Cheyletiella sp also known as ‘Walking Dandruff’ is a fur mite that causes mild dermatitis in the rabbit.
The mites are transmitted either by direct contact with another infested animal or from contaminated bedding or hay (the female mite can live off the host in the environment for several days)
What are the signs?
The most common sign is skin irritation along the back and neck area – you may notice;
- hair loss
- scaling (dandruff)
How is it diagnosed?
It is usually possible to diagnose the condition from the clinical signs and identification of the mite. This can be done with the naked eye, brushing the coat and examining the scale (dandruff) on a dark surface, you should be able to see the mites moving around (hence the nickname ‘walking dandruff’). They can also be viewed under a microscope.
How is it treated?
There are a range of treatments available – including a course of fortnightly injections or topical spot-on preparations which kill the mites. Your rabbit should be re-examined at the end of the course of treatment to ensure that it has all cleared up. Any other rabbits in contact with the infected one should be treated, as the mite is very mobile and is easily transferred from rabbit to rabbit. It is important to use an appropriate insecticide as directed by your vet, as many preparations are toxic to rabbits.
It is important that the environment is treated properly to avoid re-infestation. All of the bedding and hay will need to be removed and destroyed and the hutch and living quarters thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
Written by Laura Sullivan MRCVS