Fleas on Rabbits
Unfortunately, fleas on rabbits is a relatively common occurrence, especially for those rabbits kept outside. In spite of that fact, there are no flea products on the market made specifically for rabbits.
How Did My Rabbit Get Fleas?
The situations where rabbits are most susceptible to getting fleas are:
- If they were recently purchased from a breeder or pet store. This is because “puppy-mill” type establishments are normally outside in poor conditions that are breeding-houses for fleas, and breeders/pet stores don’t treat for fleas, so you could purchase an infested rabbit without knowing until a few days later.
- If they live outside, or spend time outside (even for playtime). To learn more, visit our page: Why Outside is No Place for a Rabbit.
- If your indoor/outdoor dogs or cats are having a flea infestation issue, the fleas in the house could very well jumped from the cat or dog to your rabbit.
How Do I Get Rid of the Fleas on My Rabbit?
Because fleas affect most fur covered pets such as rabbits, dogs, and cats, if a flea problem is found on one animal, all animals in the house should be treated, carpets and fabric furniture should be treated as well.
Surprisingly, there are no rabbit-specific flea medication for managing or treating fleas on rabbits. All products available at the store or from your veterinarian are made for dogs or cats, and their use in rabbits is described as ‘off label.’
Treating Fleas on Rabbits
Topical or “Spot” Treatments: If you find fleas on your rabbit, you can use either Advantage® topical for cats, or Revolution® topical treatment for cats. These appear to be the safest way to treat rabbits who have fleas. However, due to these being off-label treatments, you should ONLY use either treatment after consulting your rabbit-savvy veterinarian to ensure proper dosage and treatment schedule.
Please understand flea treatment products are no joke. If the wrong product is used on the wrong species, it can be deadly. For example: using a dog flea treatment on a cat can cause extreme damage and even death. Here is a video showing the consequences of careless use of flea treatments.
Fast-acting Flea Treatments: In the instance of a very bad flea infestation, Capstar (nitenpyram) can be given. One dose of Capstar (see your vet for rabbit dosage) starts killing the adult fleas within 30 minutes and normally kills 90% or more of the adult fleas on your animal several hours after ingestion. Treatment with Capstar will still need to be followed up with a topical flea treatment because Capstar only kills off adult fleas. Eggs and fleas in the larval stages are left unharmed, so the topical treatment helps kill those off so you do not have a recurrent infestation.
Learn More about Breaking the Flea Life Cycle
Flea Powders and Combs: Flea powders and flea combs can be used as well to help eliminate a flea infestation. For flea powders, make sure to talk to your rabbit-savvy veterinarian to ensure the right one and brand.
Things to NEVER do to Treat Fleas on Your Rabbit
We feel it necessary to strongly reiterate these few things that you should NEVER do to get rid of fleas on your rabbit.
- Never use Frontline or Sentinel in your rabbits. Studies show that these two medications can cause severe adverse effects and even death.
- Most flea and tick sprays for cats and dogs should be avoided due to their toxic side effects.
- Do not ever, ever, give your rabbit a flea bath or flea dip! Most rabbits will become very stressed if placed in water (since rabbits in nature only swim when their life depends on it such as in flood), and some of the chemicals in flea baths and dips are very dangerous for your rabbit. Be wary, some groomers and non-rabbit-savvy veterinarians may recommend a flea bath or dip, but House Rabbit Society and rabbit-savvy veterinarians far and wide strongly discourage this for all of the problems bathing a rabbit can cause.
- Never put a flea collar on your rabbit. Along with being a choking hazard, these products have been shown to be very toxic to rabbits
“We have never recommended a flea dip for rabbits, and recently we received a very alarming report of a death occurring after a flea shampoo, followed by a pyrethrin dip. We cannot be certain as to the specific cause of death-the stress of the bath or the ingredients in the shampoo or dip-so we recommend avoiding both.
Our foster homes have been able to use room sprays (pump-type) and eliminate fleas from the environment for 6 months or so. We spray only one room at a time and move the rabbits out of that room for at least 24 hours.”