What Causes Fur Loss In Rabbits?

Just as in people, rabbits too can suffer from a condition known as alopecia and it can affect certain areas of their bodies causing partial or total loss of hair. However, although this is a common complaint seen in rabbits, it could be a symptom of another underlying illness and as such a correct veterinary diagnosis is essential before a treatment can be recommended and set in place.

Rabbits can lose hair on certain areas of their bodies for a variety of reasons which could include having suffered or are suffering from some sort of infection, trauma or they could be experiencing an immune disorder. Rabbits of all ages can be affected by hair loss and it doesn't mater what breed or sex they happened to be either.

Types and Symptoms to Watch Out For

Hair loss can happen quite suddenly or it can be a progressive problem which sometimes means owners don't notice it quite so quickly. However, it's really important to find out the root cause of the problem that's triggered the condition. A vet would be able to establish whether the hair loss is a primary condition or a secondary one which has been triggered by another underlying illness.

The Causes of Hair Loss in Rabbits

Hair loss is typically associated with a problem that affects the growth of hair follicles and this could be due to a variety of things which includes the following:

  • Parasitic infections – this could be ear mites, fleas or lice
  • Infectious diseases – this could be a bacterial infection or other
  • A nutritional deficiency – more especially being fed a protein deficient diet
  • Neoplastic causes – tumours and other unnatural cell growth clusters

However, if rabbits have lost hair in many areas of their bodies (multi-focal), then this is more often than not caused by some sort of bacterial or parasitic infection which would need immediate treatment to prevent further hair loss.

What is Barbering?

Quite often a dominant rabbit will develop a behavioural problem known as "barbering" which sees them chewing or pulling out chunks of hair from their companions. Should this be the case, it is typically on the flanks the hair loss occurs. With this said, hair loss can also be part of a normal pattern of shedding and this is particularly true of certain breeds, namely the Miniature Lop, Dwarf and Angora.


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Diagnosing the Problem

If you notice any bald areas on your pet's body, a quick trip to the vet could be in order to establish the cause of the problem. By carrying out a biopsy or a skin scraping, the vet would be able to rule out certain things which may have triggered the condition and this includes whether or not it is a bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection. On top of these tests, the vet may also want to take a urine analysis, blood tests and a few X-rays which would help establish what is going on.

Treatment for the Condition

When it comes to treating hair loss in rabbits, it really does depend on the causes. If it is due to a parasitic infestation, there are specific treatments which are specially formulated for use on rabbits. However, if the cause of the condition is a bacterial infection, your vet will prescribe a treatment that will deal with the infection. If the problem is due to a more serious underlying illness like a cancerous tumour, then it may be kinder to have the rabbit put to sleep because the only treatment would involve chemotherapy which can prove extremely expensive.

It is also essential that all treatments used on rabbits have been specifically formulated for use on them and you should never think about using any flea or mite products that are for use on any other sort of animal because they may seriously affect your rabbits well being and even prove fatal to them.

Managing and Living with the Condition

Good husbandry is essential when dealing with a rabbit that suffers from hair loss and as such the follow-up care you give them once they've been treated for their condition is all important to them making a full and speedy recovery. With this said, the care given really does depend on the cause of the condition and if it should turn out to be as a result of a dominant rabbit "barbering" its companion, then separating them is the best cause of action to take.

Preventing Hair Loss

Due to the fact there are a variety of reasons why rabbits will suffer hair loss, there is no real way of preventing it from happening. With this said, cleanliness is essential and this means keeping the environment a rabbit lives in as clean and allergen free as possible. A well balanced diet will also go a long way in helping reduce the chances of a rabbit developing alopecia. The diet would need to include enough protein and less fatty and unhealthy foods.

Conclusion

Some breeds tend to lose their hair in chunks when they shed which can be a bit of a worry but this is perfectly normal. Dominant rabbits will pull out chunks of hair from their companions and this is typically on their flanks which is a behavioural problem known as "barbering". However, if you are at all concerned at your rabbit's hair loss, a quick trip to the vet would be in order to find out what is causing the problem. A vet would want to carry out a variety of tests to establish whether the hair loss is a primary health issue or the symptom of an underlying illness which would need to be treated sooner rather than later.


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