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Can Rabbits Get Fleas?

Do rabbits get fleas?

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Sometimes, pet owners forget that rabbits can get fleas too! Although it does not happen often as with dogs and cats, rabbits are not exempted from getting infested with these critters.

But in order to know how to get rid of fleas on rabbits, it is important to know how rabbits get fleas in the first place and how to spot them.

What Are Fleas?

What Are Fleas?
What Are Fleas?

Fleas are small, wingless pests that can travel tremendous distances by jumping. In order to survive, fleas must consume warm blood, and they aren’t surely fussy. Most household pets can be attacked by fleas and humans are at risk too. 

Did you know there are over 2,000 varieties of flea? However, your pet bunny is likely to get cat fleas despite the existence of rabbit-specific fleas.

Do Rabbits Get Fleas?

Yes! They sure do. And guess what? Fleas are no joke.

Rabbits are more inclined to getting fleas if they move outside or if there are other rabbits in the house. This is why many pet owners should be educated on how to deal with them and help prevent your pet rabbit from getting hurt by these vicious little creatures.

Flea Reproduction Cycle

  1. An adult flea lays eggs and she must have fed to lay (an adult flea that cannot obtain food will die before laying). She can produce up to 500 eggs in her lifetime! 
  2. The eggs are tiny and white, and while they are usually laid on the host, they aren’t attached in any way. This means that as your pet travels around your home, the eggs will slide off and could get inside the carpet fibers, cracks in the floor, soft furnishings, hutch corners, and pet bedding. It is considered that if you have fleas in your home, half of the population will surely be in egg form. 
  3. Flea eggs will hatch into flea larvae within 12 days. These larvae are the same as the caterpillar stage of butterflies, although they feed on organic debris instead of blood. They don’t like the light, so they tend to go deeper into wherever they are hiding. That’s why you rarely see them despite knowing that they can make up about 35% of the flea population in your home. 
  4. After about 1-3 weeks, larvae will turn themselves into a cocoon and start to change into adult fleas. The developing larvae inside its cocoon are now called pupae, which makes around 10% of the flea population in your house. 
  5. It is the pupae that make fleas so hard to eradicate. In favorable situations, pupae will hatch into adult fleas just within days to weeks. But in unfavorable situations, pupae can rest dormant in their cocoons for months! They are also sticky, so it can be challenging to remove them with light vacuuming or sweeping. 
  6. When conditions are right, an adult flea will appear. They must find a new host quickly to feed and lay their eggs. These adult fleas are not fussy, and can easily jump on a rabbit, even if they originated from a dog or cat! 

Myxomatosis and Fleas

Flea on a human skin. Super macro

Although fleas are uncommon in rabbits, they do occur with great risk. Fleas are capable of giving the rabbit the virus myxomatosis, which is almost always deadly. Thankfully, rabbits can be vaccinated against myxomatosis.

How Do Rabbits Get Fleas?

If you like to provide your rabbit with outdoor time, you must be extra cautious againts fleas. Just like with several animals, it is quite easy for a rabbit to pick up the wayward flea in the vast outdoors.

Keep in mind, fleas are also great hitchhikers. They can jump onto your pants and then come into the house and locate their way onto your pet rabbit. You can even let fleas get inside your home by just opening your windows. Those little buggers can jump high enough to reach your house through the screens. There may also be a history of fleas on other animals in your home

At the beginning of the infestation, there may be no indications that your rabbit had already caught fleas. Your rabbit may or may not seem to be itchy depending on its sensitivity to flea bites. But some signs to watch out for are biting, licking, chewing, or scratching..

Fleas drop their feces on the skin or in the rabbit’s fur. These are called flea dirt. Flea dirt is tiny, comma-shaped black debris the size of pepper grains. Fleas or flea dirt may be detected on a fine flea comb used for grooming. But most commonly, rabbits will incur fleas from one of the other family pets, especially dogs or cats.

The bottom line is that your rabbit can still get fleas even if he never runs outside his enclosure or sees another animal.

Small red bite marks or sores may be observed on the skin of your pet that will occasionally become infected and form into a secondary bacterial skin infection. All fleas take a small blood meal, and young rabbits with dense infestations may even become anemic over time.

Proper veterinary examinations (at least once a year) help with the initial identification of the problem and proper treatment. Your veterinarian will check the rabbit’s fur and skin for a sign of fleas and other external parasites and determine the suitable treatment.

Diagnosis

Although flea infestation can be quickly visible by the presence of the insects on your rabbit’s body, your veterinarian may require to differentiate the insects from ear mites, skin mites, or other parasites. If your rabbit has signs of severe itching (biting, licking, and scratching), your veterinarian will also want to separate the reaction from other allergic reactions, infections, or reactions to injections.

For diagnosis of flea infestation, your doctor will perform a flea combing. That’s because fleas and flea dirt are normally found in infected rabbits. An examination of skin scrapings will conclude whether bacterial infections or other skin parasites are present.

A study of discharge from the ear, meanwhile, will verify whether an ear infection is concerning your rabbit or whether ear mites are present. And a full blood profile will be carried as part of a standard physical examination.

How to Detect Fleas on a Pet Rabbit?

It is much more difficult to spot fleas on rabbits because their fur is so thick and lush. These pesky little insects will go deep down to the skin and stay hidden.

Sometimes, you may be able to see small, dark grains that seem just like specks of dirt. These bits can flea poop (aka flea dirt). And finding flea poop is a telltale indication that your pet is suffering from a flea problem. 

If you are uncertain whether a speck is dirt or flea debris, you can put it on a paper towel and put a drop of water on it. If it is flea dirt, a red ring (blood) will appear within several minutes around the speck. This will work whether you spot the speck on your rabbit, dog, cat, or other pet.

Another indication that your rabbit might have fleas is itching. Some rabbits will be very itchy and may sometimes even generate sores or bald spots in their fur from scratching.

But remember that even if you don’t notice any signs of fleas on your bunny, that doesn’t suggest that she doesn’t have fleas. Some rabbits are so good at grooming that they find and eat the fleas well before you can detect any signs of a problem.

If you aren’t sure, a veterinarian will be able to verify whether or not your pet rabbit has fleas.

What to Do When My Rabbit Has Fleas?

If your rabbit was attacked by fleas, don’t panic! Although an infestation can take time to exterminate, your vet will help you with everything you require to get rid of this infestation on your pets and in your home. 

For Indoor Rabbits

  • Treat all rabbits, cats, and dogs in your home with flea treatment. 
  • Examine other furry family members thoroughly to check they are not also infested, and treat them if required.
  • Examine ALL through your home.
  • Treat cats and dogs with flea treatment frequently going forward.

The first population of fleas can be reduced by:

  • Flea treatment for every pet.
  • Flea-killing house spray (make sure to read safety instructions).
  • Carpet cleaning.
  • Routine hoovering and sweeping, including in the darkest and most difficult to reach areas. Don’t forget to toss away the dust bag from your vacuum cleaner after each use, else the flea larvae may jump back out! 
  • Hot washing fabrics at over 60 degrees will kill any fleas.

By completing all of the above, you can dramatically lessen the number of fleas in your home.

The flea treatment for your pets will change them into walking ‘flea killers’ and indicates that adult fleas will die without producing any more eggs. By treating the house, you will kill or eliminate many of the eggs and pupae that are settling in your home.

For Outdoor Rabbits

  • Treat all rabbits, cats, and dogs in your home with flea treatment. Examine other furry family members carefully to check they are not also infested, and treat them if needed.
  • If any indoor pets have fleas, make sure to treat the whole house as well as the outdoor hutch.
  • Clean and disinfect the hutch completely. Make sure to read the warning instructions carefully on any cleaners, and do not place your rabbit back into a treated hutch until it is safe to do so.

How to Get Rid of Fleas on a Rabbit?

Rabbits are very hard to treat because makers of flea and tick meds do not release any products specifically for use on bunnies.

However, this does not imply that we have no reliable medications for rabbits to use to keep fleas away. It is just a matter of finding a product that is safe for rabbits.

Are There Safe Flea Treatments for Rabbits?

Rabbits possess very sensitive systems. Applying the wrong flea treatment medication can prove to be very dangerous to your bunny. It can make them sick or can even be deadly.

Thus, it is always recommended to consult a veterinarian that has experience with rabbits. They will be able to prescribe a rabbit-safe product, as well as instruct you with the proper dosage. 

Knowing the product dosage is important. That’s because rabbits differ from tiny, little 1-pound minis up to 18-pound giants. Meaning, a topical product intended for cats may still be an overdose for some rabbits and unacceptable for larger rabbits.

Various flea and tick medications, such as Advantage for cats and Revolution, appear to be safe and effective against rabbit fleas. In most instances, pet owners choose to use Revolution because of the recommended dosing that has been established for rabbits. It also has the chance of treating other parasites such as ear mites, which may also be a concern for your bunny.

Always check with your veterinarian before supplying your pet with a new flea and tick medication.

When Should I Apply Flea Treatments for My Rabbits?

It is recommended to treat all animals in the house (including rabbits) year-round. Rabbits treated in this procedure will generally not produce any significant flea infestation. If you already have fleas, the same topical remedies will treat and eradicate the fleas.

The amount of time it takes to eradicate the fleas will vary depending on the time of year your house becomes infested.

During the colder months, it may take many months to completely get rid of the fleas. In the summer, it is a much faster process because the eggs and pupae require less time to hatch when the weather is warmer.

Treat the Whole House to Prevent Any Fleas From Infesting Your Rabbit

You can also speed up the process of flea removal by treating your house.

What you can do is pick up all the pet beddings and wash them regularly. The dryer heat will help to dry out and eliminate those pests hiding in the fabric. Vacuuming the whole house—even hardwood floors—and then emptying the canister into a garbage bag that is then sealed and brought to the outdoor garbage receptacle can also help to get rid of flea eggs and larvae or pupae.

An ounce of prevention is always worth the weight of cure. Fleas can transmit several different diseases, so it is well worth the work to prevent them from affecting your pets and your household in the first place.

It is highly recommended to treat all furred animals in the household every month with a quality flea and tick medication that will disrupt the flea life cycle. Your veterinarian can help you determine appropriate products for all of your pets.

Risk of Fleas in Human Health

In severe infestations, fleas may bite humans and may produce problems in people sensitive to insect bites. Bite marks may be seen around the ankles. Thus, anyone experiencing skin problems in a flea-infested house should consult with their physician.

Flea bites can also create more than itchy skin. Bartonella (also called cat-scratch disease) can be carried by flea feces. It can be due to accidental ingestion or by going into small breaks in the skin.

Causing a low-grade fever and swelling of the lymph nodes, Bartonella infection can frequently be mistaken for the flu. In several cases it resolves on its own. In some people, however, Bartonella infection can grow and cause chronic fatigue and headaches and may become very dangerous.

Final Thoughts

The fleas and flea dirt, as well as itching and fur loss, should decrease with efficient flea control. If signs still persist, you must return to your veterinarian for an evaluation of other causes.

Introduce measures for flea control for all other pets in the household, particularly dogs and cats. If you are living in year-round warm weather, be especially careful of flea infestation all year long. Start having aggressive flea control as early as April or May.

Exercise extreme caution when dipping or bathing rabbits in medicated flea-killing shampoos. Due to the high risk of skeletal breaks and extreme chilling, sudden death may occur. If you are employing topical spot-on products, make sure that the product has dried before providing your rabbit’s freedom to groom themselves or their mates. 

Secondary bacterial infections and adverse effects to flea-control products may transpire. If any indications of toxicity are seen or if your rabbit should show any signs of behavioral or physical transformation, you should bathe the rabbit completely. This is to eliminate any remaining chemicals and treat the rabbit appropriately.

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