I ran a shearing class this past weekend and it is always a delight to meet new angora rabbits and their owners. Sometimes I get lucky and one of my babies returns to participate! As we spend time together talking rabbits and their care and easy shearing techniques, we always return to the same issue: why some coats are harder to maintain and to clip off.
I had kept angoras for 2 years when I began to obsess about that question. I handled as many rabbits from show people that I could, and investigated the other angora rabbit breeds. Some promised especially easy care coats. So, I got a few French angoras and found that the greater percentage of guard hair not only made the coats silkier and easier to care for, but the color was richer. I was in love with them for a long time. After a year, I again found that the underwool of the lovely French who had arrived here matt free and in full coat, was a matted mess. What was going on?
Small attention has been paid to fur mites in the angora care literature that I had been able to read. Yes, it was mentioned, but for some reason there did not seem to be much emphasis put on prevention. When treatment was advised, it was assumed that the mites would be gone with one blow.
I have since lived with angoras and fur mites for a decade, and have come to realize this: it is a constant battle. I tried for 3 years to wipe them all out, including cleaning and disinfecting the barns, and no matter what I did, they returned in 6 months. Some seasons were worse than others. My habit of cuddling every rabbit at feeding time led me to discover "I" was the biggest culprit in transferring them!
Fur mites are one of three kinds of mites that rabbits can catch. They are the mildest of pests, and more of an inconvenience to the fiber raiser and the rabbit than anything else. Many angoras that have a mild case of fur mites can live with them for years before the infestation gets out of control, while others will lose their whole coat to matting in weeks. The itchiness that results from a mite infestation can cause a rabbit to become quite agitated and annoyed, though. An excellent discussion of the mites, and some treatments are noted
Angora rabbits that are raised for fiber need to be treated for fur mites prior to each shearing, in my experience. If you can wipe out the colonies on the surface skin of the rabbit, the shearing goes much faster and the scissors slip easily into the coat. Of the 5 rabbits that arrived here, three exhibited fur mite presence, and none of the owners had noticed anything amiss with their bunnies. When we hear "mites" we think of crawling critters, and they are, but they are SO SMALL we generally only see the residue of their presence.
So, if you see ANY OF THE FOLLOWING on your bunnies, treat them for fur mites one-two weeks before shearing:
1. Webbed wool near the skin.
2. Flakes of dandruff. Even 2 flakes behind their ears or above their tails.
3. Teeny white grains of mini-sand in the fur. These are most common behind the ears, above the tail, but may be anywhere in the coat and always right on or above the skin. You can have a small colony of mites on one shoulder and that is all, but it will spread given time.
4. Greasy, oily or sticky looking fiber. Some rabbits produce a grease to combat the mites. It simply gums up shears and scissors.
Treatment was explained fully in a former post here on BareHare
For those of you who are only able to get .27% Ivermectin, I am sad to say I cannot find anything on the Internet about the dosage, but common sense tells me you need 3x the dosage as for 1% ivermectin. Check with your vet to be sure.