Hair loss in rabbits: causes and treatments

Just like in people, rabbits can also suffer from a condition known as alopecia and it can affect certain areas of their body causing partial or total hair loss. However, even though this is a common ailment seen in rabbits, it could be a symptom of another underlying disease and proper vet diagnosis is essential before treatment is recommended and put in place.

Rabbits can lose the hair on certain areas of their body for a number of reasons which may include having suffered or suffer from some type of infection, trauma, or it could be an immune disease. Rabbits of all ages can be affected by hair loss and it doesn’t matter what breed or sex they are.

Types and symptoms to watch out for

The loss of hair may occur suddenly or maybe a progressive problem that sometimes indicates that the owners do not notice it soon enough. However, it is very important to find out the root cause of the problem that triggered the condition.

A vet would be able to determine if hair loss is a primary or secondary condition that has been triggered by another underlying disease.

Causes of hair loss in rabbits

Hair loss is typically associated with a problem affecting the growth of hair follicles and this could be due to a variety of things which includes the following:

  • Parasitic infections – this could be ear mites, fleas, or lice
  • Infectious diseases – this could be a bacterial infection or something else
  • A nutritional deficiency – especially being fed a low-protein diet
  • Neoplastic causes – tumors and growth of other unnatural cell clusters

However, if rabbits have lost hair in many areas of the body (multifocal), then this is most often caused by some sort of bacterial or parasitic infection that would need immediate treatment to prevent further hair loss.

What is barbering?

Very often a dominant rabbit will develop a behavioral problem known as “barbering”, which sees it chewing or pulling strands of fur at its mates. In this case, hair loss typically occurs on the hips.

That said, hair loss can also be part of a normal pattern of hair loss and this is especially true of some breeds namely the small ram, dwarf, and angora rabbit.

Diagnose the problem

If you notice bald patches on your pet’s body, a visit to the vet could establish the cause of the problem.

Through a biopsy or skin scraping, the vet will be able to rule out certain things that may have triggered the condition and this includes whether they are bacteria, fungi, or parasitic infections.

Aside from these tests, the vet may also want to do a urinalysis, blood tests, and a couple of X-rays which would help determine what’s going on.

Treat the condition

When it comes to treating rabbit hair loss, it really depends on the causes. If it is due to a parasitic infestation, there are specific treatments that are specially formulated for use on rabbits. However, if the cause of the condition is a bacterial infection, the vet prescribing treatment will deal with the infection.

If the problem is due to a more serious underlying disease such as a tumor then it may be best to cull the rabbit as the only treatment would involve chemotherapy which can be very expensive.

It is also essential that all treatments used on rabbits have been specifically formulated for use on rabbits and you should never think about using any flea or mite products that are for use on any other type of animal because they can compromise seriously your rabbit’s welfare and even prove to be fatal.

Manage and live with the condition

Good breeding is key when dealing with a rabbit suffering from hair loss and as such the consequent care you provide them once they have been treated for their condition is important in getting them to recover quickly and completely.

That said, the cure depends on the cause of the condition and if it turns out to be the result of a dominant rabbit barbering its mate then separating them is the best choice.

Preventing hair loss

Since there are a variety of reasons why rabbits will experience hair loss, there is no real way to prevent it from happening. That said, cleaning is essential and that means keeping a rabbit’s environment as clean and allergen-free as possible.

A well-balanced diet will also go a long way in helping to reduce the chances of a rabbit developing alopecia. The diet should include enough protein and less fat and unhealthy foods.

Final Thoughts

Some breeds tend to loose strands of hair when they shed their fur can be a bit of a concern, but this is perfectly normal.

Dominant rabbits will pull strands of hair at their mates and this usually occurs on the hips, and is a behavioral problem known as “barbering”. However, if you are concerned about your rabbit’s shedding, a quick trip to the vet might make you discover what is causing the problem.

A vet will want to run a series of tests to determine if hair loss is a primary health problem or a symptom of an underlying disease that should be treated as soon as possible.

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