Rabbit hair loss

July 26, 2016

 

rabbit hair lossAlopecia (hair loss) is the scourge of many a middle-aged man and yet, while a disappointing

indicator of the passage of time, it is part of the normal aging process.

In most animals, however, it is usually an abnormal condition which can come on suddenly or

progress over time, depending on the cause.

In Rabbits, alopecia can be unsightly and reduce the insulating and protective capacity of the coat,

potentially leading to increased stress and/or development of other conditions for the animal.

A rabbit with alopecia can have small areas of localised baldness, larger patch areas of hair loss, or

even generalised hair loss over much of the body. Other signs of hair loss include clumps of hair seen

in the rabbit’s environment or within the animal’s faeces. If the rabbit ingests too much of the hair,

this can lead to intestinal blockage.

Alopecia is generally caused by disease which disrupts normal growth at the hair follicle, or from

physical extraction of the hair. The pattern of hair loss on the body and the extent to which it has

occurred will help determine the cause of the problem.

Compulsive hair chewing (barbering) and over-grooming are abnormal behaviours usually related to

stress such as overcrowding (territorial bullying) or as a result of insufficient dietary fibre. For

animals that self-traumatise, baldness is often isolated to those areas of the body that the animal

can easily reach with its mouth, leaving the head, face and back of the neck unaffected. For animals

that are chewed upon by others, the pattern of hair loss tends to be along the spine or on the head.

Autoimmune disorders, nutritional deficiencies, tumours or side effects from medications commonly

result in multiple areas of hair loss or larger areas of hair loss.

Trauma from scratching viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections can cause localised patch

alopecia with flaky or scabbed skin.

Often, the cause can be determined by looking at the pattern of hair loss and patient history.

Sometimes we may need to explore the causes further to determine the source of the problem.

Some of these diagnostic procedures include microscopic examination, lab tests and diagnostic

imaging.

Fortunately, in most cases of alopecia, the hair will eventually grow back, but specific treatment may

be required. Medications may be necessary to treat heavy parasitic, bacterial or fungal diseases.

Ensure your rabbit is happy and healthy. The rabbit’s environment should be safe, secure and non-

stressful. Ensure the housing offers adequate shelter, provide environmental enrichment and

prevent overcrowded housing which can be stressful and promote unnecessary spread of disease.

Reduce the likelihood of territorial aggression by avoiding housing your rabbit in close quarters with

others that are not neutered or of the same sex.

A strong immune system and healthy gut function is important. Offer good quality grass hay as the

staple diet with high-fibre pellets and fresh green vegetables to supplement. Minimise environments

where parasites can thrive by removing soiled bedding and faeces promptly. Ensure your rabbit is

well-groomed, especially during periods of moulting or if it is a long-haired breed.

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