Hair loss (alopecia) in rabbits
What is alopecia?
‘Alopecia’ is the scientific word for hair loss. Alopecia can develop in patches or as thinning fur and is a symptom of many different conditions. Some causes of alopecia in rabbits are perfectly natural, but some are not, and require treatment
Common causes of alopecia in rabbits include:
- Stress - Stress is a very common cause of alopecia in rabbits. If your rabbit is stressed, they may start to pull their own fur out.
- Behavioural - Rabbits are sociable animals that should be kept as a pair or group. However, occasionally one rabbit will pull another’s fur as an act of dominance (this is called ‘barbering’). Sexual behaviour such as ‘mounting’ can also cause bald patches.
- Fleas, mites and lice
- Arthritis - Painful conditions such as arthritis can cause a rabbit to overgroom and pull at their own fur.
- Skin infections
- Wounds and scars - Alopecia is common (and sometimes permanent) around infected skin, deep wounds and scars.
- Flystrike - Flystrike is life-threatening condition caused by maggots burrowing under the skin to feed on flesh. An early symptom is alopecia around the backend.
- Dirty bottom - If your rabbit has a wet bottom for more than a few days they are very likely to develop alopecia, urine scald and infected skin.
- Moulting - Moulting and seasonal fur loss is perfectly normal. Rabbits often moult in big tufts but should not go bald.
- Pregnancy - Hormone changes during pregnancy, false pregnancy and when feeding young can cause alopecia. Some rabbits pull their own fur out to nest during pregnancy. This can also happen during a false pregnancy. As long as your rabbit doesn't make themselves bald this is normal behaviour and nothing to worry about.
- Tumours - Certain cancers of the skin, ovaries and testicles can cause alopecia, however, this is rare.
Published: June 2020
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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.
Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst