If you follow famous rabbits on the Internet, you may be familiar with a famous hairless rabbit, Mr. Bigglesworth.
Mr. Bigglseworth was named after the hairless cat in the Austin Powers movies.
But Mr. Bigglesworth is a rabbit, not a cat.
Mr. Bigglesworth was born into a litter of bunnies, all of whom had hair except him. This adorable but hairless rabbit has lost over 90 percent of its hair due to being born with two copies of the forkhead box gene.
This cute, active little bunny was almost put down because of his looks, but his human mom Cassandra saw his potential.
He has the same instincts as any other rabbit, but to keep warm, his owner, Cassandra has given him over 100 fuzzy sweaters.
Harilessness isn’t just a permanent genetic problem. It can also be a temporary problem caused by disease or parasites.
Hairless rabbits can make wonderful pets, but they need extra care.
In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about taking care of a bunny that has lost its hair.
What Makes a Hairless Rabbit Hairless?
There aren’t any rabbits in nature that are naturally hairless, the same way there are naked mole rats (which are, surprisingly, related to elephants).
When a hairless animal appears in nature, it is usually well-adapted to its condition. Naked mole rats, for example, live up to 30 years in their tunnels underground.
There aren’t any rabbits that have been bred by humans to be hairless.
There are dogs that have been bred not to have any hair, for example, Xoloitzcuintlis (Xolos, also known as Mexican Hairless Dogs), and cats that have been bred not to have any hair, such as Bambinos, Peterbalds, Donskoys, Levsoys, and Elf cats.
If your rabbit is hairless, its hair loss was caused by a mutant gene or disease.
Genetic Causes of Hair Loss in Rabbits
The genetics of hairlessness in rabbits have been extensively studied by Chinese scientists.
They have identified the forkhead box N1 (FOXN1) gene as the source of congenital alopecia, which makes the rabbits hairless.
There are entire colonies of rabbits with this gene that don’t have hair, but they can only survive under special conditions.
These unfortunate rabbits not only don’t have hair, but they also have underdeveloped immune systems and curled-up toenails.
You are highly unlikely to encounter rabbits with this gene outside of China.
However, hair loss in rabbits is mostly commonly due to parasites.
Outdoor rabbits pick up fleas when they play or graze on grass that is visited by dogs or cats that have fleas.
They can pick up fleas when they sleep or snuggle with a kitten or a puppy that has fleas or from carpets or upholstery that has fleas.
Fleas don’t cause hair loss directly.
The problem is an allergic reaction to fleabites. Rabbits scratch at their itch, and they lose their hair where they scratch.
Rabbits can continue to have an allergic reaction to fleabites weeks after all their fleas have been killed. They can develop an itch on parts of their skin where they have not been bitten.
Allergic reactions to fleas can be extremely variable. One rabbit can be covered with fleas and suffer no allergic reactions at all. Another rabbit can have a single flea bite and itch all over.
Also read: How to Get Rid of Fleas in Rabbits?
Bot flies lay their eggs in debris on your rabbit’s coat.
The eggs hatch, and the larva wriggles out to burrow inside your rabbit’s skin. It raises the skin but leaves an air hole so it can breathe while it feeds on your rabbit’s flesh.
Bot flies make surrounding hair fall out. They are also itchy and painful.
Mange (sometimes called Sarcoptic Mange)
Sarcoptic mange is a condition caused by a mite known as Trixacarus caviae.
It causes intense itching, hair loss, crusting, and scaly skin.
Rabbits are most likely to get these mites when they have frequent contact with guinea pigs. These mites can also spread from pets to people, so controlling them is important.
Rabbits can lose the hair on their ears when they are infected by rabbit ear mites, Psoroptes cuniculi.
These mites live on the skin of the host rabbit’s ears, burrowing just deep enough to get food and fluids. They reproduce about every three weeks.
The eggs of this mite can survive for several weeks in cool damp conditions in bedding, hay, and grass. But even brief exposure to dry heat kills them.
Rabbits sometimes lose their hair after they have a strange condition commonly described as “walking dandruff.”
This mite, Cheyletiella parasitovorax, is large enough to be noticed without peering over your rabbit’s coat with a magnifying glass.
It moves underneath scales of dead skin from hair to hair, like a piece of dandruff with legs.
Rabbits can catch these mites from cats, dogs, llamas, and alpacas, and also transmit them to these animals.
Also read: What Shampoo is Safe for Rabbits?
What Can You Do to Treat Diseases that Cause Hair Loss in Rabbits?
There isn’t anything you can do to change the basic condition of a bunny that is born pink and hairless. You can only give this rabbit a good home. It will never grow hair.
But there are lots of things you can do prevent and treat hair loss caused by parasites.
Flea sprays and powders that are safe for kittens and puppies are safe for rabbits, too.
Imidacloprid can kill fleas on rabbits after one or two months, but you will also need to remove fleas from the environment to keep your rabbits from getting them all over again.
Steam clean carpets, and then make sure no animals that have fleas sleep or pay on them again. Send pillows and blankets used by your pets through the washer and dryer.
If you let your rabbits hop around in the backyard, choose a dry, sunny day when they are less likely to get fleas.
The best way to prevent bot fly problems is to keep your rabbit’s coat clean, so the adult bot fly will not want to lay her eggs on your rabbit.
Never give your rabbit a bath. Wipe rabbits clean with a warm, moist, clean washcloth.
Mange is treatable with ivermectin. This treatment also works for walking dandruff and ear mites.
Also read: What Causes Rabbits To Lose Their Fur?
How to Care for a Hairless Rabbit
The reason your rabbit is hairless determines what they need for good care.
If your rabbit is hairless because it was born that way, it will always need protection from sunburn, chills, and overheating.
Cassandra, the owner of Mr. Bigglesworth, solved this problem with warm fuzzy sweaters. Sweaters can keep your rabbit both warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
If your rabbit is temporarily hairless because of fleas or mites, it needs:
- The hay, water, and vegetables any rabbit needs for a healthy diet.
- Temperature control to prevent overheating and chills.
- Isolation from other pets until the parasitic infestation is under control.
A hairless rabbit can be just as much fun as any other rabbit,
A hairless rabbit can give you attitude just like any other rabbit.
Hairless rabbits just need extra attention to live comfortable, long lives as your pets.
Also read: Can I Dye My Rabbit Hair/Fur?
Frequently Asked Questions About Hairless Rabbits
Q. What is a scut tail rabbit?
A. A scut tail rabbit does not have hair on its tail. Rabbits use their tails to distract predators, so a scut tail rabbit is particularly vulnerable in the wild.
Q. How long can a hairless rabbit live?
A. Many rabbits born hairless due to the forkhead box N1 gene die of disease during the first four weeks of their lives. This is because they cannot store the antibodies they receive from their mother’s milk.
If a hairless rabbit survives the first four weeks, however, it can have a normal lifespan, sometimes to eight or even twelve years, if it receives good care.
Q. Will a lime sulfur bath help rabbits with skin parasites?
A. A lime sulfur dip is OK for a rabbit that has lost hair due to skin parasites. It will not help rabbits that are born hairless.
Never give any rabbit a soap and water bath. They will be terrified, try to escape, and usually injure themselves in the attempt.
Q. What skin parasite treatments are safe for rabbits and which are not?
A. These treatments are relatively safe for rabbits:
- Ivernectin. This product is branded as Ivomec all over the world. In Canada, it is also sold as Meclizan. Be sure to follow label instructions.
- Selamectin. You can find this product sold as Selarid Topical for Small Animals in North America. Be sure to follow label instructions.
- Permethrins. You will find the permethrin formulated specifically for treating rabbits under the brand name Xenex. It is mildly toxic if overdosed, so be sure not to use more than the product label recommends.
- Pyrethroids. These are insecticides made from chrysanthemum flowers used to kill fleas. Although they are a natural product, they can cause a pregnant rabbit to miscarry.
Of all the products listed above, ivermectin is the least toxic. The following products are so toxic to rabbits that they should never be used.
- Phenylpirazoles, such as Fipronil. These products work by disrupting an insect’s nervous system. They can cause seizures in rabbits.
- Cypermethrin, which is chemically similar to Xenex (a very strong product to be used with caution) can cause systemic problems in rabbits and should be avoided.
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