Flea Treatment for Rabbits

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Flea Treatment for Rabbits
Flea Treatment for Rabbits (Image: Gaellery- CCA-NC-ND, Ratterrell- CCA-NC-ND)

Rabbits are a common indoor and outdoor pet with many different genera, or sub-breeds. They are susceptible to many different kinds of fleas and treatment differs greatly from that of cats or dogs. There are many treatment options available for rabbits, but many have proven to be harmful over the course of a rabbit's life.

Background

An outbreak of fleas on a rabbit causes itching and accompanying fur loss. Rabbits often serve as hosts for feline fleas and young canine fleas, but can also contract rabbit specific fleas. Due to their small size and susceptibility to poison, it's important to use gentle treatments first.

Symptoms

Fur loss can indicate many things in rabbits, including fleas, ticks, or ringworm. Rabbits are highly sensitive animals can even lose fur because of stress. The first step in treating rabbits for fleas is to take them to a veterinarian and to get a formal diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment of fleas for rabbits varies according to their size. While many topical gels are commercially available, few are actually tested on rabbits. Advantage, a Bayer product, is one topical flea gel that's been tested for rabbits. Use a full tube for a large rabbit and half of a tube on a young or dwarf rabbit. Some veterinarians suggest gels containing selamectin (Revolution or Stronghold) or ivermectin, but neither of these drugs have been tested extensively for use on rabbits and may cause complications. Over-the-counter flea powder and shampoos are not recommended, although they're often labeled for use on rabbits. Anecdotal evidence suggests severe health problems and long term neurological damage. One exception to this is flea powder, whose active ingredient is 5 percent carbaryl insecticide (5 percent Sevin Dust). Another option is to remove the rabbit and its cage from the primary room, use a flea room spray, following the directions on the canister, and returning the rabbit after a period of at least 24 hours. During this time, a flea comb can be used to groom fleas out of the rabbit's fur.

Caged Rabbits
Caged Rabbits

Warning

Never use flea dips or gels containing fipronil (Frontline) or permythrin (Bio-spot, a Hartz product) on your rabbit. Many rabbit deaths have resulted from complications due to these treatments. Flea collars are not a good option either, as rabbits hate constriction around their necks and the doses of active chemicals are too strong for them. Make sure to consult a vet that has experience treating rabbits before beginning any treatment.

Further Considerations

Rabbits are prey animals and are extremely sensitive. Natural herbs and plants that are safe for human consumption can kill rabbits. While some believe the problem with most flea medications is solely the amount of active chemicals, there is reasonable evidence to conclude negative effects of a harmful treatment may develop slowly over time from apparently safe methods. Veterinarians are not in agreement about the best treatment for rabbits, flea or otherwise, so make sure to get as much information as possible before proceeding with a treatment.

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