Unfortunately, all rabbits can have fleas. As fleas spread rapidly, it's crucial to quickly get them under control. When dealing with fleas, patience, determination and the proper flea control and treatment is vital.
Fleas are parasites who survive by ingesting the blood of warm-blooded mammals, such as humans, cats, dogs, and rabbits. Any host carrying fleas is itchy and miserable. Additionally, fleas reproduce quickly and in large numbers (2,000 in their lifetime) and these eggs can hatch in 3 weeks.
Moreover, they are incredibly agile, can jump up to 19inches and are comfortable in warm locations with high humidity or anywhere where they can breed. Flea infestations can take place in your yard, indoor spaces in your home including carpets, tile floors, cement patios and furniture. Fleas infect your rabbit and you will need to check often and remove them quickly and effectively.
While many house rabbits never go outside, other family members, such as humans and dogs, do. They hop on their hosts and hitch a ride inside. Then, they leap off their hosts and onto your lagomorphs. Obviously, if your rabbit spends time in your backyard, they can catch fleas in the grass. Additionally, your bun’s barn stored hay may contain fleas. In addition you may bring in fleas in the hay you purchase of in bulk food from some pet stores. We recommend you stick with packaged hay, avoid bales & keep you food and hay indoors away from rats, mice and other animals that can infect the food supply.
Fleas can carry viruses fatal to rabbits such as Myxomatosis (Myxo) and Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD). Myxomatosis: common vectors for Myxo are insects, exposure to wildlife, including wild rabbits carrying the disease, and transmission brought into home by human to rabbit. Myxomatosis is 99% fatal. There is currently no vaccine to prevent Myxo. Allowed in the USA
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD): Highly contagious and hardy, it’s fatal to rabbits within hours to days of exposure. There is no cure and no treatment other than supportive care. Neither virus is transmitted by or affects humans.
Fleas can also cause serious infections and anemia in rabbits. Excessive scratching due to flea bites can also lead to abrasions and infection on your rabbit. Your rabbit may also have hair loss, open sores, and scaly skin from scratching so much.
During your monthly health checks, you need to check for fleas. Fleas are usually dark colored and move quickly through the fur of your rabbit. Depending on your rabbit’s coat, use a comb (flea comb with handle). Remove all the fleas that you can reach using your flea comb. Have a cup of water with alcohol handy for flea disposal.
If you see your rabbit scratching or biting at their skin, check for adult fleas. While combing/brushing, you may be able to see the fleas moving around or stick to the fur on the comb/brush. It is easier to see them when they are on the nose and ears due to lack of fur. Fleas also leave “flea dirt,” which is actually flea poop and resembles small specks of dirt. A common way to check if the specks are flea dirt or just dirt is to place them on a paper towel. Next, put a drop of water on the dirt. If a red ring develops, which is blood, it is flea dirt.
When grooming your rabbit and you find fleas on the brush/comb, remove the fleas with your comb immediately.
Then follow flea control instruction. Note: Be sure to clean your grooming tools carefully so you do not accidently reinfect your rabbit. Rinse them in hot, soapy water or plain rubbing alcohol to drown/kill the fleas and flea eggs.
NEVER GIVE A RABBIT A FLEA BATH OR DIP. We do not recommend a flea dip for rabbits. The stress of the bath and the ingredients in the shampoo or dip may be harmful to your rabbit.
NEVER USE FRONTLINE. Frontline kills rabbits.
Flea treatments for rabbits include (Advantage or Revolution) These two medications are safe for rabbits. Your Vet will give you the correct dosage. Do not overdose. You may need to repeat the flea control medication at 2.5-3 weeks to make sure lingering eggs from fleas do not hatch.
Keep you home vacuumed and floors mopped. It is helpful to keep your rabbit environment clean TO AVOID FLEAS. Note: Even the cleanest of homes may still get a flea infestation.
Here are some tips.
All Floors: Vacuum carpets and furniture then discard the vacuum bag immediately. If you have a bag less or canister vacuum, carefully dump contents outside in your garbage and then wipe out the debris container - Clean it with hot, soapy water or disinfecting wipes. Clean the rollers and brushes in the same manner as the vacuum container.
Hard Floors: After vacuuming/sweeping, you may want to mop floors with hot water. Dry as usual. Moist surfaces can promote flea growth. Dispose of your mop water carefully then pour ½ cup of vinegar down the drain that you used to dispose of the water. Run hot water down those drains for 2 minutes after the vinegar.
If the fleas persist, you may try room sprays. Remove any food supply. Be careful. Please check with your veterinarian re which flea sprays will be safe and you must keep the rabbits and humans out of the room for at least 24 hours.
With regular grooming and proper flea control measures you can prevent flea infestations. If your rabbit does get fleas then you will catch it early and can carry out removal and flea control measures discussed in this article. You may find that you need to reapply flea meds to your rabbit 3 weeks after the first dose. Keep checking your rabbit to make sure the fleas are gone.