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You probably know that humans can be allergic to rabbits - among other things - but did you know that rabbits can have allergies, too? Whether it's you being allergic to pollen in the spring, or your rabbit allergic to something in her food, you can be sure you're both going to feel miserable until you take steps to prevent or treat the allergy.

There are two primary allergies in rabbits: allergies to food and inhalant or contact allergies. Let's take a look at the causes, symptoms and treatment for each.

Food Allergies

As much as she loves to eat, your rabbit's food may not love her. She may be allergic to a specific food, or to an ingredient in her food. There are a number of ingredients in rabbit food that may cause an allergic reaction, so it will take some patience to see which one is the culprit.

The symptom to watch for is scratching. Food allergies go straight to your rabbit's skin, irritating it and causing her to scratch excessively, even to the point of fur loss.

To determine which food is the cause of the reaction, feed your rabbit a plain diet of only hay and pellets for a few days. If she begins to improve, you'll know you have a food allergy on your hands, and you can begin to trace the source. Introduce one of the potential problem foods back into her diet. If she reacts, then she's allergic to it, and permanently removing that food from her diet will be all the treatment she will need.

Inhalant or Contact Allergies

These are airborne allergens that your rabbit either inhales or contacts by having them settle in her fur or in her cage. The materials that may cause your rabbit to react to her environment include dust, pollen or cage cleaner.

Symptoms of inhalant/contact allergies include:

  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Skin irritation
  • Runny eyes
  • Fur loss

The first step in the treatment of these allergies is to remove any new item from her cage, such as a new toy, as well as trying a different cage cleaner. If those changes don't improve her health within a few days, it's time to look at the larger picture. Move her cage to a different room to see if she improves there, which indicates a problem allergen in the previous room. It may be that the original room has more dust or pollen coming through the windows, and around-the-clock exposure is making your rabbit ill.

You should also discuss any allergies with your veterinarian. At the very least, he should be aware of any allergic reactions your rabbit exhibits; and he may have some excellent suggestions on identifying or alleviating an allergy for your pet.

Fortunately, rabbit allergies are easily treated once pinpointed. It's all a matter of remove and replace - and your rabbit will thank you for it.