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Fungal Infection
Fungal Infection  
Dear Dr. Krempels,

I recently had to have put down my 9 year, 3 month old female spayed mini rex house rabbit. She suffered from severe sore hocks which eventually started to bleed even though she never set foot in a wire cage. I attribute the escalation of the hock problem to the baths that I was giving her every three days for a severe fungal infection - this was being done under the care of a veterinarian. I was bathing her with Dermazole shampoo.

I started bathing her at the end of August and continued for three months with no real progress. The fungal infection eventually spread to inside her ears at which time I she was prescribed Hibitane ointment. The veterinarian never tested for the fungal infection but instead it was diagnosed visually. Early in December it was decided to try her on Ketoconazole orally. I stopped giving her this after a week as her appetite waned. I had also stopped the baths because they had become so stressful. Her hair continued to fall out and regrow in spots all over her body. Her tummy was completely without hair.

I know she was an old girl but I am wondering what you would have done? I am sending along a photo of her back area. The infection was also under her chin, behind her ears, on her forehead, tummy and above her tail.

Dear Michele,

I am sorry about the loss of your beautiful girl.

I think the vet was remiss in diagnosing this as a fungal infection without a biopsy, or at least a culture for fungal dermatophytes.  From the picture, it's very hard to tell what it going on.  It does have some of the earmarks of sebaceous adenitis, which is an autoimmune disorder with no cure and not very many good treatments except keeping it at bay with corticosteroids.  But it's difficult to diagnose, too.  The fact that the condition kept marching over her body despite the treatments makes me suspect that this might have been the culprit.

It doesn't look like mange, but if you were constantly giving her baths, that might interfere with the appearance of mange or fur mite infestation.  Those can be treated with Revolution (selamectin), and that might have been tried.  Might not have helped, but it would at least have eliminated the possiblity that this was due to mites.

It's really pretty simple to diagnose a fungal infection:  if you shine a black light (i.e., ultraviolet light) on the affected areas, they should fluoresce a pale green.  If there is no fluorescence, it is less likely to be a fungal infection.

All this comes too late, I know.  But please do not blame yourself for anything.  You were doing the best you could.  And if it was sebaceous adenitis (which it really does resemble from the photo), then there was little you could do but keep her comfortable as long as possible.

I am sorry for your loss.



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:

Find a rabbit vet at for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.

RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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