Lapis ISSN 2398-2969


Synonym(s): Dermatophytosis

Contributor(s): Stephen White, Anna Meredith, Ron Rees Davies, Richard Saunders, David Scarff


  • Dermatophytosis is an uncommon dermatosis in the domestic rabbit.
  • Cause: fungi in the genera Microsporum Microsporum canis and Trichophyton Trichophyton spp.
  • These fungi are the pathogenic members of the keratinophilic soil fungi.
  • Each fungus now has two species names - one for the stage found in vertebrate hosts, and one for the form that grows in the environment (the perfect state).
  • Dermatophytosis in outdoor and laboratory rabbits is most commonly caused by Trichophyton mentagrophytes, whereas Microsporum gypseumand M. canisare more common in pet and house rabbits.
  • After rabbit farming was industrialized the incidence of dermatophytosis in production rabbits increased dramatically. Infections spread rapidly in young rabbits → considerable morbidity and economic losses, and the infected animals present a permanent source of zoonotic infections of farm workers and their family members.
  • This disease is important for three reasons: as a cause of disease in domestic pets, economic loss in rabbits kept for fur or meat, and as a zoonotic organism.
  • Infection in pet rabbits is sporadic.
  • Signs: alopecia and scaling skin.
  • Diagnosis: trichography, fungal culture.
  • Treatment: antifungal washes, griseofulvin, ketoconazole.
  • Prognosis: good in individual cases.

Print off the Owner Factsheets on Ringworm - a fungal infection, Mites and skin parasites and Samples - how they help your vet to give to your clients.

Presenting signs

  • Infection can cause hair loss and crusting lesions, especially around the eyes and nose and on the extremities.
  • Presentation may be more widespread with a 'moth-eaten' appearance.
  • Pruritus may or may not be present. 
  • Animals can also be asymptomatic one study showed 4 out of 104 healthy rabbits had T. mentagrophytescultured from the coat.

Geographic incidence

  • Worldwide.

Age predisposition

  • Young animals are more likely to be affected.

Sex/breed predisposition

  • No known sex or breed predisposition in rabbits.

Public health considerations

  • Zoonosis.
  • Both M. canis  Microsporum canis  and T. mentagrophytes  Trichophyton spp  have zoonotic potential, owners with atopy or who are immunosuppressed, children and the elderly   Ringworm: human    Ringworm: lesions on human hand   are especially at risk. 
  •  T. mentagrophytesis  known to be a significant causal agent of human ringworm, especially in staff on rabbit farms where environmental contamination can be very high.
  • Transmission of infection within the same family has also been reported in literature.

Cost considerations

  • Relatively inexpensive for individual cases topical treatment only.
  • In large scale rabbitries economic loss due to morbidity, and the cost implications of treatment may be significant.

Special risks, eg anesthetic

  • None, other than zoonotic considerations.
  • Gloves should be worn when contacting any affected animal.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Scarff D (2008) Skin diseases of pet rabbits. UK Vet: Companion Animal 13 (2), 66-75 VetMedResource.
  • Arabatzis M, Xylouri E, Frangiadaki I et al (2006) Rapid detection of Arthroderma vanbreuseghemii in rabbit skin specimens by PCR-RFLP. Vet Derm 17 (5), 322-326 PubMed.
  • Van Rooij P, Detandt M & Nolard N (2006) Trichophyton mentagrophytes of rabbit origin causing family incidence of kerion: an environmental study. Mycoses 49 (5), 426-430 PubMed.
  • Canny C J & Gamble C S (2003) Fungal diseases of rabbits. Vet Clin North Am: Exotic Anim Pract (2), 429-433 PubMed.
  • White S D, Bourdeau P J & Meredith A (2003) Dermatologic problems of rabbits. Comp Cont Educ Pract Vet 25 (2), 90-101 VetMedResource.
  • Jenkins J R (2001) Skin disorders of the rabbit. Vet Clin North Am: Exotic Anim Pract (2), 543-563 PubMed.
  • Vangeel I, Pasmans F, Vanrobaeys M et al (2000) Prevalence of dermatophytes in asymptomatic guinea pigs and rabbits. Vet Rec 146 (15), 440-441 PubMed.
  • Zrimsek P, Kos J, Pinter L et al (1999) Detection by ELISA of the humoral immune response in rabbits naturally infected with Trichophyton mentagrophytes. Vet Microbiol 70 (1-2), 77-86 PubMed.
  • Rochette F & van Meirhaeghe P (1997) Enilconazole as a treatment of naturally occurring dermatophytosis in rabbit farms: a review. World Rabbit Sci (1), 7-11 VetMedResource.
  • 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), 25-64 VetMedResource.
  • Chomel B B (1992) Zoonoses of house pets other than dogs, cats and birds. Pediatr​ Infect Dis J 11 (6), 479-487 PubMed.
  • Franklin C L, Gibson S V, Caffrey C J et al (1991) Treatment of Trichophyton mentagrophytes infection in rabbits. JAVMA 198 (9), 1625-1630 PubMed.
  • Timm K I (1988) Pruritus in rabbits, rodents, and ferrets. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 18 (5), 1077-1091 PubMed.
  • Van Cutsem J, Van Gerven F, Geerts H et al (1985) Treatment with enilconazole spray of dermatophytosis in rabbit farms. Mycosen 28 (8), 400-407 PubMed.
  • Sarkisov A K & Nikiforov L I (1981) Specific prevention of trichophytosis in fur bearing animals. Veterinaria 7, 37-38.

Other sources of information

  • Meredith A (2006) Skin diseases and Treatment of Rabbits. In: Skin diseases of Exotic Pets.Ed: Paterson S. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford. pp 288-311.
  • Scott D W, Miller W H & Griffin C E (2001) Dermatoses of Pet Rodents, Rabbits and Ferrets. In: Muller and Kirks Small Animal Dermatology. 6th edn. W B Saunders Company, Philadelphia. pp 1415-1458.
  • Harcourt Brown F (2001) Skin diseases. In: Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford. ISBN: 07506 4002 2.
  • Richardson V C G (2000) Rabbits: Health, Husbandry and diseases. Blackwell Sciences, Oxford.