Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Question from the Audience: Fur Loss

A question from Adam B. and Maggie H. of Boston, MA:

Q: We successfully adopted Gus, previously Murphs, from the MSPCA a few months ago, and have been having a great time with him ever since! There is one thing we have noticed recently: in front of his ears on the top of his head, and right behind the base of his neck, he has some patches of shorter hair. The skin looks fine underneath and he doesn't mind us touching them, is there anything to be worried about? He stayed with a friend in VT for a few weeks and she had a black lab pup, but they always interacted well. Could it be that he lost the hair there from stress? Or did we just not notice this short patches before?

Family Photo with Adam, Maggie, and Gus, formerly known as Murphs

A: Rabbits do stress shed, like dogs and cats, but it sounds to me like Gus is probably just going through his semi-annual molt. During a molt, which can last for varying periods of time, rabbits lose a lot of fur, and it can often fall out in clumps, creating bald spots or spots with very short fur. It really isn't anything to worry about.

During a molting period, make sure you brush Gus frequently or remove his loose fur by hand, so he doesn't ingest too much of it, as rabbits can get hair ball blockage in their GI tracts that requires surgery. (Rabbit's cannot throw up, like cats can, to expel hairballs.) Especially during a molt, make sure he is eating a good amount of Timothy hay and drinking plenty of water; the fiber in the hay and the moisture in the water will keep the fur moving out of his system.

You definitely want to be concerned if the area includes dry flaky patches, red irritated skin, open sores, or if he seems to be constantly scratching at it. These symptoms could indicate parasitic infection, like mange or ear mites, and he should be checked out by a veterinarian for treatment. But since Gus isn't presenting with any of these signs, it's sounds like all he needs is a thorough brushing.

Gus making an eat.