What is it?
Many parasites can affect pet rabbits, some of the most commonly seen ones are:
Endoparasites (these live on the inside):
Ectoparasites (these live on the outside):
A certain (low) level of parasite burden is normal and has even been suggested to aid the function of the gastrointestinal tract in adults.
Why is it important?
Many of the parasites that are found in/on rabbits will generally not cause disease, unless the rabbit is poorly for another reason. They can however be an important indication that investigations for underlying diseases need to be carried out.
Routine treatment with wormer as a preventative is no longer recommended, but regular flea and mite treatment is often necessary.
What’s the risk?
Parasites can be passed between wild rabbit populations and pet rabbits. Rabbits are also ‘intermediate hosts’ for some parasites (meaning they are the ‘middle man’ in the parasite’s life cycle) and can carry them, although they may not show any ill-effects themselves. This is particularly important in tapeworms that affect cats, dogs and rabbits.
What happens to the rabbit?
How do you know what’s going on?
Diagnosis can be made by a vet - this may simply be by looking or taking samples. For internal parasites this tends to be a faecal sample, for external parasites this tends to be a sellotape strip or skin-scrape which is looked at under a microscope to identify the parasite.
Signs of skin mites often include flaking and/or bald patches, often around the base of the tail and back of the neck - this is because it’s difficult for the rabbit to reach these areas and bonded companions often won’t groom here. If there are signs of skin mites present, often there are underlying causes (disease/grooming issues/obesity/stress) which should be investigated and then addressed.
What can be done?
If you suspect any of the parasites above may be causing an issue, please make an appointment with your vet to assess for any underlying issues and choose an appropriate treatment:
What can I do to protect my pet?
Any sign of fur/skin changes should be investigated by a vet as they usually indicate an underlying disease that may require treatment. Routine worming/parasite treatment (with the possible exception of products like cyromazine to prevent flystrike) isn’t usually recommended unless following diagnosis of an issue, or after the development of a cause for concern. Please speak to your veterinary team about appropriate treatment before starting any.