Most people assume only dogs have fleas, but rabbits can suffer from the problem too.
Rabbit fleas are small, wingless parasites that feed on warm blood. Despite their inability to fly, fleas can cover long distances by jumping.
Often, fleas find hosts, jump onto them and hide in their fur while feasting off their blood. The unpleasant insects cause itchiness and pain in the spots they feed. In severe cases, they also transmit certain diseases that can even lead to death.
In this article, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about rabbit fleas. You’ll learn how to identify the problem and get rid of them effectively without harming your pet rabbit’s health.
How Do Rabbits Get Fleas?
Rabbits can get fleas from outside or when sharing a home with cats or dogs with fleas. When you allow your rabbits to go outdoors, they are at risk of contracting fleas from wild rabbits or stray animals in the neighborhood.
Note that fleas are great hitchhikers and can jump onto your clothes when you go out or hiking. So be careful because you can also carry the fleas to your rabbits.
Sometimes, rabbit fleas can access your home by opening doors, windows, or pet doors. Since they can jump high enough, they can get into your house in many ways.
The good news, you can get rid of the rabbit fleas or avoid them.
Signs That Your Rabbit Has Fleas?
Sometimes rabbits may not show any symptoms of flea infestations, but the most common signs include:
• Live fleas
The most common sign is actual live fleas on the rabbit’s fur. The parasites are super fast, but you can spot them when you stroke infested areas. The best spots to check are around the neck, on the belly, and along the spine of your rabbits.
• Biting or Nibbling on the Skin
You may notice your rabbits itching and nibble on some body parts. This behavior may cause self-injury or skin damage. Sometimes, you can spot red bumps on your rabbit’s skin; these are areas where fleas have bitten.
• Flea Dirt
Flea dirt is a mixture of dried blood and flea poop that often looks like reddish-brown spots or grains of soil on the skin. Rabbit fleas also lay tiny white eggs but are harder to spot.
You can get some damp paper towel or cotton wool and gently wipe the specks to confirm if it’s flea dirt or dirt. If your paper towel turns reddish-brown, you’ll know it’s flea dirt.
A heavy flea infestation can drain too much blood that the rabbit becomes anaemic. Anaemia is a decrease in the red blood cells in the body. This illness causes your rabbit to show signs of tiredness, decreased movement, pale gums, and loss of appetite.
Anaemia is a dangerous health condition, and you should take action immediately.
• Hair Loss and Scaling
You’ll notice bald spots and dead skin or scaling skin on your rabbit. These patches can be small or bigger depending on the seriousness of the flea infestation.
You might confuse this symptom with other skin diseases or parasites. Consult your local vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Can Rabbits Die from Fleas?
Fleas alone can’t kill a rabbit. However, fleas do sometimes transmit a virus known as Myxomatosis or “Big Head” and can be deadly. When infected, you’ll notice skin sores or benign tumors that consist of gelatinous material or mucus inside a connective tissue.
Wild rabbits have developed a stronger genetic resistance, but domesticated rabbits are more susceptible to falling ill.
The first sign of the virus is conjunctivitis or swollen eyes, accompanied by a milky discharge from the eyes. You’ll also notice the rabbit has a fever that may hit above 108°F (42°C), loss of appetite, and no energy. In severe instances, your rabbit can die within 48 hours after the symptoms appear.
Occasionally, some rabbits survive but become progressively weaker, and the coats become rough or dull. The head swells, eyelids, nose, ears droop, and lips become puffy.
In females, the vulva swells with fluids, while in males, the scrotum becomes inflamed. Other symptoms include difficulty in breathing, pus from the nose, and coma. Eventually, the rabbit dies within a week or two of struggling.
This disease is rampant during warm seasons, and you can get a vaccine for your rabbits to protect it. Unfortunately, if you live in the USA, the vaccine is not readily available. The best solution, try to protect your pet rabbit from exposure to fleas.
Natural Ways Of Getting Rid of Fleas on Rabbits
If your rabbit already has fleas, the earlier you deal with the infestation, the better. You can talk to your local vet to get helpful information to eradicate the parasites.
In the meantime, here are a few suggestions for dealing with rabbit fleas and quicker results:
1. Use a Flea Comb#ad
Flea combs have a special design for eliminating parasites. They have narrow metal teeth, closely packed together in a row or two.
Use the flea comb to gently run through your rabbit’s fur until it catches adult fleas or eggs. Make sure you have a bowl of soapy water to dip the comb immediately to avoid the jumpy rabbit fleas from escaping.
2. Flea Baths for Rabbits
Rabbit bathes can be a traumatic experience for the pet, but sometimes it’s necessary. Soapy water can drown fleas and isn’t harmful to your rabbit in any way. Your rabbit can feel cold after, but you can dry it with a warm towel or blow-dry its fur.
If you need to avoid the process altogether, you can buy a non-toxic flea spray designed for small animals like rabbits and kill the little bloodsuckers.
How Can You Rid Your House of Rabbit Fleas?
Here are a few ways to make sure the annoying parasites never come back:
• Clean Your Home
Fleas thrive in a dirty environment. You need to clean your home thoroughly and treat it with flea treatment to kill the fleas and their eggs.
Make sure you include all your cats, dogs, chicken, and other domestic animals in your flea treatment routine. Remember to clean the animal sleeping beds and kennels in case a few are hiding in there.
You can vacuum your carpets and clean your seats and bed. If there are any dark places such as under the bed, corners, and such, you can add a soapy solution with non-toxic flea solution and spray those unreachable areas.
Note that this is not a one-day experiment, repeat the routine a few times in a month to make sure none of the little fleas linger around or try to come back.
• Clean Your Yard
Messy yards are the best breeding grounds for fleas. Those same fleas creep into your house any chance they get. Make sure you remove all trash, leaves, dead plants, and bushes in your yard.
You can also mow the lawn to remove all the hiding places for rabbit fleas. Use flea spray treatments after cutting, and cleaning the yard to kill the existing fleas, while keeping new ones from creeping in.
• Evict Wildlife
This may sound harsh but, wildlife such as squirrels, stray cats, wild rabbits, birds, skunks, wild dogs, and monkeys are potential hosts for fleas, and while they wander in your yard, they drop a few. Make the yard less friendly by setting traps and avoiding having leftover foods in open trashcans or leaving bird seeds out. That way you, can make sure no rabbit fleas will affect your pet rabbit.
Rabbit fleas are annoying, and you should get rid of them as soon as possible. You don’t have to wait for a flea infestation to take action. Keep your home clean and tidy, and this will significantly lower the chances of fleas invading your space.
In the event of a flea infestation, avoid treatments meant for dogs or cats and follow your vet’s direction. Rabbits are sensitive creatures and require extra attention to keep them healthy.