When most people think about flea and tick meds, their minds immediately go to dogs and cats. However, small animal pets, like rabbits, are also susceptible to these pesky parasites and require protection as well.
If you are concerned that a few unwanted guests are making a home out of your rabbit’s fur, there are some measures you can take to provide relief and protection.
In order to know how to get rid of fleas on rabbits, it is helpful to know how rabbits get fleas in the first place and how to spot them.
How Do Rabbits Get Fleas?
If you like to give your rabbit outdoor time, you will need to be extra careful about fleas. Just like with any animal, it is very easy for a rabbit to pick up the wayward flea in the great outdoors.
But keep in mind, fleas are also excellent hitchhikers. They can jump onto your pant legs when you’re just going out to get the mail, and then come into the house and find their way onto your pet rabbit.
You can even let fleas into your home by just opening your windows; those little buggers can actually jump high enough to access your house through the screens.
But most commonly, rabbits will catch fleas from one of the other family pets, particularly dogs or cats. The bottom line is that your rabbit can still get fleas even if he never goes outside or sees another animal.
How to Detect Fleas on a Pet Rabbit
It is much harder to find fleas on rabbits because their fur is so thick and lush. These pesky little insects will burrow down to the skin and stay hidden.
Sometimes, you may be able to find small, dark grains that look just like specks of dirt. These small specks are actually flea poop (aka flea dirt), and spotting flea poop is a telltale sign that your pet is suffering from a flea problem.
If you are unsure whether a speck is dirt or flea debris, you can place it on a paper towel and put a drop of water on it. If it is flea dirt, a red ring (blood) will appear within a few minutes around the speck. This will work whether you find the speck on your rabbit, dog, cat or other pet.
Another sign that your rabbit might have fleas is itching. Some rabbits will be very itchy and may sometimes even create sores or bald spots in their fur from scratching.
But remember that even if you don’t see any signs of fleas on your bunny, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have fleas. Some rabbits are so good at grooming that they catch and eat the fleas well before you are able to find any signs of a problem.
If you aren’t sure, a veterinarian will be able to confirm whether or not your pet rabbit has fleas.
How Do I Get Rid of Fleas on a Rabbit?
Rabbits are particularly challenging to treat because manufacturers of flea and tick meds do not release any products specifically for use on bunnies.
However, this does not mean that we have no safe medications for rabbits to use to keep fleas away. It just means that it is necessary to be much more careful selecting a product that is safe for rabbits as well as figuring out an appropriate dose.
Are There Safe Flea Treatments for Rabbits?
Rabbits have very sensitive systems. Using the wrong flea treatment medication can prove to be very harmful to your bunny; it can make them sick, or—in the worst case scenario—it can even be fatal.
I always recommend consulting a veterinarian that has experience with rabbits. They will be able to recommend a rabbit-safe product as well as give you the correct dosing information.
Getting the correct dosing information from your veterinarian is extremely important. Rabbits range from tiny, little 1-pound minis all the way up to 18-pound giants.
This means that, in many instances, a topical product designed for cats may still be an overdose for some rabbits, but not enough for larger rabbits. Your veterinarian can help you figure out the correct and safest dosage to keep your pet rabbit protected from fleas.
There are several flea and tick medications which, in my experience, have appeared safe and effective against fleas in rabbits, such as Advantage for cats and Revolution. In most instances, I choose to use Revolution because recommended dosing has been established for rabbits. It also has the possibility of treating other parasites such as ear mites, which may also be an issue for your bunny.
Always check with your veterinarian before giving your pet a new flea and tick medication.
When Should I Apply Flea Treatments for Rabbits?
I recommend treating all animals in the house (including rabbits) year-round. Rabbits treated in this fashion will generally not develop any significant flea infestation.
If you already have fleas, the same topical medications will treat and eliminate the fleas. The amount of time it takes to eliminate the fleas will depend on the time of year your house becomes infested. During the cooler months, it may take several months to get rid of the fleas. In the summer, it is a much quicker process because the eggs and pupae need less time to hatch when the weather is warmer.
Treat the House to Prevent Fleas From Infesting Your Rabbit
You can also speed up the flea-removal process by also treating the house. I don’t like exposing the family (two- and four-legged!) to chemicals, so I recommend a more benign process.
You should pick up any and all bedding that pets have contact with and wash it all on a weekly basis. The dryer heat will help to dry out and kill those pests hiding in the fabric. Vacuuming the entire house—even hardwood floors—and then dumping the canister into a garbage bag that is then sealed and taken to the outside garbage receptacle can also help to remove flea eggs and larvae/pupae.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Fleas can carry a number of different diseases, so it is well worth the effort to prevent them from affecting your pets and your household in the first place.
I recommend treating ALL furred animals in the household each and every month with a quality flea and tick medication that will break the flea life cycle. Your veterinarian can help you choose appropriate products for each of your pets.
By: Dr. Sandra Mitchell
Featured Image: iStock.com/Rabbitti