What is normal for a bunny’s skin and coat?
The skin and coat of a rabbit should look clean, sleek and even shiny. With long haired fluffy breeds it can be less easy to spot a skin problem, but the coat should still look healthy. Brushing rabbits regularly is a great idea as it enables you to make sure all is well and that you are quick to spot any problems such as, matted fur or dandruff. Rabbits will groom each other which helps to control parasites in the wild. However, this should not be relied upon as the treatment of choice in our domestic pets! It is particularly important to groom a rabbit during a moult as this will help remove dead hair. It’s worth knowing that rabbit skin, which is usually a very pale colour, often looks coloured under moulting fur. Use a gentle soft brush as rabbit skin is very delicate and can be easily injured.
If your rabbit has a skin problem, you may think they are allergic to something, their bedding for instance. Actually skin allergies are very rare in bunnies so it is safer to assume it is something else.
Symptoms to look out for if your rabbit has a skin problem
Is your rabbit scratching around their ears and head?
Tiny “stick-tight” fleas around the ears and face are the rabbits own species of flea. These creatures look as if they are embedded in the skin, which is different from dog and cat fleas which tend to run around. These tiny fleas are stimulated to breed by pheromones produced by does in season, so if your rabbits are neutered they are less likely to get them. Rabbits can also get dog and cat fleas if they come into contact with them. All fleas are likely to cause itching and irritation in your bunny.
Rabbit parasites can be easily killed with the appropriate medication, but some dog and cat flea products can kill rabbits, so always ask your vet practice which products are safe.
Have you found scurfy itchy or scabby patches in your rabbit’s fur?
These patches are often a bit bald. They are often on the back or neck and can look like thick dandruff. Your rabbit may be scratching at them making them sore or bleed. Again, this is usually a parasitic problem and is caused by mites which burrow under the skin. If you see this problem, you are best advised to take bunny to the vet who may use an injection or sometimes a spot on to treat the problem. Depending on the severity, you may need to attend follow up appointments. It is easily cured but only with appropriate treatment. The most common mites we see on a rabbit’s skin are called Cheyletiella.
Are there scaly scabs or crusts in your rabbit’s ears?
Rabbits ears should look clean and the skin almost translucent in appearance. If rabbits get ear mites, you may see thick plaques of crust in the ears. These are produced by a mite called Psoroptes cuniculi. Left untreated they can cause a lot of damage to the thin walled ear. In fact rabbits can be left with ears with large pieces missing or holes in them in severe cases.
Does your rabbit have sore heals?
A small bare pink patch, beneath a flap of folded over fur, is normal especially in large rabbits. Sore hocks (red, broken, or infected skin) must be treated by a vet as it can be difficult to heal, and may need antibiotics. Never trim the fur on the soles of the feet as this cushions their weight and protects their feet.
Look out for sore skin around the bottom or tail
During the summer months when flies are about, they will lay their eggs in any soiled area of fur. These hatch out into maggots which will literally eat your rabbit alive. This condition is called “Flystrike” and is often sadly untreatable. You can prevent it happening by applying a lotion called “rear-guard” to your rabbit’s rear end before the fly season starts. Rearguard is included when you are a member of the Rabbit Healthy Pet Club.