Walking Dandruff in Rabbits
By Rick Axelson, DVM

Walking Dandruff (cheyletiellosis) in rabbits is caused by a common rabbit fur mite (Cheyletiella parasitovorax). The mite’s effects are called "walking dandruff" because these large, whitish mites crawl across the skin and fur, and cause excessive flaky skin on a rabbit.

Infested rabbits spread it to other rabbits… and this highly contagious, non-burrowing mite can also live short periods of time in the environment.

"Infested rabbits spread walking dandruff to other rabbits. It’s highly contagious."

How can I tell if my rabbit has walking dandruff?

cheyletiellosis-1-2009Walking dandruff can happen at any age and can be everywhere.

  • The parasite often shows up in young animals or older debilitated animals, especially if they can’t properly groom themselves because of teeth problems or arthritis or other mobility issues.
  • Walking dandruff also happens more frequently in longer haired rabbits.

Quite often, an infested rabbit may show no obvious signs of walking dandruff (cheyletiellosis), meaning it may or may not be itchy — but a common telltale sign is excessive “dandruff” or large white flakes of skin over the shoulders or just above the tail over the back and hind end. In addition, you may see hair loss on the rabbit, especially behind the neck between the shoulder blades.

To identify and properly treat walking dandruff as early as possible, schedule regular examinations (at least once a year) with your veterinarian. Your doctor will examine your rabbit’s fur, flakes and skin scrapings under a  microscope to find evidence of mites.

How does my veterinarian treat walking dandruff in a rabbit?

You can start by treating your rabbit and the home environment yourself. For instance, regular combing and bathing can help remove flaky skin. But be careful! Bathing a rabbit should be done extremely carefully so you don’t get hurt. For the best guidance, check with your veterinarian.

In addition, since walking dandruff mites (cheyletiella) can affect dogs and cats too, all animals in your household should be treated.

"Talk with your veterinarian about the best walking dandruff treatment for your environment, because adult mites can live up to 10 days in your carpets and other fabrics."

It’s very important to treat the environment! This parasite can be a little more challenging to treat then other parasites. Talk with a veterinarian who’s familiar with rabbits so you get the best advice on the proper topical and environmental treatments. Certain products should never be used on rabbits.

Will walking dandruff spread to my family?

While walking dandruff (cheyletiella) can live on humans and may cause problems to anyone, especially people who are sensitive to insect bites, you can generally avoid the problem by treating your house and defending the environment against these mites.

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