Having healthy fish

'Walking Dandruff' - An Itchy Problem For Your Rabbit

by Loan Martin

'Walking dandruff' is a common condition in pet rabbits, yet a surprising number of owners have never heard of it, and they don't recognise that there's a problem until their pet is in discomfort.  So, what is 'walking dandruff' and how can regular visits to your vet clinic help to prevent it?

What is 'walking dandruff'?

'Walking dandruff' is the common name given to an ear mite infestation in rabbits.  The problem is caused by a parasite called, Psoroptes cuniculiis.  It affects one or both ears, and if untreated, can spread to other areas of the rabbit's body including the head, abdomen, neck, genital area, and even the feet.

Although the parasites are tiny, they can be seen with the naked eye, appearing as tiny white flakes that move around, hence the name, 'walking dandruff'.

If the rabbit isn't treated promptly, the condition can cause a painful secondary infection and possibly deafness. 

The mites spread readily and quickly from one animal to another, affecting both hutch-kept and house rabbits.  Mite eggs can hide in bedding or hay until they are picked up by a rabbit, when they hatch out and irritation begins.

Signs and symptoms

Watch out for the following symptoms of mite infestation:

  • scratching around the ears, head and neck
  • shaking head
  • thick, brown crusts forming in the ear
  • loss of hair around the ears

If your rabbit shows any of the above symptoms, seek veterinary advice without delay.  


Your vet will be able to quickly diagnose 'walking dandruff' by examining samples taken from your pet's skin under a microscope where the annoying little mites will be clearly seen moving around.


Your vet will prescribe antiparasitic drugs to get rid of the mites.  Don't be tempted to pick at the skin crusts on your rabbit's ears – they will fall away on their own once treatment has begun.  You may also be given ointment with which to treat the skin outside of your rabbit's ears, as well as antibiotics to tackle any infection.

Care of your rabbit during treatment

If you have more than one rabbit, you'll need to have all of them treated because the parasite is so contagious.  You'll also need to remove and burn all bedding, hay and grass from the rabbit hutch.  The hutch should be cleaned out each day during the period of treatment and thoroughly disinfected with a product that your vet will supply.  All grooming tools must also either be discarded or disinfected to prevent spreading the mites.

You'll need to take your pet back to the vet for a check-up one month after the initial treatment therapy has begun.

Once the problem has cleared up, be sure to clean and disinfect your rabbit's hutch regularly to prevent the return of parasites.

In conclusion

Regular check-ups at the vet clinic will keep your pet rabbit safe from infestation by ear mites.  If you think your pet is showing signs of 'walking dandruff', seek veterinary advice immediately.