Ringworm in Rabbits
Rabbits can get ringworm, a fungal infection, just like other mammals. Rabbits are more prone to getting infections with Trichophyton mentagrophytes, but can also get Microsporum canis infections. This is the ringworm most often seen in cats and dogs. Both of these ringworm species can potentially infect people and other mammals. Rabbits can harbor the ringworm fungus and never show symptoms but can spread the infection to others. Other rabbits develop clinical symptoms of the fungal infection. Continue reading to learn more about ringworm in rabbits, how it’s spread, how your vet can test for it and treat it.
Ringworm Transmission and Symptoms
Ringworm is spread via direct contact with the infected animal or items they have been in contact with, such as bedding, fur, brushes, and toys. Young animals or those that are stressed or immunosuppressed are more likely to become infected.
Symptoms can be nonexistent or the rabbit can have hair loss, scaling, and crusted lesions on the fur that are often not very itchy.
Lesions often develop around the eyes, ears, and nose. The lesions can spread to any area of the body and appear similar to lesions caused by mites.
How can my vet test my rabbit for ringworm?
The most common test is a fungal culture. Your vet will take a plucking of the fur and crusts at the margin of the lesions and place it on a culture medium. This test allows for the growth and identification of the ringworm organism and can take 4 weeks to complete.
There is a fungal PCR test, but it’s only currently been validated in dogs, cats, and horses. This test only takes a few days to complete. It may be recommended to do this along with a fungal culture since the PCR only detects 3 species of ringworm, and rabbits can get infections from at least 12 types of ringworm.
Your vet may recommend plucking some fur and crusts and looking at the material under the microscope after adding KOH to see if the fungus can be found.
The Woods Lamp test is not very helpful since most species of ringworm do not glow with this simple test.
How can my rabbit be treated if she has ringworm?
While some local cases of ringworm can resolve on their own if the rabbit is less stressed and on a good diet, treatment is typically recommended since ringworm can easily spread to people and other pets.
Topical treatments include lime sulfur dips twice weekly, medicated shampoos twice weekly, or topical sprays or mousse products twice weekly. The dips and baths can be stressful and if not dried properly, can lead to hypothermia. The topical sprays and mousse have not been clinically studied and labeled to resolve ringworm. If the ringworm lesions are around the mouth or eyes, the topical products are not ideal options.
Oral antifungal medications are often used and there are numerous options available. The oral antifungals are often used for at least 4 weeks.
How can I get ringworm out of the home/habitat?
Wear gloves and remove all organic material such as skin crusts, flakes, and fur from the habitat to reduce reinfection risks or spread. Vacuum the home well and discard the vacuum bag or empty the container immediately. Use a disposable Swiffer pad to clean hard floors.
Wash all fabric bedding or other washable items the rabbit had contact with. Use lint rollers or duct tape on items that can’t be washed.
Clean the enclosure or floors if possible, with chlorine bleach diluted 1:10 or 1:32 parts bleach to water ratio. Allow 10 minutes of contact time.
Ringworm spores can live for months in the environment, so proper cleaning is very important!
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