Scabies in rabbits, also known as sarcoptic mange, results from infestation with the mange mite Sarcoptes scabiei. These tiny parasites burrow into the rabbit's skin, causing crusty lesions to form on different parts of the body.
Initial scabies lesions appear on the nose and mouth, later spreading to the entire head and the neck. The lesions may also appear in the genital/anal region and on the feet. Other signs of scabies infestation include:
- severe scratching
- licking affected areas
- hair loss
- and secondary bacterial infections.
Serious cases of scabies can lead to anemia -- a lack of sufficient number of red blood cells. It can also cause leucopenia, or insufficient amounts of white blood cells. Without treatment, a bunny can die in just a few weeks.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your vet diagnoses scabies by both physical examination and skin scrapings. She'll look at the scrapings under a microscope, searching for evidence of mites. Treatment consists of injections or oral administration of various dewormers. These include three ivermectin injections, each spaced two weeks apart.
Another common dewormer, moxidectin, is not as effective as eradicating scabies mites in rabbits. Doramectin, marketed under the trade name Dectomax, appears to get rid of mites permanently after two injections given at 10-day intervals.
Treating the Environment
After treating your rabbit with the appropriate medication, it makes no sense to put him back in an environment still containing scabies mites. You must thoroughly clean and disinfect his cage or hutch, keeping the bunny elsewhere during the process. Ask your vet about miticide products you can use in your rabbit's living quarters that won't harm him. Boric acid is one possibility.
Scabies is zoonotic, meaning it spreads between species. Treat every rabbit in your household, even if they appear asymptomatic. You must also treat every dog and cat in your home, unless they are already on monthly heartworm or flea and tick preventives that also eradicate mites. Be careful and wear gloves when handling your rabbit -- people are also vulnerable to scabies mites.