Case report: Bilateral symmetrical alopecia in an
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Vince is a long haired black rabbit, 8 months old, not yet neutered (I have had him since June 2009). He shares a gate with my rabbit Grizelda, the one with the broken pelvis and leg, and heavy fur mat. Vince is very interested in her of course.
Last Sunday (Nov. 8, 2009), my daughter groomed him. The long gray fuzzy fur came off very easily, and when she was done, he had a band of bare skin around both sides. There was fur showing through on the top already growing under the longer shed fur; but the sides were naked. He shed like this one other time.
When the fur came out that night and the next days he had pink soft skin, nothing odd except it was hairless...and he had chewed a little red spot on the left shoulder....
Within a few days, I noticed some redness where he had been chewing more. By Saturday, he had visible chafing along the sides, mostly on the ridges of the wrinkles formed when he turns to groom. Today, it is a bit more severe. I took photos at vets, but they do not show too well the irritation.
I thought it might be mites, although I figured the skin would have looked like that at the very first when the fur came out. Which it did not. I wonder if the loss of fur can contribute to less sebum on skin, and also, I know he gets excited by the other rabbits (not just Grizelda) and chews from excitement.
Left side view
Right side view
Top view of bilateral alopecia
I took my little Vince rabbit to have a pre-neuter visit with Dr. B. Langhofer (The Scottsdale Veterinary Clinic Scottsdale, Scottdale, AZ, USA) this afternoon. Vince is fine. Dr. Langhofer thought it might be from what he called "Male frustration grooming" and did not think it was mites. The ears are clear, as is the skin that is furred over the back. The bare patches look pretty sore.
He is going in to be neutered tomorrow at 11 am.
Rarely, symmetrical bilateral alopecia is observed in a rabbit. Due to the scarcity of the cases, and few veterinary publications on this topic in rabbits, the problem is often misdiagnosed.
In another male rabbit:
Courtesy of Louise Geddes
Scleroderma-like lesions were reported in an unaltered 6-year old male rabbit. The skin presented redness, thickening and induration, with growth of nodules. In addition, Leydig cell tumors were observed in the testicles. Serum level of testosterone was elevated.
Since castration brought improvement of the observed clinical signs, it is speculated that the skin condition was linked to the elevated level of circulating androgen hormones.
In non-spayed female rabbits, symmetrical bilateral alopecia may be associated to a hormonal disorder caused by ovarian diseases. In various animal species, hyperestrogenism is accompanied by fur thinning in the urogenital region. The mammary glands and vulva may appear swollen. If radiography does not show the presence of tumors in other organs or lungs, an emergency ovariohysterectomy may help the rabbit regain health.
In one case, symmetrical bilateral alopecia has been linked to thymoma, the growth of a benign tumor in the thymus gland, located in the upper chest. The skin showed features typical of exfoliative dermatitis and labored breathing.
There is no known cure available for scleroderma-like symptoms in unaltered male rabbits, other than castration.
For detailed information on hormonal skin disorders in rabbits,
see: “Skin Diseases of Rabbits”, by E. van Praag, A. Maurer and T. Saarony
408 pages, 2010.
Florizoone K, van der Luer R, van den Ingh T. Symmetrical alopecia, scaling and hepatitis in a rabbit. Vet Dermatol. 2007 Jun;18(3):161-4.
Kojimoto A, Naitoh H, Ozaki S, Suzuki S, Murakoshi N, Yokota K, Uchida K. A scleroderma-like lesion in a rabbit with Leydig cell tumors. Jap J Vet Anesthesia & Surgery 2006;37:39-42.
Thank you to Vince for his patience and his cooperation in taking the numerous pictures.