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Why is My Rabbit Losing Fur? - Causes and Solutions

 
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: November 12, 2018
Why is My Rabbit Losing Fur? - Causes and Solutions

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Rabbits are well-known for being particularly furry creatures. Some breeds such as the Angora have fur which is well known for its abundance, but there are no naturally hairless rabbit breeds. If we see a rabbit which is losing their fur, then this is indicative of an underlying problem. Whether this problem is physical, environmental or psychological will depend on the cause and symptoms of the hair loss. Ensuring our rabbit is healthy requires us to take note of any behavioral changes or alterations in their appearance.

If you have a rabbit losing fur under your care, then you will want to know what might be causing this to happen. AnimalWised provides information on bunny hair loss by showing you the difference between normal shedding and unhealthy hair loss. We'll also look at what we can do about it.

You may also be interested in: Why Is my Ferret Losing Hair?

Rabbits shedding hair

Many mammals go through a natural hair loss process annually, some even more than once a year. The amount of hair which is lost will depend on various factors, not least the amount of hair they have in the first place. As rabbits are becoming ever more popular pets, we are beginning to learn more about their general care and grooming needs. These are considerations many of us have been making for our dogs for years.

The first thing to know about shedding (often known as molting) is that it is a perfectly normal. Domestic rabbits might shed moderately every 3 months. A greater hair shedding can usually be observed twice a year when the coat's renewal is complete. With proper care, there is no reason this natural molting process should provide any problems for your rabbit. However, there can be complications involved in the rabbi's self-grooming. If the rabbit licks themselves continuously, they run the risk of forming hairballs (trichobezoars) which can lead to obstructions in the digestive system.

The length of time it takes for a rabbit to shed its hair varies from a few days to up to 3 weeks. One of the most important aspects is the breed as some long haired rabbit breeds will have more to shed. Longer hair breeds may simply shed more noticeably, but all rabbits will need to be brushed during their molting season. Daily brushing is advised during this time. Special rabbit brushes can be purchased for this purpose, but often brushes for small dogs or cats will also work if they have rounded tips.

Rabbits may shed differently depending on the amount of natural light they receive. As the molting state is influenced by changing seasons, the amount of light they receive affects how much fur they develop (and therefore shed). Wool producers may shorten the amount of natural light a rabbi receives as a means to increase hair growth[1].

It is important to differentiate between healthy seasonal shedding in rabbits and unhealthy hair loss. When a rabbit molts, the loss of fur will be generalized and fall evenly over the whole body. In pathological conditions, the rabbits fur will likely fall out in patches, often with skin showing. The skin itself may be visibly damaged either with flaking or even open wounds. Total hair loss will never occur in a healthy rabbit.

Why is My Rabbit Losing Fur? - Causes and Solutions - Rabbits shedding hair

Alopecia in gestating females

A female rabbit losing fur might have some specific health issues which are related to alopecia (hair loss). If we have a female rabbit losing patches of fur, it is possible they are pregnant and they are removing their own fur (something known as barbering). Removing their fur is an effort to form a nest which is suitable for their soon to be born offspring. This behavior is not abnormal, but it can be avoided. If we provide alternate materials to build their est, they will not rely on their own fur. Some suitable materials for a rabbit's birthing nest include:

  • Newspaper
  • Dry leaves
  • Hay
  • Straw
  • Wood shavings

There are some reports that does, another name for female rabbits, prefer wood shavings to straw. In one study, it was seen that regardless of the material used for nest bedding, the majority used a mixture of the material and their own fur[2]. Still providing adequate bedding can minimize this behavior.

Why is My Rabbit Losing Fur? - Causes and Solutions - Alopecia in gestating females

Stress in rabbits leading to fur loss

There are few animals which are as susceptible to stress as rabbits. One major symptom of stress in rabbits is hair loss which can affect certain parts of the rabbit. Some may have a rabbit losing fur around their neck, others might see hair loss on the back or under the chin of a rabbit.

It is common for rabbits to suffer stress during certain instances in their lives. These may include:

If a rabbit is stressed and they pull their hair out as a consequence, you are likely to see clumps of fur on their front paws falling out. This is because the rabbit has easy access to this area and will often barber it as a reaction to stress. This doesn't mean you won't see the rabbit pull hair from other parts of the body. If you want to either treat a rabbit which is already stressed or reduce the chances of becoming stressed in the first place, you should consider the following:

  • Don't overstimulate your rabbit or manipulate it against their will.
  • Make contact gradually and reassure them continually.
  • Provide a small space in their hutch where they can hide when they feel insecure.
  • If the rabbit has to share their home with another animal, coexistence needs to occur progressively.
  • The rabbit cage should have plenty of space.

If a rabbit has been stressed to the point where they have removed hair from their body in clumps or patches, then they should be take to the vet for assessment. One effective treatment might be fluoxetine which works as an antidepressant[3], but it will need to be administered under the auspices of a qualified veterinarian and improving their environment is also an important factor.

Why is My Rabbit Losing Fur? - Causes and Solutions - Stress in rabbits leading to fur loss

Hair loss in rabbits due to infection

Rabbits can lose hair due to many environmental factors and stress, but medical reasons are also possible causes. An infection due to a wound or an infestation due to mites or other parasites are also possible causes. These infestations and infections can often result in a dermatological disease such as ringworm.

In this case, you will see the hair loss happen in patches rather than all over the body. The exposed skin will often be dry, scaly or may even display reddish legions. The type of infection will manifest itself in different ways. However, many of the wounds will be caused by the animal scratching themselves out of frustration. This can be very painful for the rabbit.

If you see these symptoms when a rabbit is losing hair, then you need to need to take them to the vet. They will be able to prescribe appropriate treatment which may include antifungal medication. They will also likely instate a deworming and/ or vaccination schedule if one has not already been introduced. Some diseases might be zoonotic, so it is important to ensure these problems are dealt with early so that they do not spread.

Why is My Rabbit Losing Fur? - Causes and Solutions - Hair loss in rabbits due to infection

Hair loss in rabbits due to nutritional deficiencies

Food is a basic pillar of all animal health. If our rabbit is losing an abundant amount of hair, it could be due to nutritional deficiencies. We should put their diet under review to ensure it is at an optimal place.

If a rabbit is suffering from a particular nutritional deficiency, then it can affect them in different ways. A lack of dietary fiber might lead to a rabbit pulling their fur out. This is one of the reasons it is so important to provide standard feed and snacks which are suitable for bunnies. Adequate intake of fiber will also help to avoid other gastrointestinal issues.

When a rabbit has been eating improperly for too long, then it is possible they have other dietary related problems such as obesity. An overweight rabbit might be too large to scratch themselves properly, something which can lead to a rabbit barbering out of frustration.

Why is My Rabbit Losing Fur? - Causes and Solutions - Hair loss in rabbits due to nutritional deficiencies

Genetic factors in rabbit hair loss

It is relatively rare to find a completely hairless rabbit. If it does occur, it will happen when they are born and is usually due to a genetic anomaly[4]. This genetic anomaly also generally comes with other health issues and results in the premature death of the rabbit. Caring for this rabbit is usually difficult when siblings are present, so they should be cared for separately. Sometimes, a rabbit may be born hairless and then grow their hair eventually with the right care. There are no recognized hairless rabbit breeds, but if the genetic discrepancies can be addressed, then it is possible such a breed may exist in the future.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Why is My Rabbit Losing Fur? - Causes and Solutions, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

References

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