Fur mites can be seen with the naked eye, but it is
usually a hard exercise. One simple method of detection
is to use sticky tape. Stick it to the affected skin
part and observe for the presence of skin parasites
with a magnifying glass. Still, they are tiny, less
than 0.5 mm in size. If you plan to consult a vet, refrain
from doing this test as the vet will have difficulties
finding the remaining parasites.
The symptoms (flaky skin, etc) indicate the presence
of mite or mange (burrowing mites), but it can also
be fungal or bacterial dermatitis. Fur mites are usually
found on the back and behind the neck. The skin becomes
bald and is usually accompanied by severe scaling.
Mange is very hard to detect by eye and even deep skin
scrapings are not always successful. The presence of
mange is accompanied by pruritus (itch); the rabbit
will scratch that spot, which can lead to alopecia.
The heavy scratching and automutilation of the skin
can be accompanied by secondary bacterial infection
of the skin. Mange should be taken seriously as it can
lead to severe anemia and death of a rabbit within weeks.
Lastly, some types of
mange are contagious and can be transmitted to humans.
Bacterial and fungal dermatitis should be considered
if no parasites are discovered and should be treated
appropriately after culture/determination of the causing
agent. This step is important, indeed, some type of
medication may be effective against bacteria, but will
act as fertilizer for yeast or fungi.
Treatment of skin parasites (mites or mange) is quite
simple. For fur mites, usually an injection of Ivermectin
is given at intervals of 10 to 14 days. For mange, three
injections over a total of 6 weeks is required.
Those repeats are very important; the adult mites are
killed during the first treatment, but eggs that remain
in the fur or the environment will hatch and the larvae
will grow and lead to a new infection cycle. The second
treatment will kill the later ones.
Be it mites or mange, the rabbit’s environment
should be carefully cleaned with anti-flea products
and towels boiled. If the presence of one of those parasites
is established, but treatment is not effective, the
presence of asymptomatic carriers which are in contact
with the rabbit(s) should be considered.