Pinworms in Rabbits

The common rabbit pinworm (an Oxyurid called Passalurus ambiguus) is an internal (intestinal) parasite found in rabbits. It does not cause a serious health threat to rabbits, but it can cause uncomfortable itching and skin inflammation or redness.

"Pinworms do not cause a serious health threat to rabbits, but they can cause uncomfortable itching and skin inflammation or redness."

  • Pinworms live in the small intestines, cecum and colon of rabbits.
  • This particular parasite only lives in rabbits.
  • Pinworms usually live un-noticed in the rabbit and pass eggs into the feces and environment.
  • If your rabbit has a severe infection, you may notice itching or self-trauma around the anus.

How do pinworms develop in my rabbit?

istock_000008563562_extrasmallYour rabbit becomes infected with pinworms by coming into contact with or eating the feces of a rabbit that has pinworms eggs in its feces.

Since the pinworm is a direct life cycle with NO intermediate host, this means your rabbit got it from the feces of an infected rabbit (it didn’t just happen to your rabbit). Most likely, your rabbit was exposed to the pinworm-infected feces from its parents or at the pet store or breeder.

How does my veterinarian diagnose pinworms?

Your veterinarian will usually approach a pinworm diagnosis by conducting a fecal smear or fecal float test (using a sample of your rabbit’s feces) to identify the presence of pinworm eggs.

Of course, you and your veterinarian many also see your rabbit scratching or biting at the infected areas, and also possibly see small white worms around the anus or in the feces. (It’s not possible to see pinworm eggs with the naked eye.)

How does my veterinarian treat pinworms in rabbits?

Pinworms are challenging to treat because they have a direct life cycle related to the rabbit’s feces. Simply put, rabbits are coprophagic, (they eat their own feces or cecotrophs), which means they’re literally re-infecting themselves as veterinarians treat them, because their feces are contaminated.

"Rabbits eat their own feces, so they’re literally re-infecting themselves because their feces are contaminated."

Therefore, if your veterinarian has made a positive diagnosis of pinworms in your rabbit, you’ll be instructed to administer antiparasitic drugs. In addition, you’ll need to be diligent about cleaning and eliminating any and all eggs in and around your rabbit’s cage and other areas where he or she plays, sleeps and roams.

If you’re careful to treat your rabbit and keep the habitat super-clean, you can prevent re-infestation.

Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s specific instructions exactly!

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Dr. Rick Axelson, DVM

© Copyright 2013 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.