skin, your veterinarian will prescribe treatments such as ointments for the affected area.
Recovery of Scratching in Rabbits
Once your rabbit is on the road to recovery, continue to provide him with a healthy diet, clean fresh water, plenty of exercise, and a hygienic environment. It's also important to note that sometimes applying a topical cream, or using soaps or other products that contain alcohol, benzoyl, and iodine may make your rabbit itch more or cause pain. In this case, it's recommended that you use a clean cool rag to help stop the itching and soothe the pain. Never apply anything to your rabbit’s skin without veterinary approval.
Scratching Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My bunny is black. And it scratches itself often. When I try to cuddle it, he tries to lick it or it looks like he tries to bite me. And if I try to cuddle he sometimes turn away from me. And if I try to cuddle he sometimes shaking after, not shaking constantly. But shaking the whole body for some seconds. Maybe he doesnt like being cuddled. Some hair on his body is loose. But it is winter, and my dad says its normal. He didnt do it in summer. Im 16 years old. I think it is Alaska. I live in Norway.
Add a comment to No name's experience
Was this experience helpful?
Our mini lop was a rescue rabbit and we've had him for one year. He's always been in good health and we are really fussy about looking after him.
Recently he bonded with another rescue rabbit who is a purebred lop and since they've been moved to a large enclosure outside, our minilop has got bleeding scratches in his ears and hair loss. But our vet said his ears are in excellent condition - no mites.
He is really miserable - can you help us? I have photos but I can't attach them.
There is definitely no fighting! We watch them during the day and I check them at night too, and they are a close bonded pair. I hadn't thought about the overgrooming though. I'll watch out for that.
Add a comment to Denzo's experience
Was this experience helpful?