Walking dandruff (“cheyletiellosis”) in rabbits is caused by a common rabbit fur mite (Cheyletiella parasitovorax). They are nicknamed “walking dandruff” because these large, whitish mites crawl across the skin and fur, and cause excessive flaky skin on a rabbit.
Infested rabbits spread it to other rabbits, and this highly contagious, non-burrowing mite can also live short periods of time in the environment.
The parasite often shows up in young animals or older debilitated animals, especially if they can’t properly groom themselves because of teeth problems, arthritis or other mobility issues. Walking dandruff also happens more frequently in longer haired rabbits, regardless of age.
Quite often, an infested rabbit may not even be itchy — but a common tell-tale sign is excessive “dandruff” or large white flakes of skin over the shoulders or just above the tail over the back and hind end. In addition, you may see hair loss, especially behind the neck between the shoulder blades.
The mites and their eggs (securely glued to the hair shafts) can be picked up on a Sellotape prep and seen under a microscope.
Since walking dandruff mites (cheyletiella) can affect dogs and cats too, all animals in your household should be treated.
Talk with your veterinarian about the best walking dandruff treatment for your environment because adult mites can live up to 10 days in your carpets and other fabrics.