Lapis ISSN 2398-2969


Synonym(s): Walking dandruff

Contributor(s): David Scarff, Elisabetta Mancinelli, Ron Rees Davies, Richard Saunders


  •  Cheyletielladermatitis is a common dermatosis in the rabbit.
  • Clinical disease is often secondary to factors causing decreased grooming, such as dental disease or obesity Obesity.
  • CauseCheyletiella parasitovorax Cheyletiella parasitovorax or occasionally C. takahasii, C. ochotonae, or C. johnsoni.
  • Signs: scaling disorder in most rabbits with variable pruritus. In some rabbits pruritus is extreme. Symptomless carriage of parasites also occurs. Cheyletiella spp have zoonotic potential, and will cause a papular, pruritic rash on affected owners.
  • Diagnosis: signs, microscopic examination of combing, skin tape strips and skin scraping.
  • Treatment: ivermectin administration Ivermectin, selenium sulfide shampooing or Amitraz shampooing Amitraz, selamectin Selamectin.
  • Prognosis: good with treatment of all in-contact animals and environment.

Print off the Owner factsheets Walking dandruff (Cheyletiellosis), Mites and skin parasites, Samples - how they help your vet and Giving your rabbit a health check to give to your clients.

Presenting signs

  • Affected animals usually present with significant scaling and variable pruritus.
  • Affected rabbits may show mild or severe seborrheic lesions with dry or oily scales (very dandruffy) with or without papular eruption.
  • The distribution of lesions (alopecia and scales) follows a typical symmetric V-pattern beginning usually over the lumbosacral area and spreading along the dorsal surface to the head and sometimes down flanks.
  • Areas of alopecia may occur, due to self-trauma.
  • Pruritus may be severe, with little scaling. Self-trauma may lead to secondary bacterial infection.
  • Many rabbits carry the mites with no overt signs. Some animals may present due to a papular rash on the owner.
  • Scaling most frequently affects the dorsal mid-line.
  • Affected rabbits may have concurrent disease, eg pasteurellosis   Rhinitis / sinusitis  , dental disease, obesity   Obesity  , or spinal pain   Spinal injury    →   change from carrier state to diseased.
  • Disease may be limited to the face.


  • Heavy infestation with secondary infection may result in death (rare).


  • Inexpensive.
  • Treatment if curative need not be very costly.

Special risks

  • Zoonosis.
  • It can cause pruritic papular dermatitis in humans.

Acute presentation

  • The mites are visible to the naked eye and can be seen walking under the scales (walking dandruff).

Geographic incidence

  • Largely distributed and common parasite of pet rabbits, dogs, cats and humans.

Age predisposition

  • Animals <1 year more predisposed.

Public health considerations

  • Zoonotic: risk that humans and other animals may be exposed to fur mites from newly adopted pet rabbits.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • d'Ovidio D & Santoro D (2013) Orodental diseases and dermatological disorders are highly associated in pet rabbits: A case-control study. Vet Derm 24 (5), 531-e125 PubMed.
  • Fehr M & Koestlinger S (2013) Ectoparasites in small exotic mammals. Vet Clin Exotic Anim 16 (3), 611-657 PubMed.
  • Palmeiro B S & Roberts H (2013) Clinical approach to dermatologic disease in exotic animals. Vet Clin Exotic Anim Pract 16 (3), 523-577 PubMed.
  • Rosen L B (2011) Dermatologic manifestations of zoonotic diseases in exotic animals. J Exotic Pet Med 20 (1), 9-13 VetMedResource.
  • Kim S H, Lee J Y, Jun H K et al (2008) Efficacy of selamectin in the treatment of cheyletiellosis in pet rabbits. Vet Derm 19 (1), 26-27 PubMed.
  • Kim S H, Jun H K, Song K H et al (2008) Prevalence of fur mites in pet rabbits in south Korea. Vet Derm 19 (3), 189-190 PubMed.
  • Mellgren M & Bergvall K (2008) Treatment of rabbit cheyletiellosis with selamectin or ivermectin: A retrospective case study. Acta Vet Scand 50, 1 PubMed.
  • Scarff D (2008) Skin diseases of pet rabbits. UK Vet 13 (2), 66-75 VetMedResource.
  • Fisher M, Beck W & Hutchinson M J (2007) Efficacy and safety of selamectin (Stronghold/Revolution) used off-label in exotic pets. Int J Appl Res Vet Med (3), 87-96 VetMedResource.
  • Hoppmann E & Barron H W (2007) Ferret and rabbit dermatology. J Exotic Pet Med 16 (4), 225-237 VetMedResource.
  • Craig M (2005) Cheyletiellosis. UK Vet 10 (1), 71-76.
  • Cooper P E & Penaliggon J (1997) Use of frontline spray on rabbits. Vet Rec 140 (20), 535-536 PubMed.
  • Clyde V L (1996) Practical treatment and control of common ectoparasites in exotic pets. Vet Med 91 (7), 632-637 VetMedResource.
  • Morrisey J K (1996) Parasites of ferrets, rabbits and rodents. Semin Avian Exotic Pet Med (2), 106-114 ScienceDirect.
  • Harvey C (1995) Rabbit and rodent skin diseases. Semin Avian Exotic Pet Med (4), 195-204 ScienceDirect.
  • Hillyer E V (1994) Pet rabbits. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 24 (1), 25-65 PubMed.
  • Merchant S R (1990) Zoonotic diseases with cutaneous manifestations - Part 1. Compend Contin Educ 12 (3), 371-377 VetMedResource.
  • Timm K I (1988) Pruritus in rabbits, rodents, and ferrets. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 18 (5), 1077-1091 PubMed.
  • Bronswijk J E & de Kreek E J (1976) Cheyletiella (Acari - Cheyletiellidae) of dog, cat and domesticated rabbits, a review. J Med Entomol 13 (3), 315-327 PubMed.
  • Clark J D, Ah H S (1976) Cheyletiella parasitivorax (Megnin), a parasitic mite causing mange in the domestic rabbit. J Parasitol 62 (1), 125 PubMed.
  • Cloyd G G, Moorhead D P (1976) Facial alopecia in the rabbit associated with Cheyletiella parasitivorax. Lab Anim Sci 26 (5), 801-803 PubMed.
  • Flatt R & Wiemers J (1976) A survey of fur mites in domestic rabbits. Lab Anim Sci 26 (5), 758-761 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Varga M (2014) Ed Skin diseases. In: Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford. pp 271-302.
  • Meredith A (2006) Skin diseases and Treatment of Rabbits. In: Skin diseases of Exotic Pets.Ed: Paterson S. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford. pp 300.