Most skin problems develop because something interferes with or makes grooming difficult. Many skin diseases can be prevented by providing soft clean bedding, opportunity to exercise, a high fiber diet, weight management, and a companion who will diligently keep the coat free of mats and debris. Rabbits' skin is thin and sensitive and therefore easily irritated.
Cuterebra or warble myiasis is a maggot infestation of the skin. It is caused by botflies. Flies lay their eggs in soiled fur or infected skin. When the eggs hatch, the maggots are intensely irritating to the rabbit who becomes restless and exhibits a decreased appetite. Immediate veterinary treatment is required.
If treatable, the fur is be clipped and the maggots picked out. The area can be dried with a hair drier. A precautionary dose of Ivermectin (toxic to maggots)is given and antibiotic therapy started. About half of the rabbits with Fly Strike have to be euthanized.
Flystrike occurs most commonly in rabbits housed outdoors. It may also be contracted when indoor rabbits are taken outside to play. This is particularly a problem in this area in the summer and the fall.
⇒ Read more at MediRabbit.
This skin inflammation results from constant irritation or wetness and may be caused by a variety of organisms in the locations that are continually moist. Your vet will cut the fur away from the affected area, clean the skin with an antiseptic, apply antibiotic cream, and in severe cases, prescribe systemic antibiotics.
Parasitic Skin Problems: Fleas, Ticks, Ear Mites, and Fur Mites
Rabbits can get the same fleas that dog and cats get but the distribution on their body is
different. Rabbits usually get fleas on the head, around the eyes and ears. However, the
treatments used on cats and dogs can be LETHAL to rabbits. Selamectin (brand name Revolution)
is safe for rabbits. Follow your vet's instructions in administering it. If you notice only a
few fleas, remove them with a flea comb.
Never use ADVANTIX or FRONTLINE. They will kill your rabbit. Use REVOLUTION or ADVANTAGE to treat fleas.
⇒ Tick Removal
Mites can be found in the fur of rabbits who exhibit no symptoms. When there are symptoms, your rabbit will start scratching a lot, lose hair along his/her shoulders or back, and have crusty, flaking skin. Revolution is a good treatment for rabbits. Follow your vet's instructions.
An infestation of ear mites causes a crusty material on the skin of the ears, head shaking, and intense itching. They can also cause secondary infections. If left untreated they can cause head tilt (see Vestibular Problems). Ivermectin will also treat ear mites. If there is a secondary infection, your vet will prescribe an antibiotic.
In the case of all parasitic problems, environmental problems and issues of barriers to the rabbit's self-grooming should be addressed. Early intervention is essential to prevent secondary conditions that are costly and could be deadly to your rabbit.
Abscesses are a cavity formed by disintegrating tissues and pus. They are formed as part of the body's inflammatory response to bacteria. In rabbits they are often caused by underlying dental disease, penetrating wounds from bites, foreign bodies such as seeds that penetrate the mouth, and surgical wounds. Depending on their location, they can be slow or fast growing and relatively painless or very painful. Symptoms result when they rupture or their growth starts interfering with the functioning of other organs. If this happens, your rabbit will show symptoms of pain, GI trouble, etc. as previously discussed above. Treatment involves draining the cavity or, ideally, surgical removal if possible. Rupture will probably make your rabbit very sick and require immediate attention from your vet. Otherwise, surgery can be planned.
NOTE: Pus in rabbits is not liquid as it is in humans. It's like cream cheese in consistency, so it does not drain. The capsule containing the pus must be surgically removed.
⇒ The Bicillin Protocol for treatment of abscesses by Marcy E. Rosenfield (Moore).
There are several herpes viruses that can affect rabbits. Two are specific to rabbits. Herpes simplex can be passed from humans to rabbits, but not from rabbits to humans.