Diseases / List of Parasitic Diseases / Disease description:

Cheyletiellosis in Lagomorphs

Nail lesions with cheyletiellosis. Click here for full page view with caption Nail lesions with cheyletiellosis. Click here for full page view with caption Cheyletiellosis in a rabbit. Click here for full page view with caption Microscopic view of a Cheyletiella parasitivorax mite. Click here for a full page view with caption Microscopic view of a Cheyletiella parasitivorax mite. Click here for a full page view with caption Cheyletiellosis in a rabbit. Click here for full page view with caption Cheyletiellosis lesions on a human arm. Click here for full page view with caption Applying Xenex Ultra Spot on (permethrin) to a rabbit.  Click here for full page view with caption

INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL INFORMATION

CLINICAL CHARACTERISTICS & PATHOLOGY

INVESTIGATION & DIAGNOSIS

TREATMENT & CONTROL

SUSCEPTIBILITY & TRANSMISSION

ENVIRONMENT & GEOGRAPHY

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General and References

Disease Summary

  • A parasitic skin disease that is highly contagious and occurs in rabbits, cats and dogs. It is caused by an infestation of Cheyletiella species mites. (B609.2.w2)
  • This is a non-burrowing mite that lives on the keratin layer of the epidermis of the skin. (B600.9.w9, B604.5.w5, B609.2.w2)
  • The mites create pseudo-tunnels through the debris and scale on the skin surface (B600.9.w9)
  • The clinical signs of pruritus and scaling may mimic other diseases. (B609.2.w2)
Lagomorphs
  • Cheyletiella parasitovorax is a fur dwelling mite that may be found in significant numbers in pet rabbits. (B600.16.w16, B601.13.w13, B608.21.w21)
  • It may cause patches of dense, flaky, encrusted skin along the dorsum especially on the neck, the interscapular area, and above the tail base. (B600.16.w16, B609.2.w2)
  • Healthy rabbits with normal grooming habits usually remain asymptomatic. Disease more commonly occurs in young or debilitated animals or those with an underlying disease that prevents adequate grooming. Disease may also be seen in hypersensitive hosts. (B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2)
  • "The presence of mites may not be associated with disease and they can be considered to be commensal ectoparasites". (B600.9.w9)
  • Cheyletiella is one of the arthropod vectors for the viral disease of Myxomatosis. (B603.4.w4, B615.6.w6)
  • Cheyletiella parasitovorax can be spread to dogs and cats. (B606.4.w4)

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Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Cheyletiella infection. 
  • Fur mite infection. (B609.2.w2)
  • "Walking dandruff" due to the large mite size and the excessive scaling. (B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2)

See also other mite infections: 

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Disease Type

Parasitic Infection

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Infectious/Non-Infectious Agent associated with the Disease

In Rabbits
  • Cheyletiella parasitovorax is the principle mite involved in cheyletiellosis in rabbits. 
    • The genus of Cheyletidae was originally thought to only contain a single species (Cheyletiella parasitovorax) and as the name "parasitivorax" suggests, these mites were originally thought to feed off another fur mite, Listrophorus spp. (now Leporacarus gibbus - see Leporacarus gibbus Fur Mite Infection in Lagomorphs). This feeding habit theory has now been disproved. (B614.11.w11)
  • Cheyletiella species that are seen in dogs (Cheyletiella yasguril) and cats (Cheyletiella blakei) may also be found in rabbits but less commonly than Cheyletiella parasitovorax. (J15.29.w1, J213.4.w4)
  • Other species of Cheyletiella reported as parasites of rabbits are:
In pikas

(J478.4.w1)

Infective "Taxa"

Non-infective agents

--

Physical agents

-- Indirect / Secondary

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References

Disease Author

Nikki Fox BVSc MRCVS (V.w103)
Click image for main Reference Section

Referees

Anna Meredith MA VetMB CertLAS DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS (V.w128); Richard Saunders BVSc BSc CertZooMed MRCVS (V.w121)

Major References / Reviews

Code and Title List

B284.10.w10, B600.9.w9, B600.16.w16, B601.13.w13, B 602.19.w19, B603.4.w4, B604.5.w5, B606.4.w4 B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2, B614.11.w11
J15.29.w1, J29.5.w1, J29.5.w2, J213.4.w4, J213.7.w1, J476.19.w1, J478.4.w1
D600.1.w1
P600
.1.w1

Other References

Code and Title List

B600.4.w4, B601.15.w15, B614.8.w8, B615.6.w6
J11.55.w2, J469.360.w1
P601.1.w1

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Clinical Characteristics and Pathology

Detailed Clinical and Pathological Characteristics

General The clinical signs of pruritus and scaling may mimic other diseases. (B609.2.w2)

Clinical Characteristics

Many cases are subclinical with no apparent skin damage. (J213.4.w4)
Lagomorphs
Clinical findings
  • None. (J29.5.w1)
  • Scaling
    • Scaling is the most important clinical sign in this condition. 
    • Focal, profuse, amounts of large, white flakes may be found initially at the base of the neck/in the interscapular area. However, this scaling may become diffuse. 
    • Scaling is most severe in chronically infested and debilitated rabbits and is usually found dorsally either at the tail base or between the scapulae. These areas are where some rabbits (particularly animals which are obese or have dental or musculoskeletal disease) are unable to groom properly. Lack of grooming allows the mites to proliferate.

    (B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2, J29.5.w1)

  • Pruritus
    • None to severe. This depends on the response of the individual to the infestation. (B600.9.w9, B601.13.w13, B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2)
  • Alopecia
    • Occurs concurrently with excessive scaling and is usually located centrally within the lesion. (B601.13.w13, B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2, J29.5.w1)
    • Loose hair that pulls out in clumps. (B604.5.w5)
    • Interscapular region is the commonest area. (B609.2.w2)
    • Alopecia or broken hairs may be found over the dorsal neck, trunk, abdomen and tail base. (B602.19.w19)
  • Erythema (J29.5.w1)
  • Crusting and erythema (B608.21.w21)
  • Seborrhoeic lesions that range from mild to severe. (B606.4.w4)
  • Skin thickening
    • Occurs in chronic infestation. (B609.2.w2)
  • Distribution of lesions:
    • Tail base and between the scapulae (B600.9.w9, B604.5.w5, B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2, B614.11.w11)
    • Ventral abdomen (B606.4.w4, B608.21.w21, B614.11.w11)
    • Head (B604.5.w5)
    • "Occasionally, lesions are limited to the face." (B608.21.w21)
  • Underlying diseases:
    • Musculoskeletal disease:
      • proprioceptive deficits, ataxia, paresis, pain on palpation of the spine. 
      • Perineal or facial dermatitis in rabbits with an underlying skeletal disease which prevents them grooming these areas or maintaining a normal posture during urination.
    • Obesity
    • Dental disease 
      (B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)

Incubation

--
Lagomorphs Life cycle of Cheyletiella parasitovorax
  • The life cycle of this mite is approximately 35 days and this is all spent on the host. (B609.2.w2)
  • The life cycle is 14-21 days. (B601.13.w13)
  • Ova are attached to the hair shafts two to three millimetres above the base of the hair shafts. (B614.11.w11)
  • There are two nymphal stages. (B600.9.w9)
  • Mites obtain tissue fluid from the host. (B614.11.w11)
  • The adult female mites and eggs of Cheyletiella parasitovorax are able to live 10 days off the host. (B600.9.w9, B601.13.w13)
  • However, adult males, nymph and larvae are less resistant and die in 2 days in the environment. (B600.9.w9)

Mortality / Morbidity

--
Lagomorphs
  • "The presence of mites may not be associated with disease and they can be considered to be commensal ectoparasites". (B600.9.w9)
  • A survey of 220 laboratory rabbits was carried out and 43.2% of the rabbits had inapparent infestations of Cheyletiella parasitovorax. (B600.9.w9)
  • "Skin lesions associated with mange mites are uncommon in free-living lagomorphs". (B284.10.w10)
  • "Disease caused by rabbit fur mites, Cheyletiella sp. and Leporacarus gibbus, is the most common rabbit skin disease in the author's practice, present on more than 15% of the rabbits seen". (J213.4.w4)

Pathology

Histopathology
  • A subacute dermatitis. (J213.4.w4)
  • Hyperkeratosis of affected skin with an inflammatory cell exudate (plasma cells, mononuclear phagocytes, eosinophils and lymphocytes). (B602.19.w19)
  • There may also be polymorphonuclear neutrophils present. (J213.4.w4)

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Human Health Considerations

Zoonosis:
  • Cheyletiella can cause a dermatitis in humans, particularly children. (B604.5.w5, B615.6.w6, J29.5.w1, J29.5.w2)
  • A papular pruritic rash can develop in areas that have been in contact with the pet. (B600.16.w16, B601.13.w13, B609.2.w2)
    • Small erythematous papules with a fragile vesicle; usually pruritic. (J29.5.w2)
  • The Cheyletiella mites apparently do not reproduce on human skin so they will cause a self-limiting rash which resolves after removing the mite from the environment and pets. (B601.13.w13, B609.2.w2, J15.29.w1, J29.5.w2)
  • Lesions should regress over 24 hours. (B600.16.w16)
  • All species of Cheyletiella can be transmitted to humans. (J15.29.w1)

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Susceptibility / Transmission

General information on Susceptibility / Transmission

Note: This mite can also cause dermatitis in dogs and cats. (J29.5.w1)
Lagomorphs
  • Common sources of initial infestation include pet stores, breeders, or animal shelters. (B609.2.w2)
  • Note: "The presence of mites may not be associated with disease and they can be considered to be commensal ectoparasites". (B600.9.w9)

Susceptibility
  • Any age of rabbit may be affected. (B609.2.w2)
  • It is possibly more common in long-haired rabbits e.g. Angoras (B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2).
  • Rabbits with an underlying hypersensitivity. (B608.21.w21)
  • Occurs most commonly in rabbits that are either: 
    • young,
    • debilitated,
    • or those that cannot groom themselves adequately due to underlying disease- this prevents them removing keratin and mites. 
  • Underlying diseases which have been associated with clinical cheyletiellosis in rabbits include:
    • Musculoskeletal disease:
    • Obesity. 
    • Dental disease 

(B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)

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Disease has been reported in either the wild or in captivity in:

Further information on Host species has only been incorporated for species groups for which a full Wildpro "Health and Management" module has been completed (i.e. for which a comprehensive literature review has been undertaken). Host species with further information available are listed below:

Host Species List

(List does not contain all other species groups affected by this disease)

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Disease has been specifically reported in Free-ranging populations of:

Further information on Host species has only been incorporated for species groups for which a full Wildpro "Health and Management" module has been completed (i.e. for which a comprehensive literature review has been undertaken). Host species with further information available are listed below:

Host Species List

(List does not contain all other species groups affected by this disease)

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Environment/Geography

General Information on Environmental Factors/Events and Seasonality

  • Cheyletiellosis occurs most often in the milder warm spring weather. (B606.4.w4)

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Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded

  • UK, North America.
  • Turkmenistan, Iran and Kirghizstan in pikas. (J478.4.w1)
  • Australia (B614.8.w8)
  • In many parts of the world. (B614.11.w11)

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Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded in Free-ranging populations

  • --

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General Investigation / Diagnosis

General Information on Investigation / Diagnosis

  • Cheyletiellosis must be considered in every rabbit that presents with scaling, with or without pruritus. (B609.2.w2)
  • Mites may be found anywhere on the body but the usual site is along the dorsum especially at the tail base and the interscapular area. (B600.9.w9)
  • Note: it is important to identify any underlying disease that may be preventing normal grooming behaviour. (B609.2.w2)
Lagomorphs

Cheyletiellosis in a rabbit. Click here for full page view with caption

Microscopic view of a Cheyletiella parasitivorax mite. Click here for a full page view with caption

 

 

 

 

Clinical examination: thorough examination including oral, neurological and orthopaedic. (B609.2.w2)

  • Cheyletiella mites may be visible on the rabbit - white to yellow 0.3 mm mites. (J29.5.w1)

Examination of epidermal debris:

  • Collect samples by using a flea comb (the most effective method), acetate tape, or skin scrape. (B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2, J29.5.w1)
  • Alternatively, "gently vacuuming the animal with a pipette attached to a suction unit or small commercial vacuum works very well. A small piece of milk filter paper placed in the line traps debris which can be examined microscopically. Pruritic animals especially seem to enjoy the motion of the pipette and the technique is atraumatic and efficient for recovering ectoparasites". (B615.6.w6)
  • Cheyletiella are large mites so it is only necessary to examine the debris under low magnification. It is not necessary to use any staining. (B609.2.w2)
  • Mites might be seen moving among the skin flakes that are placed under a bright light. (B600.16.w16)
    • To the naked eye, they can be identified as clear to pale yellow to white oval to saddle-shaped mites that are approximately 0.3 mm long with hook-like mouth parts and inward curving claws. (B602.19.w19, B604.5.w5, B614.11.w11, J213.4.w4)
    • The legs terminate in short hair-like setae. (B614.11.w11, J213.4.w4)
  • Mites can also be identified by removing the flakes from the skin and then applying acetate strips to the exposed area of skin. Place this strip on a microscope slide and then examine under low power magnification. (B600.16.w16, B602.19.w19)
    • If there is a heavy infestation, it might be possible to see eggs, nymphal stages and adult mites. (B600.16.w16)

Skin biopsy with histological examination: can be used to rule out sebaceous adenitis. (B609.2.w2)

Imaging: dental or spinal radiographs to rule out any underlying musculoskeletal or dental disease. (B609.2.w2) See: 

Related Techniques
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Similar Diseases (Differential Diagnosis)

--
Lagomorphs

Cheyletiellosis must be considered in every rabbit that presents with scaling, with or without pruritus. (B609.2.w2) Also consider the following: 

  • The other fur mite: Leporacarus gibbus Fur Mite Infection in Lagomorphs
    • This mite is not a very common cause of dermatitis in the rabbits. (B609.2.w2)
    • Distribution of lesions: back, groin and the ventral abdomen. (B602.19.w19)
    • Clinical signs:
      • moist alopecic dermatitis which is sometimes pruritic. (B602.19.w19)
      • alopecia, seborrhoea and an abnormal moult. (B601.13.w13)
  • Ear mites:
    • Psoroptes cuniculi
    • Usually very pruritic.
    • Distribution: The inside of the pinnae, the surrounding ears, face, and the neck.
    • Clinical signs: Chronic infection- skin thickening, and exudative crusts.
    • Diagnosis: Mites visible with the unaided eye or may see them under low magnification.
  • Flea hypersensitivity dermatitis: (Flea Infection in Mammals).
    • Clinical signs: patchy alopecia and pruritus. Sometimes see a secondary pyoderma.
    • Diagnosis: fleas or flea dirt found in coat.
  • Other parasites:
    • Sarcoptic Mange: Sarcoptes scabiei and Notoedres Mange: Notoedres cati
      • Both are rare in the rabbit
      • Distribution: head and neck.
      • Clinical signs: very pruritic lesions.
  • Bacterial Dermatitis in Lagomorphs
  • Lack of grooming:

    • Caused by obesity or an underlying musculoskeletal or dental disease.
    • Clinical signs: scale accumulation.
  • Injection Reactions In Rabbits:

    • Occurs particularly with irritating substances, e.g. enrofloxacin.
    • Distribution: interscapular area is the common area for subcutaneous injections.
    • Clinical signs: alopecia and crusting.
  • Sebaceous adenitis in Rabbits:
    • Distribution: often starts around the head and neck.
    • Clinical signs: copious amounts of white flakes and scale. Alopecia. Usually not pruritic.
    • Diagnosis: skin biopsy and histological examination .

(B609.2.w2)

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Treatment and Control

Specific Medical Treatment

  • Treatment is recommended because this is a zoonotic condition. (J213.7.w1)
  • Treat all the animals in the household including dogs and cats. (B601.13.w13, B609.2.w2)

NOTE:

Lagomorphs Treatment involves killing the mite, removing scale and treatment of any underlying grooming difficulties. (B600.9.w9)
Drugs of choice:
  • Ivermectin
    • Treatment of choice. (B601.13.w13, B608.21.w21)
    • Effective treatment (B615.6.w6, J29.5.w1)
    • Usually effective. (B609.2.w2)
    • 0.4 mg/kg by subcutaneous injection every 10-14 days for three doses. (B601.13.w13, B602.19.w19, B606.4.w4, B609.2.w2)
    • Effective in killing the mites. A second dose is necessary 10-14 days after the first. (B600.9.w9)
    • Not licensed for use in rabbits but no adverse reactions have been reported. (B609.2.w2)
    • "Treatment with ivermectin reduces the population of Cheyletiella spp. mites; however, the infestation has not been eradicated in many cases treated at the author's practice". (J213.4.w4)
  • Selamectin
    • A very effective treatment for this condition; a single dose seems to last long enough to eliminate all stages of the life cycle. Routine administration is recommended for rabbits that cannot groom themselves properly. (P601.1.w1)
    • 6-18 mg/kg applied topically once only. Single application seems to be effective. (B600.4.w4, B601.15.w15)
    • 6-12 mg/kg applied topically. Repeat in 2-4 weeks if necessary. (B609.2.w2)
    • In a study of 23 rabbits with cheyletiellosis, a single dose of topical selamectin at 12 mg/kg was proved to be effective in the treatment of this disease. At five weeks post treatment, all of the rabbits were negative for mites and eggs. (J476.19.w1)
    • Not licensed for use in rabbits but no adverse reactions have been reported. (B609.2.w2)
  • Imidacloprid and moxidectin
    • Imidacloprid plus moxidectin at 10 mg/kg and 1 mg/kg respectively, subcutaneously every four weeks for three treatments. (P600.1.w1)
Other Medications:
  • Carbaryl powder (5%) (Carbamates) (J29.5.w2)
    • Apply as a topical treatment once a week. (B609.2.w2)
    • Use powder that is appropriate for cats, twice a week for six weeks. (B602.19.w19)
    • May also use this to treat the environment. (B609.2.w2)
    • Successful when used repeatedly but there have been reports of toxicity problems. (J213.4.w4)
  • Lime sulphur rinses
    • These have also been effective but are reportedly difficult to use in rabbits - see "precautions" below. (B609.2.w2)
    • Use once weekly for three to six weeks. (B 602.19.w19)
      • "good success with 3 to 4 weekly dips". (J213.4.w4)
    • See: Bathing Rabbits
  • 0.01% Amitraz
    • Amitraz must be diluted 1:500 to achieve this concentration. Dipping is necessary once a week for up to 6 weeks. (B606.4.w4)
  • Permethrin powder (J29.5.w2)
    • Cheyletiella can be reduced by dusting the adult rabbits, weanlings and the bedding at weekly intervals. (B604.5.w5)
  • Pyrethrin flea powders designed for kittens. (J29.5.w1, J29.5.w2)

Reinfestation:

  • Investigate if the animal has contact with an asymptomatic carrier or if there is an unidentified source of mites, for example, untreated bedding. (B609.2.w2)

Contraindications:

Precautions:

  • Dipping or bathing rabbits: there is a high risk of skeletal fractures or excessive chilling if performed by inexperienced people. "Sudden death has also been reported during or after bathing rabbits."
  • Off-label use of medication: most flea control products are not licensed for use in rabbits and therefore their efficacy and safety have not been evaluated in this species. Use with caution particularly in debilitated or young animals.
  • Licking of topical spot-on products: must prevent the animal or its cage mate from doing this before the product has had chance to dry. 
  • Adverse reactions to pyrethrins and pyrethroid-type flea products: clinical signs include hypersalivation, muscle tremors, ataxia, depression, anorexia, and dyspnoea [if a very large excess dose is given]. (See: Permethrin and Pyrethrin Toxicity in Rabbits)
  • Toxicity: If signs of toxicity are shown, the rabbit must be bathed thoroughly to remove remaining chemicals and have appropriate treatment.

(B609.2.w2)

Related Techniques

 

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General Nursing and Surgical Techniques

--
Lagomorphs
  • Daily combing to remove scale- this removes the keratin that the mites feed on. Use a fine toothed flea comb. (B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)
  • Bathing may also be effective at removing scale but is usually difficult with rabbits- see "precautions" in the treatment section above. (B609.2.w2) See: Bathing Rabbits
    • Some authors recommend bathing the animal in selenium sulphide shampoo, which has no insecticidal properties but will remove the keratin that mites feed on. (B600.9.w9)
    • 1% selenium sulphide shampoo is beneficial for seborrhoea. The rabbit should be dried using a hair-dryer, and not towelled. (B606.4.w4)
Related Techniques
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Preventative Measures

Vaccination --
Lagomorphs --
Prophylactic Treatment

--

Lagomorphs
  • Routine administration of selamectin is recommended for rabbits that cannot groom themselves properly. (P601.1.w1)

For colony rabbits:

  • New arrivals, unless they are known to be free of mites, should ideally be quarantined and given two doses of Ivermectin with a 14 day interval before entering an established clean colony. (B604.5.w5)
Related Techniques
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Environmental and Population Control Measures

General Environment Changes, Cleaning and Disinfection --

Lagomorphs

  • The environment needs to be cleaned regularly. This is very important for eliminating the infestation as adult females and eggs of Cheyletiella parasitovorax may live up to ten days off the host. (B600.9.w9, B601.13.w13, B609.2.w2)
    • However, adult males, nymph and larvae are less resistant and die in two days in the environment. (B600.9.w9)
  • Disinfect the environment by using flea products (i.e. carbaryl 5% dust). (B602.19.w19)
  • Spray the hutch with an environmental flea product, e.g. Vet-Kem Acclaim Plus (Sanfoni Animal Health Ltd.) which contains 0.58% permethrin and 0.09% w/w S-methoprene. (B606.4.w4)
  • Remove and discard all the organic material from the cage (paper or wood products, bedding). (B609.2.w2)
    • Replace the bedding with shredded paper bedding and discard this daily along with thoroughly daily cleaning of the cage during the treatment period. (B609.2.w2)
  • Discard or thoroughly disinfect any grooming utensils before reuse. (B609.2.w2)
Population Control Measures --
Lagomorphs --
Isolation, Quarantine and Screening --
Lagomorphs --
Related Techniques
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