Cheyletiella parasitovax (Walking Dandruff) in Rabbits
Cheyletiella parasitovax, also known as walking dandruff, is a mild dermatitis caused by fur mites in rabbits. It is transmitted by direct contact between infested and non-infested rabbits as well as through contaminated hay or bedding. This is because mites can survive for several days in the environment.
The mites cause skin irritation in most affected animals. This may lead to hair loss, scaling (dandruff), itchiness, redness and scab formation, usually on the back and neck areas. The dandruff scales may appear to be moving as the mites move about underneath them. This is often easier to see if you place the scales on a dark surface. Some rabbits and cats may not show any apparent symptoms of C. parasitovax infestation.
If you see any of these symptoms on your rabbit, take your rabbit to your local vet promptly for diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosis is by identification of the mite. This may be possible either with the naked eye or by using a magnifying glass, but in other cases it may be necessary to examine hair or skin scrapings under a microscope.
There are several different treatments available – your vet will be able to determine which one is best for your rabbit. The most common treatment involves a course of either injections or spot on treatments. The rabbit should be re-examined at the end of the course of treatment. This is to ensure that the infestation has cleared completely.
It is just as important to ensure that the environment is properly treated, in order to avoid re-infestation. This is done by removing all hay and bedding from the hutch, disinfecting it thoroughly and then using an insecticidal fog or spray that is effective against Cheyletiella. Be sure to wait the recommended time before re-introducing the rabbit back into its hutch.
Cheyletiella in humans
Occasionally humans exposed to this parasite will develop mild skin lesions. These may be itchy and can form open sores in very severe cases. If you suspect yourself or a member of your family may be infested you should consult your local GP.