Flea species that can naturally infest rabbits include the rabbit flea (Spilopsyllus cuniculi), the common Eastern rabbit flea (Cediopsylla simplex), the giant Eastern rabbit flea (Odontopsyllus multispinosus), and the sticktight flea (Echidnophaga gallinacea). Infestations are typically found around the face and ears. This flea is a carrier of myxomatosis.
The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) and the dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis) can also affect rabbits if they live with dogs or cats or live in an infested premises; however, the rabbit is not a natural host to these parasites. Dog and cat fleas are usually found along the body and around the base of the tail.
- Itchy flaky skin or ears with constant scratching and biting.
- Small dark spots on the skin indicative of flea feces. Placing a drop of water on one of these spots will result in the dissolving to a red or brown coloration.
Some rabbits may be asymptomatic.
If you have more than one type of animal in your household, try treating them first with oral or topical medications and use the flea comb approach with your rabbits. Usually, once you have eliminated the fleas on your other animals, your rabbit’s problem will go away as well.
Be sure to treat your home environment and the pet's living quarters while also treating your pets. This will help to eliminate the fleas faster and decrease their chances of survival or of eventually feeding off of you.
There are a variety of flea medications, but only a few can be safely used on rabbits. The exact dosage will vary based on the weight of your pet and the type of medication you choose. Consult with a veterinarian to determine the appropriate treatment option and dosage for your rabbit. Be sure to check whether a physical or digital prescription is needed in order to obtain the recommended medication for your rabbit. Pharmacies and pet stores, including those online, will not allow you to purchase certain medications without receiving a physical or digital copy of your pet's prescription from the vet.
Never use multiple flea and tick medications on your pet at the same time. A mixture of different chemicals can make a pet seriously ill, cause permanent damage, and even result in death.
- selamectin: Revolution® (US), Paradyne® (US-VCA), or Stronghold® (Europe) - Pfizer, 18 mg/kg. A single topical (local) dose can be repeated once a week as necessary. Revolution kills adult fleas and prevents eggs from hatching by entering the bloodstream and spreading to sebaceous glands found below the skin's surface. It is also effective against several types of mites and ticks.
- imidacloprid: Advantage® - Bayer, one single kitten dose application is generally sufficient to remove the fleas. If this is not the case, the treatment can be repeated once a week as necessary. The vapors of this product can lead to irritation of the eyes; it is thus recommended to aerate the room in which the rabbit lives. Advantage works by spreading through the surface of the skin through the hair root level upon application and impairs the flea's nervous system. There have been some deaths reported, but they have not been directly attributed to Advantage. Advantage should not be used for very young (<6 months), elderly (6+ years), or compromised rabbits. Note: The original Advantage was discontinued by Bayer (in the USA) in 2011. It is still sold in many other parts of the world.
- lufenuron: Program® - Novartis, 10 mg/kg. One sole treatment should be sufficient. If not, the treatment can be repeated after 30 days. Program® is an oral chitin inhibitor that prevents new eggs from hatching; however, it does not affect adult fleas, so other treatments will be needed to control severe infestations. Note: Program (suspension for cats) was discontinued in early 2012 when Novartis Animal Health closed its plant in Nebraska (USA). Old stock is still being sold in some countries.
Advantage® was reformulated and is now labeled as Advantage II®. This new formulation contains treatments for other parasites in addition to fleas. Although it is still generally safe for rabbits, some rabbits have shown more sensitivity to this new formula. On the other hand, Revolution®, which is available only by prescription, treats both fleas and mites safely.
The original Advantage formula only contained imidacloprid. Imidacloprid kills adult fleas and has some effect on flea larvae, but it does not kill flea eggs. Advantage II is infused with the insect growth regulating chemical called pyriproxyfen. Pyriproxyfen artificially maintains elevated levels of the juvenile growth hormone in flea eggs, which prevents the eggs from hatching.
Topical flea medications such as selamectin and imidacloprid are typically applied to the back of the neck or between the shoulder blades of an animal where it cannot be easily groomed off. Be sure to separate the fur at the chosen location and apply the medication directly to the skin surface at that one spot. If you have two or more rabbits, keep the rabbits separated for 12 hours to prevent ingestion by the other until the medication dries.
Natural and non-chemical treatments
Many flea and tick medications are effective at eliminating and reducing flea infestations but use harsh, and sometimes dangerous, chemicals to do so. For mild to moderate flea infestations, there are some natural treatment options that can be effective when used properly. It is important to note that "natural" treatments do not necessarily mean chemical free or non-toxic to your pets.
A flea comb is a non-toxic device that combs out fleas and eggs. This option is feasible for non-severe infestations. The House Rabbit Society claims that most rabbits learn to love the attention of being flea combed.
To use a flea comb, a thorough combing should be given daily. Kill the fleas by dipping the comb in hot-warm soapy water or alcohol immediately after each stroke, and rinse the comb out before continuing with the next stroke. (You do not want to potentially burn your rabbit's skin from the comb's hot temperature after being dipped into the water. Be sure to rinse or dip the comb in cool water and quickly wipe excess water off before running it through your rabbit's fur for the next stroke.)
Here are some substances that have been found to act as natural flea repellents:
- Bay leaf - powder can be combed through rabbit's coat.
- Rosemary - powder can be combed through rabbit's coat.
- Sage - powder can be combed through rabbit's coat.
- Treating your home environment and the rabbit's living quarters is just as important as treating your pet rabbit. The most effective way to eliminate fleas in your home is to treat both your pet and your home environment simultaneously.
- Vacuum every day until you consistently see no more signs of fleas. (Stay persistent, as eggs in carpeting, fabrics, and other areas may continue to hatch.) Be sure to vacuum carpeted areas, floors, cracks along the wall and in hard floors, the pet's living quarters, furniture, any other non-washable fabrics or items.
- Empty the vacuum bag/container into a garbage bag outside as soon as you finish vacuuming (on the balcony or outside your apartment to prevent any escaping fleas from reentering your home.)
- Good way to check for fleas is to walk around with knee-high white socks. Fleas are attracted to bright/lighter colored fluffy things. By wearing white knee-high socks, the chances of them jumping on you is high. By doing so, you can see how many there are left and often times you're just a walking trap for them.
- Wash your curtains and any other pet bedding that can be washed. Do so with hot water and laundry detergent. Some people have used a mix of borax and hot water. Others have used lemon juice and vinegar.
- Wash your clothes daily with hot water and laundry detergent if the clothes are suitable to be washed with hot water.
- Keep the environment dry. Flea flourishes in hot and humid environments. It doesn't hurt to keep a dehumidifier in extra humid rooms or locations.
- Diatomaceous earth is one of the best organic substances that safe for human and pets. Diatomaceous earth (short as DE) is good for pests with an exoskeleton. What this substance does is it cuts into the bugs exoskeleton and cause them to "bleed" and dehydrate to death. Recommended use for flea infestation is to remove access of the infested area from your rabbits, spread DE around the carpets and the edge and creases of your homes for a few days, and then vacuum the earth up. Repeat as necessary.  Be sure to wear a mask when applying and to use food-grade diatomaceous earth as it has less than 1% crystalline diatomaceous earth. Make sure to vacuum very well before allowing your rabbit back in the area where the DE was applied. Crystalline silica can accumulate in lung tissue and lymph nodes when breathed in, and it is impossible to remove from the lungs.
- Boric acid, also known as borax and sodium polyborate, is a natural environmental treatment usable in carpets that kills fleas and dries out their eggs. It is safe for both rabbits and owners. Fleabusters is one product that has been reported to very effective. 
- Fenoxycarb is a rabbit-safe insect growth regulator in the form of a synthetic hormone.
- Common table salt can also be used in your carpets to dry out flea eggs and larvae, similar to the effect on slugs and snails. Salt should be reapplied after vacuuming.
- Murphy’s Oil Soap, a natural, vegetable-based soap with a pleasant fragrance is a flea repellent usable on linoleum and other washable surfaces. 
- fipronil (Frontline® or Sentry® FIPROGUARD): Kathy Smith writes,
While successful treatment with fipronil has been reported, its use is no longer recommended for rabbits due to multiple anecdotal reports of fatal poisoning among small or young rabbits.  Rabbits can exhibit signs or anorexia and lethargy, with or without seizures, or death within 24 hours. Seizures may also not be seen until 3-9 days after exposure. Death may not occur for a week or two after exposure.
Several rabbits died or experienced seizures after receiving treatment with Frontline. Although the active ingredient is not supposed to cross into the central nervous system of mammals, the number of rabbit deaths reported suggests that this is not true for rabbits.
In the event of known application, rabbits should be treated for topical skin exposure with a warm water bath with shampoo and activated charcoal if ingested. Supportive care includes fluid therapy and force feeding. If seizures are seen, Valium or midazolam may be appropriate.
The following are some additional resources on fiprinol poisoning in rabbits:
- Laura Stern. (2015). Fipronil toxicosis in rabbits
- ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Fipronil Intoxication in Rabbits
- vgr1.com. (2019). Any product that uses Fipronil such as Frontline® (Original, Plus, Top Spot, or Gold) can kill your rabbit!!
- Sentinal®: Kathy Smith writes,
Some veterinarians have switched from Program to Sentinal for dogs. Sentinal has the same active ingredient as Program, along with a heart-worm preventative for dogs and should not be used on rabbits.
- flea collars: Impregnated anti-flea collars lead to severe irritation and burning of the skin. There are reported cases where the rabbit attempted to remove its collar, and died as a result of jamming its jaw in the collar. Additionally, flea collars have dosages appropriate for much larger animals than rabbits.
- pyrethrin-based flea products: This includes pyrethrin-based flea baths, powders, and dips. While pyrethrin is a natural product derived from chrysanthemums, toxic effects have been reported following application of high concentrations of these products (sprays or spot-ons) on rabbits. Also, baths and dips will involve your rabbit getting wet, and rabbits and water are not a good mix as established in our Bathing article.
A few stories about rabbits receiving toxic medications for flea treatment:
- u/Inside_Lettuce_2545. (2022). Rabbits were self-treated with Frontline, which caused seizures and loss of appetite
- Houston Rabbit Resource. (2022). Rabbit was given a Frontline application from a well-meaning rescuer (RIP)
- u/CadTV. (2021). Please Help, sick bunny
- East Coast Rabbit Rescue. (2021). Marshmellow's story - owner applied Frontline, which caused severe seizures that resulted in a broken leg
- East Coast Rabbit Rescue. (2020). Paquito's story - owner applied Frontline on both dog and rabbit (RIP)
- u/bruski. (2016). Dear God. Please be careful in the flea medicine you give your bun. Please don't make the same mistake as I did. (will post periodic updates)
- Misivet. (2014). Video of a rabbit having convulsions after a fiprinol-based product application
- Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group. (2013). Mabel's story (RIP)
- Spazydoo. (2012). Frontline = very bad idea
- House Rabbit Society. Grooming (Search for "Fleas and Mites")
- Sacramento House Rabbit Society. (2016). Fleas on Rabbits
- PetMD. Fleas Infecting the Body in Rabbits
- Kathy Smith. (2003). Fleas [PDF]
- Esther van Praag. Fleas and Rabbits
- David Eshar, DVM, DABVP (ECM), DECZM (SM & ZHM). (2019). Ectoparasites in Rabbits. Retrieved 19 Apr 2022 from https://cdn.brief.vet/web-files/DE/CB+Canadian+April+2019+Digital+Edition.pdf
- Varga, M. (2013). Textbook of rabbit medicine. (2nd ed.).
- PiedPiper Northern Limited. (2002). Spilopsyllus cuniculi (The Rabbit Flea). Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from http://www.the-piedpiper.co.uk/th5c.htm
- Bunny Lovers Unite. (2010). ***Jojo's guide to external parasites: fleas, ticks, mites, lice etc***. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from http://www.flickr.com/groups/bunnyloversunite/discuss/72157624352332773/
- Smith, K. (2003). Fleas. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from https://web.archive.org/web/20081120155120/http://www.lagomorphs.com/fleas.pdf
- van Praag, E. (n.d.). Fleas and Rabbits. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from http://www.medirabbit.com/EN/Skin_diseases/Parasitic/fleas/Fleas.htm
- Vet.com. (2009). Revolution. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from http://www.vet.com/dog_flea_meds/revolution.html
- Pet Shed. (n.d.). Advantage Flea Control for Dogs and Cats. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from http://www.petshed.com/petcyclopedia/about-advantage-flea-treatment.html
- Sacramento House Rabbit Society. (2016). Fleas on Rabbits. Retrieved 11 Oct 2016 from http://www.allearssac.org/fleas.html
- Flea Bites 101. (2013). Advantage vs. Advantage II: What is the difference? Retrieved 12 Oct 2016 from http://fleabites101.com/advantage-vs-advantage-ii-difference/
- Jeffrey R. Jenkins. (n.d.). Alert on Topical Flea Products. Retrieved 04 Feb 2020 from https://rabbit.org/health/frontline.html
- House Rabbit Society. (n.d.). Grooming. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from http://rabbit.org/faq-grooming/
- San Diego House Rabbit Society. (2010). Warning About Flea Medication. Retrieved 2 Feb 2017 from http://thebnn.org/2010/06/22/warning-about-flea-medication/
- Silverstein, B. (2009). Diatomaceous Earth: A miracle cure for flea control? Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from http://www.fleacontrolbook.com/naturalfleacontrol/diatomaceous-earth-the-a-miracle-cure-for-flea-control/
- National Pesticide Information Center. (2013). Diatomaceous Earth. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/degen.html
- Wildpro. (n.d.). Fipronil Toxicity in Rabbits. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from http://wildpro.twycrosszoo.org/S/00dis/toxic/FipronilToxicityRabbits.htm
- Ned Gentz. (2019). Frontline Is Toxic to Rabbits. Retrieved 04 Feb 2020 from https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&catId=102924&id=7163827
- Wildpro. (n.d.). Permethrin and Pyrethrin Toxicity in Rabbits. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017 from http://wildpro.twycrosszoo.org/S/00dis/toxic/PermethrinPyrethrinToxRabbits.htm