Lapis ISSN 2398-2969

Flea infestation

Contributor(s): Molly Varga, Lesa Longley, Lesa Thompson

Introduction

  • Cause: exposure to animals carrying fleas (Spilopsyllis cuniculi), or being in the environs of an infested nest.
  • Ectoparasitism is a common presenting complaint in pet rabbits, especially those housed in association with cats and dogs.
  • Signs: visible sign of fleas, itching.
  • Diagnosis: skin/hair brushing, blood sampling.
  • Treatment: avermectin preparations +/- antibiosis.
  • Prognosis: good.
Print off the Owner Factsheets All about fleas, Mites and skin parasites and Myxomatosis to give to your clients.

Presenting signs

  • Fleas plus flea dirt visible in coat. 
  • Moderate to severe itching.

Geographic incidence

Age predisposition

  • Rabbit fleas are more commonly found on young rabbits fresh from the nest or in association with breeding does, however they live mostly in the environment. 
  • There is no age predisposition for dog and cat fleas.

Sex predisposition

Public health considerations

  • Tularemia   Tularemia  , a zoonotic infection, can be spread by fleas (US only).

Cost considerations

  • Flea infestation can spread myxomatosis   Myxomatosis  and cause severe production losses within a breeding or laboratory colony. 
  • In pet rabbits this disease can be expensive in attempts to stabilize and support the patient through the acute phase.

Special risks, eg anesthetic

  • Severe flea infestation can cause anemia, reducing the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and thereby increasing anesthetic risk.

Pathogenesis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Prognosis

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Fukase Tooru (1999) Five cases of flea infestation in rabbits. Jap J Small Anim Pract 18 (4), 54-58.

Other sources of information

  • Samuels W M, Pybus M J & Kocan A A (2001) Parasitic diseases of Wild Mammals. 2nd edn. Manson Publishing, London.


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