Short coats are when to start wool/fur mite prevention
Topic: Coat Care 101
Now that your rabbits are as close to Bare Hare status as possible, you have the best opportunity to clean up any fur mite populations that have moved in. Rabbits groom themselves clean as often as they can, and a short coat allows them full access to their skin. They are delightfully happy in a short coat! You can work with them by purging their system of critters.
There are many schools of thought on insect management, and coexistence. For years I worked with very little pesticide and tried alternative methods. I had sporadic luck with ground Rosemary brushed into coats every week and I felt pretty good about treating the rabbits naturally. But it is labor intensive, and I was not consistent enough in the treatment to keep the critters away. At this point in time, I have a reinfestation problem that is partly due to the age of the wood barns I keep my rabbits in, and the fact that hay is stored there, along with field mice and the local cat population, all of whom harbor fur mites. So, it is a continual battle for me and any fiber production quotas I might like to strive for.
Fur mites, wool mites do not hurt rabbits.
Here is a picture of Listrophorus gibbus And here is a picture of Cheyletiella parasitovorax. They are just an annoyance and cause bunny to itch. There may be diseases they CAN bring to the rabbit, myxomytosis being one of them, but my area of the world doesn't seem prone to this. Some rabbit breeders I know complain about their own skin reactions to one of the mites, probably Cheyletiella, so it is a good idea to keep populations low or non-existent. AND, it is a drag to care for a coat for 3 months and then, all of a sudden, have it mat into uselessness because bunny got itchy! This has happened more than I care to think about here, and since I treasure every ounce of fiber, I have come up with an intense system of coat management that works for keeping coats open and free flowing.
My thanks to everyone who has shared their stories about mite infestations. It is surprising how few rabbit breeders are forthcoming about the mite situation...it is not addressed fully anywhere in my many angora books, but rather alluded to as an "occasional" condition. The dosages suggested for ivermectin use were very low and totally ineffective in my herd. Since it is chronic here, I had to hunt for information from more experienced rabbit folks to get the info I needed to treat it effectively.
For folks with just one or two angoras who are kept inside or away from outside contamination, once the mites are wiped out, you may not see them again for years. But they reside in hay, and on cats, dogs, field mice, hamsters, gerbils, rats, raccoons, etc. So, knowing how to deal with them is good management.
Both mites live on the skin of the rabbit, and munch on dead fur/skin cells. Rabbits can groom them off when their fur is short, and keep infestations at bay. Once a coat gets longer than 2 inches, bunny can't always get to all his skin. And, he always has a tough time getting behind his ears/back of his neck. And, most importantly, the mite can travel up on the fur shaft and hide out until any skin medicine has lost its punch. So, you have to step in and help with any mites that find their way into these areas of his coat. Cat/dog flea powder that contains CARBARYL is effective on contact, but you have to reapply it weekly (the same deal as the ground Rosemary)for 3-4 weeks to get all the life stages of the mite. IVERMECTIN is effective and has proven safe for decades, although its use is extra-label. I have outlined how I have used it in the past on these BareHare posts:
1, 2, 3, 4.
The bonus is the quickness and effectiveness of this pesticide. Ivermectin works by exuding a toxic effect to anything that rests on the skin. When the coat is short, the toxin works immediately and wipes out every mite that is near the skin on all parts of the rabbit. Years ago I injected it, and it is very effective that way. Now I administer the dose orally, as it is easier on me and the bunnies. If you read the older BareHare posts you will see how the dosage information has changed over the years. I am indebted to Elaine Harvey for helping me make the move to larger doses as it has made ALL the difference in the fur mite populations here, and the EXCELLENT coats I am now seeing. Who knew that last year, when I was unceremoniously banned from the Spinlist for writing the truth about sick rabbits being sold at a fair, that a champion in the form of Elaine would come into my life? Her work with rabbit rescue and her own angora herd is extensive, and she has seen a lot. Fortuitous, indeed.
At any rate, the ORAL doses used for my 10-12 pound German crossbred rabbits are on the order of 1.5 cc IVOMEC INJECTABLE 1% every 4 weeks, without fail. (If any infestation is evident, these doses are repeated every 2 weeks 3x). Once the coat gets to 2", I dust bunny with a sprinkle or two of HAPPY JACK flea powder once a month in those places that bunny can't reach. (Back of the neck; ears; above the tail, and between the hind legs). This double barreled defense seems to be working...for the last 6 months I have not seen ONE fur mite. But I have seen my beloved 5" coats come off with nary a mat.
It took a long time for me to get comfortable with dosing my herd in this way, I worried over genetic problems with breeding; with stomach issues after dosing the rabbits, but Ivermectin has one of the best track records with rabbits and so far weights/health have not suffered. I DID find that using generic ivermectin caused unrest with my rabbits for 24 hours after dosing, so I switched back to IVOMEC and all has remained well. The last hurdle is breeding, but I am confident from others' experiences that I need not worry here. And so I won't.
I will continue to collect information on fur/wool mites and medications/treatments that work. If you have any experiences or suggestions, please feel free to e-mail. I would love to chat about it!
Posted by countrywool
at 1:58 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 5 April 2006 4:22 PM EDT