Scabies is a skin disease that affects many different kinds of animals, including rabbits. It is also called sarcoptic mange. This disease is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. Female mites burrow under the skin to lay their eggs. The larvae hatch and develop into adult mites below the skin's surface. The symptoms of scabies are similar in every animal species, according to Provet Health Care Information.
Itching and Crusting
According to Dr. Dana Krempels, writer for the University of Miami Department of Biology, the earliest symptom of mange is a light-coloured crust that forms around the outside of the ears, in the facial area and around the toes. The crust eventually spreads to other areas of the body. These crusted areas are intensely itchy. Rabbits scratch themselves raw in spots, which leaves them susceptible to developing secondary bacterial infections.
According to Pet Health and Care, the symptoms of sarcoptic mange worsen after the initial crusting and scratching. Fur loss starts on the ears and face and spreads across the body. As the animal loses its fur in the affected areas, it develops a patchy, moth-eaten appearance. Open sores form across the animal's body. These lesions ooze a clear watery fluid that dries into crusty layers on the skin. Dr. Ester van Praag, a contributor to the Zooh Corner Rabbit Rescue site, warns that rabbits become anaemic and suffer a decrease in white blood cells if the condition is left untreated. Death usually follows within several weeks.
The Provet website recommends treating sarcoptic mange in rabbits with pet-friendly insecticides such as ivermectin, monosulfiram or fipronil. It also advises controlling the symptoms of itching and irritation with anti-inflammatory medications such as cortisone. Any secondary infections must be treated with topical ointments or antibiotics.
The Pet Health and Care website suggests a variety of different home remedies that are effective in treating mites. For example, the site recommends massaging bacon grease into the affected areas to clear up the lesions. Boiling slices of lemon in water and allowing the solution to cool overnight before applying it to the rabbit's skin makes the smell and taste of the rabbit's skin unappealing to mites, according to Pet Care Meds. Medicated shampoos help to control the symptoms as well as kill the mange mites. The inside of a rabbit's ears do not always receive equal treatment because they are hard to wash. Applying yoghurt to the inside of the ears and leaving it overnight soothes the itchy symptoms and suffocates the mites. Finally, bathe the rabbit in a solution of hydrogen peroxide and borax, according to Pet Health and Care, and wash the rabbit once a week for two months.
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