Mites and Lice
Both mites and lice are external parasites and can infect a number of small animals. Rabbits can get microscopic ear mites through direct contact with infected rabbits, bedding, or other contaminated material. Ear mites cause a thick, red-brown crust to form inside the visible, external ear, along with head-shaking, itching, and ear drooping. Mites also can spread into the internal ear where they can rupture the ear drum and cause neurologic signs like head tilting. Crusts should not be removed, as this can be very painful; they will eventually fall off with treatment. The environment needs to be treated with flea products to prevent reinfection. While transmission of rabbit ear mites to people isn’t common, it is possible.
Rabbits also get fur mites, which cause mild itching and hair loss and are commonly transmissible to people, cats, and dogs. On rabbits, this mite, often called “walking dandruff,” looks like a mobile white dandruff flake crawling across the skin in dry, scaly patches. Treatment involves topical or injectable anti-parasitic drugs, plus thorough environmental cleanup and disinfection with flea products.
Guinea pigs also get skin mites through contact with infected guinea pigs, bedding, or other objects. These mites bury deep beneath the skin, causing intense itchiness to the point that the animal looks like it is seizuring. The skin has yellow crusts and is often bloody or scabbed from scratching. Treatment is typically with topical or injectable anti-parasitic medication and complete environmental disinfection. Some species of guinea pig mites are transmittable to humans.
Guinea pigs and rats can also get lice, which is manifested by a mild skin inflammation and crustiness, hair loss and overall dull coat. Lice are species-specific and don’t affect humans. Treatment is with flea shampoos safe for kittens or injections of anti-parasitic medication, and the environment must be disinfected with flea products once the animals have been removed.