Pinworms in Rabbits

By Laurie Hess, DVM; Dr. Rick Axelson, DVM

Parasites, Pet Services

The common rabbit pinworm (called Passalurus ambiguus) is an intestinal parasite. It does not cause a serious health threat and often live unnoticed in rabbits, but it can cause uncomfortable itching and skin inflammation or redness around their hind ends (anus area). P. ambiguus is species- or host-specific, meaning that it only lives in rabbits.

"Pinworms do not cause a serious health threat to rabbits, but they can cause uncomfortable itching and skin inflammation or redness."

Pinworms live in the small intestines, cecum (large intestine), and colon of rabbits. They pass their eggs into the environment through the rabbit's feces.

How did my rabbit get infected with pinworms?

istock_000008563562_extrasmallRabbits become infected with pinworms by eating feces that contain pinworm eggs. Simply put, your rabbit can get pinworms if she directly eats the contaminated feces of another infected rabbit.

Most likely, your rabbit was exposed to the pinworm-infected feces from its parents, at the pet store, breeder, or shelter.

How are pinworms diagnosed?

You or your veterinarian may see your rabbit scratching or biting at her hind end and you may possibly see small white worms around her anus or in her feces. If you or your veterinarian see any of these signs, a pinworm diagnosis may be confirmed with a fecal test.

Your veterinarian will analyze a sample of your rabbit’s feces either in a fecal smear under a microscope or will perform a fecal float test. Your veterinarian will be able to identify the presence of pinworm eggs.

How are pinworms treated?

Pinworms are challenging to treat because rabbits are coprophagic (meaning they eat their own feces). Rabbits frequently reinfect themselves during treatment by repeatedly ingesting infected feces.

If your rabbit is diagnosed with pinworms, she will be prescribed anti-parasitic drugs. In addition, you will need to be diligent about cleaning and eliminating all feces in and around your rabbit's cage and in other areas where he or she plays, sleeps, and roams.

"Rabbits eat their own feces, so they frequently reinfect themselves during treatment."

If you are careful to treat your rabbit and keep the habitat super-clean, you can prevent reinfection. Be sure to follow your veterinarian's specific instructions exactly!

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