Posted: February 6, 2014, 6:55 p.m. EST
© Courtesy Manami Baba
It's normal for rabbits to shed their fur, and sometimes the shed can be intense. If fur is slow to grow back, see your veterinarian.
Q: Four days ago, I noticed that my 1-year-old, Holland Lop rabbit is losing fur. Initially, it just looked like shedding. However, today he looks very ungroomed, and his fur is coming out very easily when I run my hand down his body. He was breathing more rapidly than usual (observation at nighttime; not hot), and I kept hearing a grumbling sound around his abdomen. It sounds similar to when I get hungry. I heard it every 15 to 30 seconds. He is hopping around now without any abnormalities. From the information I have provided, do you suspect any illness or emergency?
A: It sounds like there are two things that are unusual for your rabbit. The loss of hair may be intense, but normal shedding. Depending on the conditions on where your rabbit lives, is he inside or out, has it been unusually cold or hot, this could account for an intense but normal shedding process.
Some diseases can lead to intense shedding episodes. For those, you need to take your rabbit to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian to determine the cause of the condition. The most common reason is skin parasites, more formally called ectoparasites. Less commonly seen causes are infection of the skin and hair, dermatophytosis, or a fungal infection. In both instances, ectoparasites and fungal infections, the diagnosis and treatment can easily be accomplished by your veterinarian.
If this is nothing more than intense, normal shedding, then hair will begin to grow back very quickly. If the loss of hair is due to other conditions, you may not see the hair return at all or it will return very slowly and in patches.
Does the sound you heard from his abdomen have anything to do with the hair loss? Possibly. Sounds as you describe from the abdomen usually means there is a great amount of "churning” in the intestinal tract, likely the cecum, of your rabbit. This can occur with diet change or antibiotics. In some instances, a severe internal disease can lead to an outward sign of hair loss. This is very uncommon, but if your rabbit does not eat well, does not have normal stool, and continues to lose hair, then visiting your veterinarian as soon as possible is important.
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