Fleas and rabbits

Wild rabbits and Myxomatosis

Fleas are important in the spread of Myxomatosis in wild rabbits. The virus is ingested by the feeding flea and transmitted to another rabbit, which then becomes infected when the flea feeds. Although cases have been reported, generally pet rabbits are less at risk. If you live in the countryside, your rabbits could potentially be at risk of this form of transmission. Please, always make sure your bunnies’ Myxomatosis vaccines are up to date. These days it is just a yearly injection, which is included in your Healthy Pet Club membership. All rabbits should be vaccinated annually against Myxomatosis.

Fleas in pet rabbits

Fleas are not fussy. Cat and dog fleas are quite happy to live and feed on rabbits. It is not uncommon for bunnies to get fleas especially in those households with multiple pets. The life cycle of the flea is identical on a rabbit.

The flea life cycle

  • Fleas jump onto an unprotected rabbit
  • They feed on your rabbits' blood
  • Female fleas lay on average 20 eggs per day which fall off into the environment
  • These hatch and the larvae crawl away infecting their space!
  • These larvae pupate and eventually hatch into adults but this may take up to 6 months
  • An adult flea needs a daily blood meal to survive, but if living on a rabbit that has not been protected, the fleas can live for 160 days - that is potentially 3,200 new fleas! (Although the average flea probably lays a maximum of about 500 eggs in a lifetime).

Signs that your rabbit may have fleas

  • Your rabbit may be biting or nibbling at his/her skin
  • Other furry pets may be itchy too!
  • You may have flea bites!
  • Flea dirt may be seen - especially if your rabbit has white fur. This looks like bits of black soot. It turns red if put onto damp cotton wool or toilet tissue.
  • Anaemia – pale gums and lethargy can result if your rabbit has many fleas due to protracted blood loss.
  • You may see live fleas
  • Hair loss or scruffy patches.

Treatment for fleas

Important – cat/ dog flea products are not safe to use on rabbits.

There are specific products that are safe to use on rabbits to get rid of adult fleas. As pet rabbits only tend to get fleas as a result of being in contact with other pets in the house hold which have fleas, vets don't tend to treat them with preventative products regularly. Nevertheless, our professional veterinary teams will be happy to advise anyone needing or wishing to treat or prevent fleas in their bunnies.