Health Remedies for Rabbits
Very few veterinarians are knowledgeable about rabbits. So, if a problem does arise, getting valuable information can be difficult. Never let a veterinarian give your rabbit amoxicillin. This is a pink liquid antibiotic that smells like bubble gum. Amoxicillin is very dangerous for rabbits, and has killed many more rabbits than it has helped. Any penicillin-based drug can also be dangerous for your rabbit, so try to find a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about rabbit-safe antibiotics, and who is familiar with the safer drugs.
Here at Crossroads Rabbitry, we MUST make sure our NZW rabbits remain drug free. The blood and liver of our rabbits are randomly checked by our processor. They require that no medicines be administered to them or be in their system. Our NZW rabbits MUST remain an all natural meat and their blood must be pure. There is, however, plenty of information online in regards to rabbit medicines.
Through the years we have had to discover some all natural ways to help keep our rabbits healthy. We, however, are not vets and are in no way giving medical advice. You should consult with your veterinarian, before giving any home remedies or supplements to your rabbits, that we may list here.
With sufficient and sanitary housing and also with a good quality feed, your rabbits should suffer very few illnesses. Their most common health problems will come from injuries due to fighting and mishandling. There are of course complications at times when does give birth.
There are 2 common disease problems that can occur in rabbits and that is Pasteurella (Snuffles) and Coccidiosis.
SNUFFLES is a common diseases that strikes domestic rabbits. Almost every breeder or long-term rabbit owner has dealt with or is at least familiar with snuffles. This respiratory disease is very contagious. It can affect the eyes, ears, and other organs of a rabbit. If detected early, it can be treated. If left untreated, it will only get worse, usually turning into Pneumonia and becoming chronic or fatal.
The first sign of snuffles is usually runny eyes with wet or tear-stained fur on their cheeks. The discharge from the eyes starts out clear. However, if left untreated, the discharge will become a white and yellow color. The fur around their eyes may also begin to fall out. Other signs of snuffles can vary, but are usually associated with the upper respiratory tract.
The rabbit will initially develop a watery nasal discharge followed by sneezing. The nasal discharge may then become thick and a whitish to yellowish color. If your rabbit is infected, it will often make a loud snuffling or snoring sound due to the fluid and mucous in their nasal tracts. Because rabbits groom their faces with their front paws, infected rabbits will often have discharge and mats on the inside of their forepaws.
The cause of these symptoms is often a chronic bacterial infection in the tear ducts and nasal sinuses. Rabbits with a dental disease are prone to developing snuffles. If the rabbit’s teeth become maloccluded (do not meet), the tooth roots push upwards and can obstruct the tear duct. This blockage can prevent normal drainage of tears through the duct and allow the bacteria to grow. Chances of snuffles are increased in crowded areas with inadequate ventilation, or when the rabbits are very stressed.
Again, snuffles is very contagious and is very difficult to treat, so prevention plays a big role in trying to control and eliminate it. Growers need to take special precautions including strict sanitation and quarantine procedures. Do not allow a rabbit with snuffles to come into contact with any of your other rabbits. Snuffles can be transmitted through secretions on your hands and clothes so be very careful when handling other rabbits. Try to always wash your hands and clothes after handling a rabbit that may be affected.
Rabbits kept in poorly ventilated areas may be more prone to developing snuffles so make sure there is good air flow in your building and avoid overcrowding in your cages. The build-up of fumes from urine, manure or from certain types of wood shavings like cedar may cause irritation to the eyes, and possibly trigger snuffles.
Keep beneath your cages cleaned out on a regular basis. VetRx can be used to help treat snuffles, if it is caught very early on, however, it is generally treated with antibiotics for 14-30 days. Antibiotics commonly used include enrofloxacin (Baytril), ciprofloxacin, and trimethoprim sulfa. These drugs should only be used under strict veterinary guidance.
COCCIDIOSIS is considered to be the most common disease in rabbits and is very hard to cure. Coccidiosis is a worm infection that chickens also get. It is caused by a protozoa, which is a single-celled organism. There are nine species of this protozoa that can affect rabbits; however, only one affect the liver, while the other 8 species affect the intestines.
Although coccidiosis can occur in any rabbit, younger rabbits have a higher risk for this disease. Often, the disease is spread as the eggs from the protozoa are shed in the rabbit feces, which is then transmitted to other rabbits. In order for a rabbit to become infected with the protozoa, the protozoa must be ingested, which then has a life cycle of 4-14 days. After ingested, the stomach acids break down the protozoa and the cells of the intestinal wall are infected as the parasites feed and multiply, causing damage.
Many rabbits with coccidiosis never show any symptoms of having the disease. However, common symptoms of coccidiosis disease are the failure to gain weight, loss of appetite, a rough coat and abdominal pain. Other symptoms may include depression, swollen body and profuse diarrhea. It is common for young rabbits with this disease to have kidney and liver damage and often their feces will contain blood or mucus.
If coccidiosis is discovered, the rabbit should be immediately isolated from any other rabbits and it’s feces needs to be disposed of properly. The cage, feeder and water applicator needs to be cleaned. Try using a 10% strength ammonia. The ammonia solution will eliminate the eggs. After you have cleaned everything, make sure you wash your hands and clothes in order to avoid transmitting the disease.
Treatment for coccidiosis is very difficult. Control rather than a cure should be expected. To prevent coccidiosis, the environment the rabbits are kept in needs to be as hygienic as possible. Cleanliness is very important. This includes cleaning cages daily and ensuring feces do not enter the food or water source. Feces should always be kept out of your cages and away from the rabbits. Prevention also includes proper nutrition, so a high quality feed must be used. Fresh water should also be offered daily to prevent coccidiosis. Currently in the US, there are no vaccines available against coccidiosis.
In our opinion, any rabbit that has either of these 2 diseases should be destroyed immediately and their cages sanitized and sterilized to prevent the rest of your rabbits from contamination. It seems cruel, but you must think of the safety and health of the rest of the herd. It’s the humane thing to do.
When choosing a rabbit for purchase, make sure that it is free of all signs of infection, including a runny nose. If you purchase your stock from a breeder, it is also wise to observe all the rabbits on location and make sure snuffles or coccidiosis is not present.
Naturally, they’re are other illnesses that a rabbit may contract. The first sign of most rabbit illnesses is when your rabbit stops eating. If your rabbit has stopped eating, drinking water, urinating or pooping, take it to a vet ASAP. It should be noted that most rabbit diseases cannot be transmitted to man and most of the time a rabbit culled for disease is perfectly fine to eat.
But again, we are not doctors or veterinarians. Also remember that most diseases are spread by contact either directly with the affected rabbit or with something that comes in contact with the affected rabbit and then a healthy one. It would be good practice to keep your herd totally isolated from all humans and animals other than yourself and perhaps one other worker who does not have contact with any other rabbits.
Steps to prevent diseases:
- Make routine checks on the health of your rabbits: Check their nose, eyelids, ear edges for little crust (mange) and inside their ears for ear mites. Check their droppings; is it dry or pasty? Check their front legs as certain coughs produce a kind of mucus which then makes the front legs dirty. Check their cages for strong smells; diarrhea often causes a dirty smell.
- Keep the building and the cages clean and dry; clean them every day. Clean the cages from any lose hair. If you suspect any disease, disinfect the cages immediately. Clean the floor of the stable once every week with disinfectant.
- Keep any animals (especially cats and dogs) away from their droppings.
- Do not let any of the rabbits droppings come into contact with food and water.
- Separate any rabbits you suspect are sick or becoming ill.
- Clean fresh air in the building is essential, a strong manure smell is not good for them and can cause respiratory problems. If you can the smell the ammonia, the rabbits most definitely can.
BELOW IS A LIST OF COMMON and RARE ILLNESSES THAT A RABBIT MAY GET.
While most rabbit illnesses are not fatal, there are a number of them that can cause death if left untreated. To ensure that your rabbits stay healthy, it’s good to have a list of the common illnesses that your rabbits might face. This will help identify the signs in time if your rabbits do become ill.
ABSCESSES: Abscesses or cyst are pockets of body tissue which have become filled with pus. They are usually a result from untreated wounds from fighting or cage wire. The size of an abscess can range from the size of a marble to a tennis ball. The assistance of a vet may be needed or the abscess can be opened. After trimming the fur and sterilizing the area, open the abscess with a sanitized razor blade. Remove as much of the infection (the white deposit is pus) as you can and then flush with an antiseptic solution. Vetericyn is a great wound and skin care product for rabbits. It is non-toxic, steroid free and antibiotic free.
BACTERIAL INFECTIONS: The first indication of an infection may be a runny nose or eye. Sometimes a high temperature is present and a rattling sound from the lungs or a coughing is heard. Infections are more easily cured when caught in the early stages. It is important to go to your vet as soon as the first symptoms are noticed. The most common bacteria is called Pasteurella, aka snuffles. With the correct antibiotics, this can often be eliminated or controlled.
However, using the wrong antibiotic to treat an infection can waste valuable time and money. If bacteria are not sensitive to the antibiotic, the bacteria will continue to grow and cause illness, or hide in the body to cause later infection; so make sure the correct antibiotic is used. A limited number of antibiotics are safe to use; Trimethoprim sulfa, which interferes with bacterial fol-ate metabolism and Chloramphenicol are effective antibiotics that works on bacterial ribosomes. Another commonly used drug is enrofloxacin (Baytril) but it is expensive. Antibiotics to avoid for rabbits include penicillin, cephalosporins, and clindamycin. These antibiotics will usually kill the bacteria causing infection, but may cause internal problems. A veterinarian’s assistance is highly advised. Also: see PASTEURELLA below.
BLADDER OR CALCIUM STONES: Can occur when the rabbit is not processing calcium through its kidneys correctly. Calcium in a rabbit’s diet is important but too much of it can lead to a build up in the urinary tract and kidneys. This may then form into bladder stones or calcium stones; also called bladder sludge. Bladder stones or sludge may be diagnosed by physical examination, urine analysis or X-rays.
BLOAT: also called Mucoid Enteritis and is a condition where the stomach becomes stretched by excessive gas content, caused by the bacteria in a rabbit’s stomach multiplying excessively as a result of incorrect feeding. This may be because the rabbit has eaten wet green food, grass clippings, leafy vegetation, moldy hay etc. or simply as a result of irregular feeding. It is a diarrheal disease of rabbits that causes inflammation, an abnormally high level of secretions, and a buildup of mucus in the small and large intestines. While the cause is unknown, it may occur at the same time as other intestinal diseases. Factors that may contribute to the disease include recent dietary changes, too much or too little fiber in the diet, antibiotic treatment, environmental stress, and infection with other bacteria. Signs are gelatinous or mucus-covered droppings, loss of appetite, loss of energy, below normal temperature, dehydration, rough coat, and often a bloated abdomen due to excess water in the stomach. Your veterinarian may be able to feel an intestinal blockage. The hind end is often covered with mucus and signs of diarrhea. Diagnosis is based on signs and findings of gelatinous mucus in the colon after death. There is no effective treatment, but intense fluid therapy, an enema to remove the mucus, antibiotics, and pain relievers may be tried. Rabbits may live for about 1 week. Prevention is the same as for any rabbit intestinal disease.
CALICIVIRUS DISEASE: also known as viral hemorrhagic disease, is highly infectious in European rabbits (Oryctolagus). Cottontail rabbits and jackrabbits are not susceptible. Humans and other mammals are also not affected. The calicivirus is highly contagious and can be transmitted by direct contact with infected rabbits or indirectly by inanimate objects. Infection results in a severe feverish disease causing liver damage, inflammation of the intestines, and damage to lymph nodes, followed by a condition in which the blood is unable to coagulate and massive ruptures of blood vessels in multiple organs. Rabbits show few signs and die within 24 hours of fever onset. The infection rate in an affected group is often close to 100% and the death rate is 60 to 90%. Rabbit calicivirus disease was first reported in 1984 in the People’s Republic of China. From there, it spread through the domestic and wild rabbit populations in continental Europe. The first report of the virus in the Western hemisphere was in Mexico City in 1988. Recent outbreaks of rabbit calicivirus disease occurred in Australia (1995), New Zealand (1997), and Cuba (1997). Rabbit calicivirus disease was confirmed in a group of 27 rabbits in Iowa in 2000, in the United States. The source of infection was not determined. The outbreak was contained, the virus eliminated, and the US remains disease free. This is a reportable disease, which means that any veterinarian who identifies it must notify the appropriate governmental authorities.
CONSTIPATION: This occurs when there are hard feces which are difficult for the rabbit to expel. There is a much higher risk of constipation when a rabbit is molting. Rabbits groom and as they ingest hair which passes into their intestinal tract, it sometimes forms blockages. Constipation can generally be prevented by feeding a good grass hay which helps keep the digestive tract running smoothly.
DIARRHEA or Digestive Problems: Diarrhea in rabbits can be fatal. It is caused by sensitivity to certain foods. It often occurs in the young or recently weaned rabbits as they are switching from milk over to feed. Diarrhea is a common killer for juvenile rabbits. Your rabbit may require antibiotics and may need to be taken to your vet immediately. Veterinarians, however, often misdiagnose this problem as being a hair ball. If noticed early, the young may be saved by giving them hay, blackberry leaves, cooked carrots, drywall or willow bark.
EAR MITES: are a common parasite in rabbits. Mites irritate the lining of the ear and cause a watery fluid and thick brown crusts to build up, creating an “ear canker.” Infested rabbits scratch at and shake their head and ears. They lose weight and may develop infections, which can damage the inner ear, reach the central nervous system, and result in torticollis or “wry neck” (a twisting of the neck to one side, resulting in the head being tilted). Your veterinarian will remove the brown crumbly discharge and then treat the affected ear with one of the drugs that are approved for use in dogs and cats. Products containing a substance that breaks down the waxy secretions in the ear are particularly useful in removing the heavy, crusted material. The medication should be applied within the ear and down the side of the head and neck. Ear mite infestations are less likely to occur when rabbits are housed in wire cages than in solid cages. The mite is readily transmitted by direct contact. There are numerous sprays on the market to combat ear mites. Honey mixed with warm water and WD-40 have been used.
E. CUNICULI: (Encephalitozoon Cuniculi) is a parasite or a small protozoan. It lives in the rabbit’s body cells. This parasite is absorbed into the intestines and causes lesions on the kidneys, brain and other areas. It is estimated that over 50% of domestic rabbits carry this parasite but only a small percentage of these go on to develop problems. It can be passed down from a doe to her young or through contact with other infected rabbits, humans and birds. Problems occur when the parasite attacks the rabbit’s nervous system. Panacur (rabbit wormer) can be used as a preventative.
ENTERITIS: is the cause of death in approximately 15 percent of weaning rabbits. This killer is simply an infection of the intestines that occurs through a chain of events possibly from switching from milk over to feed. The most common cause of enteritis is incorrect feeding and also stress. To help prevent enteritis make sure you use a high quality feed and provide hay.
ENTEROTOXEMIA: causes rapidly developing, severe diarrhea, primarily in rabbits 4 to 8 weeks old. It occasionally affects adults and adolescent rabbits. Signs include lack of energy, rough coat, staining around the hind end, and death within 48 hours. Often a rabbit may look healthy in the evening and be dead the next morning. Little is known about how the organism is spread; it is assumed to be an organism that is normally present in low numbers and causes no harm. Diet may be a factor in development of the disease. Enterotoxemia is seen less often when high-fiber diets are fed. When used in rabbits, certain antibiotics—including lincomycin, clindamycin, and erythromycin—seem to cause enterotoxemia and their use should be avoided. Individual treatment for enterotoxemia should include supportive fluid treatment. There is little evidence that antibiotics are helpful. A drug used to treat high cholesterol in humans has been used with promising results, both as a preventive and a treatment. Reducing stress (such as crowding) in young rabbits and unlimited feeding of hay or straw are helpful in prevention. Adding copper sulfate to the diet of young rabbits may help prevent enterotoxemia. Check with your veterinarian regarding this medication.
FLEAS: can affect rabbits and many other animals. Imidacloprid is a drug that kills adult fleas on contact; products containing this drug have been successfully used to treat rabbits infested with fleas. Products containing fipronil should never be used in rabbits. Ask your veterinarian for a treatment recommendation if your rabbit has fleas.
FLY STRIKE: Fly strike is a rare condition which mostly affects rabbits kept in extremely unsanitary conditions and is more likely to occur during summer months. The most susceptible animals are those living in unsanitary housing, older rabbits who do not move much, and those who are unable to clean their bottom areas carefully. Rabbits raised on solid floors are more susceptible than rabbits raised on wire floors.
Fly strike is where flies lay their eggs in the rabbits anal or genital area which in turn hatch into maggots and eat the rabbit alive. To prevent it, clean the rabbits genital area regularly. Treat it with a safe insecticidal disinfectant. Check your rabbits anus and genitals regularly for feces that have become stuck to the fur, as this attracts the flies. Always try to keep your building clean and free of flies. Again, the most dangerous animal in the world is the common housefly. Because of their habit of visiting animal waste, they transmit more disease than any other creature.
FUR MITES: are also common on rabbits. Because these mites live on the surface of the skin and do not burrow into the skin, they do not cause the intense itching seen with sarcoptic mange. Fur mite infestations usually do not cause any signs unless the rabbit becomes weakened due to age, illness, or other stress. The mites may be noticed as “dandruff.” Scraping the dandruff from the skin onto a dark paper or background will demonstrate this and has led to the nickname “walking dandruff” for this condition. Transmission is by direct contact. A diagnosis can be made by looking at skin scrapings under a microscope. Fur mites may cause a mild skin irritation or inflammation in humans. Weekly dusting of animals and bedding with permethrin powder can control these mites. 100% Tea Tree Oil also works for fur or skin problems. Just use 1-2 ounces of the oil mixed with 1 gallon water. Spray on the affected area trying not to get the oil in the rabbits eyes. Be sure to wash your hands. You should notice a difference in just a few days.helps.
GAS: This can lead to ileus if severe and/or left untreated. Gas is caused many times by vegetables given to your rabbit. Signs of gas include glassy eyes, hiding, lethargy, a decrease in appetite or sitting hunched up with eyes half-closed. It can be treated with belly massage and simethicone, if you choose to use medicines. If there’s no improvement after a few hours, take the rabbit to a vet.
GENITAL INFECTION: Pasteurella bacteria often cause genital infections (pasteurellosis), which may also be caused by several other organisms. The typical signs include inflammation of the reproductive tract and are usually seen in adults. Does are more often infected than bucks. If both horns of the uterus are affected, often the doe becomes sterile; if only one horn is involved, a normal litter may develop in the other. The only sign of an infection in the uterus may be a thick, yellowish-gray vaginal discharge. Bucks may discharge pus from the urethra or have an enlarged testicle. Longterm infection of the prostate and seminal vesicles is likely. Because the infection can be passed during breeding, infected animals should not be bred. Surgical removal of the infected reproductive organs along with antibiotic treatment is required for pet rabbits. The contaminated hutch and its equipment should be thoroughly disinfected. Diagnosis of pasteurellosis is based on signs and laboratory tests that detect the bacteria. Nasal swab tests can be performed to identify carriers. Treatment is difficult and may not completely get rid of the organism. Antibiotics seem to provide only temporary remission, and the next stress (such as giving birth to a litter) may cause relapse.
GI STASIS: When rabbits stop eating their digestive system shuts down: this is called ileus or gastro-intestinal stasis. Rabbits in ileus must be treated by an experienced vet. This is very difficult to cure. It is recommended that the rabbit be replaced to prevent suffering.
HAIRBALLS: This is a common factor in many rabbit deaths. Rabbits shed their hair every three months. Rabbits also groom themselves and will ingest all of the loose hair. For this reason, they should be fed fresh hay weekly, as the fiber helps the hair pass through the digestive system. You can also give your rabbit Petromalt or Laxatone once a week when not shedding and then daily during their molt. Providing weekly hay or putting plain meat tenderizer in the rabbit’s drinking water every day during molting will help dissolve the ingested hair. Adding pineapple or papaya to the rabbits diet can also help with digestion.
HEAD TILT / WRYNECK: Head tilts, also known as “wryneck”, are caused by:
- Middle or inner ear infection
- Neurological problem
- Parasite infection
- Head trauma
- Abscess or tumor in the brain
Wryneck can be a slight tilt like a quizzical look or it can be a total tilt with the bunny’s eye on the cage floor. Slight tilts are more likely to be an ear infection and significant tilts are usually from injury, internal parasites or a variety of diseases. Rabbits with an extreme case of wry neck are dizzy, roll and are usually unable to eat properly.
Sometimes they cannot hold their head upright or even stand. Head tilt is very hard to cure. When attempting to treat wryneck, be very careful and handle the rabbit delicately and slow. Fast or quick movement may worsen the condition. To treat middle and inner ear infections, if caught early on, the ears may be flushed with a saline solution to loosen debris and pus and then can be treated with an antibiotic ointment in both ears. They can also be treated with oral or inject-able antibiotics such as Pen B, chloramphenicol, enrofloxacin, and trimethoprim-sulfa for several weeks or months. Treatment can also include Safeguard and Ivomectin (use only 4 drops per pound). Antibiotics must be used with care; the wrong type or dose can be dangerous. A relatively recently “rediscovered” therapy that has proven highly effective in cases of head tilt, jaw abscesses and other infections of the head is treatment with Bicillin, a rabbit-safe combination of injectible Penicillin-G, Procaine and Benzathine. This has been used on rabbits who were deemed terminal and untreatable, and produced miraculous cures. It is something to consider if conventional antibiotic therapies are not effective. My advice to you is to see a veterinarian who may provide the required antibiotics, steroids or surgery.
HEATSTROKE: Most commonly occurs when temperatures are 82° or above. High humidity (over 70%) can also increase the likelihood of heatstroke. Other risk factors include inadequate shade and ventilation, overcrowding, and other forms of stress. Signs of heatstroke include: panting, bright red tongue, slobbering, thick and sticky saliva, depression, weakness, reluctance to move, convulsions.
To predict the possibility of heatstroke, add the value of the temperature (ºF) and the humidity. If the sum is greater than 150, the situation is dangerous. For example, 80ºF plus a 70% humidity = 150, and is a recipe for disaster. To treat for heatstroke: lower the rabbits temperature by wetting his ears, feet, and fur with cool (not cold) water. NOTE: Cooling must take place gradually. Cooling too quickly or allowing his body temperature to become too low can cause other life-threatening medical conditions.
HUTCH BURN: is simply when the vent area gets scabby and dirty. Hutch burn is often confused with Vent disease because many people have never seen the actual lesions, ulcerations, and scabs caused by Vent disease (see information below on Vent disease). Hutch Burn can be cured by using an antibiotic ointment and sterilizing the cage; Vent disease, however, can not.
LISTERIOSIS: is a bacterial infection of the blood characterized by sudden death or abortion, is seen occasionally and is most common in does near the end of pregnancy. Poor husbandry and stress may be important in starting the disease. Signs may include loss of appetite, depression, and weight loss. The bacteria that cause listeriosis, Listeria monocytogenes, spreads by way of the blood to the liver, spleen, and uterus. It can infect many animals, including humans. Because diagnosis is rarely made before death, treatment is seldom attempted. If your pregnant doe becomes listless, loses weight, or seems depressed, you should contact your veterinarian promptly.
KETOSIS: This disease is more common in first-litter does and is a rare disorder that may result in death of does at or 1-2 days before kindling. Lactating does may appear dull and listless and may have diarrhea. It is the result of excessive fat and lack of exercise. Other signs are dullness of eyes, sluggishness, respiratory distress, prostration, and death. There is no satisfactory cure but it can be prevented by proper feeding or restricting feed, if necessary, to prevent excessive fattening. Injection of fluids that contain glucose have been known to help in correcting the disease.
MALOCCLUSION: Also referred to as “buck” teeth or “wolf” teeth, is a dental disease. Malocclusion is where the teeth do not align correctly resulting in such ailments as overgrowth of teeth or sharp spurs on the molars, and curling of the incisors. If teeth with malocclusion are allowed to grow, the rabbit loses its ability to eat, or to eat with comfort. Malocclusion is caused by three possible factors: genetic/heredity, facial trauma, or bacterial infections.
If left untreated malocclusion can cause the teeth to curl; result in biting of the lips, cheeks, tongue, and gums. Most growers choose to cull the rabbit. Treatment may involve removal of the incisors in certain cases. Filing, trimming, clipping or grinding down the teeth is another option that is sometimes performed. The quickest method of getting the majority of excess teeth clipped is to use wire cutters or nail clippers. With a quick motion, clip the scissor-like tool together and the teeth will snap off; make sure the rabbit’s tongue is out of the way. This will give you a rough cut and filing the teeth may be required. Use a fine metal file or use a Dremel tool with a sanding disc to smooth out the edges.
MANGE MITES: Also known as Cheyletiella Parastovorax or “walking dandruff” is caused by contagious, parasitic mites, which burrow into the skin and ears of the rabbit and then lay their eggs. Mites may spread rapidly from rabbit to rabbit in severely over-crowded conditions. For treatment give your rabbit Ivermectin orally or you may use Revolution that is applied on the back of your rabbit’s neck. Infestations of ear mites can cause severe damage to the ear canals of rabbits if left untreated. They generally do not cause significant disease but do cause skin irritation, usually along the back of the rabbit. Infested rabbits may have slight hair loss, scales (dandruff), itching and possibly some thickening of the skin. Be sure to use an insecticide approved by a vet. Rabbits should NOT be treated with Permethrin or Fipronil. Dips in lime sulfur and injections of ivermectin have been used to treat an infestation with these mites. Mites can live for several days and spread from one rabbit to another, so the entire environment needs to be cleaned and cleared of mites as well. VetRx Rabbit Remedy can also help with ear mites and ear cankers.
MASTITIS: Lactating does (usually on commercial farms) are highly susceptible to Mastitis. This is an extremely painful condition affecting the mammary glands. It is usually caused by poor hygiene or surroundings. Bacteria enters and infects the teats which become red, hot, sore, swollen and full of pus. Treatment consists of bathing the affected parts with warm water containing an antiseptic. Antibiotics may need to be used to cure but veterinary advice is advised.
MYXOMATOSIS: is a viral infection of rabbits. It is usually transmitted by insects and is usually fatal. Blood-sucking insects, including mosquitoes, fleas, lice, ticks, and mites, are the main method of spread. This is a terrible disease related to eye problems that may lead to blindness or death. Symptoms include a swollen head, crusty eyes with discharge, and general signs of depression. It’s almost impossible to treat here in the US. In the UK, rabbits are vaccinated for it. A vaccine has been developed (an attenuated modified-live virus) against myxomatosis, but is not available in the US. Replacing the animal is recommended to prevent suffering.
OVARIAN CANCER: Many female rabbits may contract ovarian cancer. Does older than 4 years are at higher risk. The doe may be taken to a vet but replacing is also recommended to prevent suffering.
PAPILLOMAS: Two types of infectious benign tumors, known as papillomas, occur infrequently in domestic rabbits. Papillomas in the mouth, caused by the rabbit oral papillomavirus, consist of warts or small, grayish white, lumps attached by a narrow stalk on the bottom of the tongue or on the floor of the mouth. The second type, caused by the cottontail (Shope) papillomavirus, is characterized by horny warts on the neck, shoulders, ears, or abdomen and is primarily a natural disease of cottontail rabbits. Insects and ticks transmit the virus; therefore, insect control could be used as means of disease prevention. The oral papillomavirus is distinct from the Shope papillomavirus (which is also distinct from the Shope fibroma virus). Skin tumors caused by the Shope papillomavirus never occur in the mouth. Neither type of papillomatosis is treated, and the condition usually goes away on its own.
PARASITES: Rabbits are intermediate hosts for two tapeworms of the dog and the cat. Dogs and cats should never be allowed near the rabbits’ feed, water and bedding as they may transmit tapeworm eggs in their feces. Dogs and cats should never be allowed to eat the intestines of rabbits because they may become infected and continue the cycle of infection.
PASTEURELLA: One of the most common disease in pet rabbits is an upper respiratory infection caused by a bacteria called Pasteurella multocida (Snuffles). Pasteurella is usually spread by mating, through general contact (especially resiratory), or through wounds from fighting. It is easily transmitted from one rabbit to another by sneezing and coughing, but can also cause abscesses to develop in the skin and especially in the face area.
Symptoms that lead to the laymen’s name for this disease, snuffles:
- Cold-like symptoms
- Nasal discharge or runny nose
- Yellow paws (from wiping nose and eyes)
- Facial fur missing
- Sneezing, congestion, and conjunctivitis.
- Head Tilt aka “Wryneck”
- Clogged tear ducts causing excess tearing
This disease very often becomes chronic and is very difficult to cure even with aggressive antibiotic therapy. VetRx Rabbit Remedy can help with snuffles and pneumonia if caught in time and early on. The used antibiotics usually must be given for weeks or months and prescribed by a experienced vetrinarian. Replacing or culling the rabbit may be the correct or humane thing to do. This prevents any suffering or the chance of the infection spreading to other rabbits.
Minimizing stress, heat and overcrowding can help in preventing Pasteurella. A clean enviroment, fresh water and proper diet also helps minimize the chance of this infection occuring. Also: see BACTERIAL INFECTIONS above.
PINWORMS: are small intestinal worms and generally do not result in significant health issues. Pinworms may cause moderate to severe itching, skin inflammation, and redness, especially in the genital and anal areas. Rabbits with this infection will also have poor reproductive performance. Transmission is through the ingestion of infected feces; when eggs are passed in the feces and ingested by the same or other rabbits in the environment. It may also spread through contamination of the environment and water. To get rid of the worms you can use Revolution or Ivermectin which can be gotten at most feed stores. You have to be careful when using it as it is designed for larger animals.
PNEUMONIA: is common in domestic rabbits. The cause is typically Pasteurella bacteria, but other bacteria may be involved. The infection causes inflammation of the lungs and of the membrane surrounding the lungs, accumulation of fluid in the lungs and chest, and ruptured blood vessels of the sac around the heart. Upper respiratory disease (rhinitis or snuffles, see above) often occurs before pneumonia. Inadequate ventilation, poor sanitation, and dirty nesting material are contributing causes. Affected rabbits lack appetite and energy, and may cough and have difficulty breathing or a fever. Rabbits usually die within 1 week after signs appear. Diagnosis depends on signs, physical changes, and laboratory test results. Antibiotic treatment often fails because the pneumonia is advanced before it is detected.
POISON: Rabbits are unable to vomit, so when something bad is eaten, it has to work its way through their entire system. Take the rabbit to a vet immediately or you might try vitamin E. Snip the top off of one gel capsule and squirt it into the rabbit’s mouth. This can sometimes help remove toxins or poisons from the rabbit’s body but a vets care is still advised.
PROLOFERATIVE ENTEROPATHY: caused by Lawsonia intracellularis bacteria, may cause diarrhea in recently weaned rabbits. Signs include diarrhea, depression, and dehydration, which go away within 1 to 2 weeks. This disease does not cause death unless it occurs together with infection by another organism that causes intestinal disease. Isolation of sick animals and treatment of signs is advised. Rabbits are unable to vomit, so when something bad is eaten, it has to work its way through their entire system. Take the rabbit to a vet immediately or you might try vitamin E. Snip the top off of one gel capsule and squirt it into the rabbit’s mouth. This can sometimes help remove toxins or poisons from the rabbit’s body but a vets care is still advised.
RHINITIS: (snuffles or stuffy, runny nose) is inflammation of the mucous membranes of the air passages and lungs and can be short or long-lasting. Pasteurella bacteria are the usual culprits, but other bacteria may cause it as well. The initial sign is a thin, watery discharge from the nose and eyes. The discharge later becomes pus-filled. The fur on the inside of the front legs just above the paws may be matted and caked with dried discharge or this area may be clean with thinned fur as a result of pawing at the nose. Infected rabbits usually sneeze and cough. In general, rhinitis occurs when the resistance of the rabbit is low. Recovered rabbits are likely carriers.
RINGWORM: Ringworm is a fungal infection that is common in rabbits. Affected animals develop raised, reddened, circular sores that are capped with white, bran-like, flaky material. The sores generally appear first on the head and then spread to other areas of the skin. Ringworm is generally associated with poor sanitation, poor nutrition, and other environmental stressors. The cause is most commonly the fungusTrichophyton mentagrophytes and occasionally Microsporum canis. Transmission is by direct contact. Objects such as hair brushes, which are often overlooked during disinfection, can play a significant role in spreading infection. Carriers without signs are very common. Your veterinarian can do tests to confirm the diagnosis. Because infected rabbits can spread the disease to humans and other animals, they should be isolated and treated. Owners of infected rabbits should avoid close contact with their pets and use disposable gloves, followed by thorough hand and arm washing when handling infected rabbits, cleaning cages and equipment, or disposing of waste materials. Antifungal drugs are usually effective in treating ringworm. Antifungal creams applied to the skin also may be effective. You must carefully follow your veterinarian’s treatment program to control this infection.
ROTAVIRUS: causes diarrhea in rabbits. It is shed in the droppings of infected rabbits and, therefore, is probably transmitted by the droppings-mouth route. Young rabbits of weaning age are most susceptible. Rotavirus appears to be only mildly disease-causing on its own, but most rotavirus infections are complicated with disease-causing bacteria such as Clostridium or Escherichia coli. The mixed infection results in a much more deadly syndrome. There is no treatment, but the infection appears to be self-limiting if susceptible rabbits are not continually introduced into the population. Stopping breeding for 4 to 6 weeks seems to allow the disease to run its course, because infected does do not infect their offspring.
ROUNDWORMS: such as Baylisascaris procyonis, have been reported in rabbits. Signs may include ear infection or “wry neck.” No effective treatment is available.
SHOPE FIBROMAS: is a type of benign tumor, are found under natural conditions only in cottontails, although domestic rabbits can be infected by virus-containing material. Fibromas may be found in domestic rabbits in areas where these tumors occur in wild rabbits and where husbandry practices allow contact with insects and ticks that transmit diseases.
SORE HOCKS: also referred to as “bumblefoot” or Pododermatitis, is an infected ulceration of the foot pad. It is often caused by prolonged pressure of the rabbit’s feet against the cage floor. It usually affects the bottom of the hind feet and hocks (the lower part of the back leg that touches the ground when the animal is sitting). Sore Hocks can be prevented by providing floor mats, resting boards or ceramic tiles so that your rabbits have a comfortable place to sit or rest. Treatment can include antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications. Ointments, such as Neosporin or Preparation H also work well.
SPLAY LEG: This is usually caused by housing conditions in intensive rabbit farms. It is caused by the kits inability to gain traction on the cage bottom. Some experts, however, believe that the condition is congenital (possibly due to genetics resulting in weak connective tissue). Regardless, avoid using surfaces that are slick in your nest boxes.
SPINAL TRAUMA: The bones in a rabbit’s body are very delicate, especially the spine. If a rabbit is held wrong or squirms when held, damage is possible. Many rabbits have been known to injure or even break their own back by jumping too hard or fast when alarmed. You should try to be very careful with a panicked and struggling rabbit.
TAPEWORM: tapeworm infections are rare in domestic rabbits, however, finding tapeworm larvae in rabbits is common. Rabbits serve as the intermediate hosts for 2 species of tapeworms found in dogs. Generally, there are no signs. Treatment is usually not attempted, but control is accomplished by restricting access of dogs (the final host of the tapeworm) to the area in which food and nesting material are stored.
TYZZER’S DISEASE: Tyzzer’s disease is usually a fatal disease that is seen in young rabbits, most often recently weaned rabbits. The disease was named after Ernest Tyzzer in 1917. When an outbreak occurs in a group of rabbits, less than 10 percent may survive and death can occur within days of being infected. Tyzzer’s disease is caused by the bacteria Clostridium Piliforme. It is believed that the bacterium is spread when a rabbit consumes contaminated fecal matter.
The disease is most often seen in young rabbits that are are kept in unsanitary living conditions or stressed by overcrowding, poor hygiene, extreme environmental temperatures and humidity, or malnutrition. Rabbit’s with Tyzzer’s disease often have watery diarrhea, staining around the anal area, depression, dehydration, lethargy, and scruffy hair coats. Treating Tyzzer’s disease in rabbits is seldom successful. Since rabbits typically have adverse reactions to many antibiotics, the treatments available for other animals cannot be used for rabbits. In rare cases, the antibiotic oxytetracycline has shown to be effective. If an outbreak of any disease should occur, the environment will need to be thoroughly sanitized with bleach and water. Bedding and any accessories that cannot be sanitized properly should be disposed of, preferably by burning.
VENT DISEASE: is a venereal disease and also known as rabbit syphilis. It is caused by the bacteria (Treponema cuniculi) and will most often result in ulcerations and crusty scab like conditions near the anus, vulva and entire genital area. Vent disease is a highly contagious organism and can be spread either by direct contact and during breeding. If not treated, the rabbit will spread the condition to its mouth, nose and eyes while cleaning itself.
Any rabbit showing signs of vent disease should be removed from your breeding program until they have been properly medicated. Isolate the rabbit, remove scabs and apply antibiotic ointment daily. Ointments may relieve the area of its soreness but will not rid the rabbit of this disease. It is said that Vent disease can be effectively treated using Pen BP-48, which is a combination of Procaine Penicillin G and Penicillin G Benzathine.
VIRAL HEMORRHAGIC DISEASE: VHD is highly contagious, hardy, and deadly. There are very few early symptoms for this deadly disease. You usually just discover your rabbit dead in its cage one morning. Although it does not infect humans or other animals, it moves swiftly among rabbits with deadly results. VHD is an infectious viral disease that attacks the internal organs of rabbits, particularly the liver.
Most rabbits infected by VHD typically die within the following 24 hours, due to massive hemorrhaging of one or more internal organs. Sanitation and disinfection are imperative to halting or limiting the spread of VHD. It’s almost impossible to treat here in the US. In the UK, rabbits are vaccinated against VHD. If you do witness unexplained and suspicious rabbit deaths (especially in groups of rabbits in a short period of time), notify your veterinarian immediately.
WEEPY EYE: also known as sore eyes is similar to what we call conjunctivitis or pink eye in humans. Infected rabbits will have watery, milky discharge around the eyes; usually due to a vitamin A deficiency, infection or injury. It may also be caused by bacteria. Remove the rabbit as it is contagious. It can sometimes be treated with Terramycin Opthamolic Ointment.
You might also try washing the eyes with warm boric acid solution and then use an antibiotic ointment of 5 percent sulfathiazole. Many breeders will use herbal remedies to correct weepy eye. Some of these remedies include agrimony, chamomile, eyebright, meadowsweet or walnut leaves. Occasionally salt water solutions used as an eyewash have been successful. NFZ Puffer can also be used for eye infections and works well, however, Federal law prohibits the use of it in food producing rabbits, so avoid using it unless a pet.
WET DEWLAP: Female rabbits have a heavy fold of skin on the front of the neck called a dewlap. As the rabbit drinks, this skin may become wet and soggy, which leads to inflammation. Possible causes include open water crocks and damp bedding. Dental malocclusion that causes excessive salivation can also be a cause. The hair may fall out, and the area may become infected or infested with fly larvae (maggots). The area often turns green if infected with Pseudomonas bacteria. If the area becomes infected, the hair should be clipped and antiseptic dusting powder applied. In severe cases, antibiotics injected by a veterinarian may be necessary. Automatic watering systems with drinking valves generally prevent wet dewlaps. If open water receptacles are used, they should have small openings or be elevated.
NOTE: The authors and operators at Crossroads Rabbitry are not veterinarians. We are not qualified to give official veterinary advice. The above information is drawn from our experiences and research, but is not guaranteed. Please consult a qualified veterinarian before performing any medical treatment on your rabbits.
PLEASE NOTE: In order for us to provide healthy and disease free New Zealand White rabbits, we maintain a CLOSED RABBITRY. Potential buyers will, however, be able to view enough of the building’s interior to observe the rabbits and the conditions they live under. We’re sorry, but no outside rabbits, dogs or cats may be brought onto the property. Thank you for understanding.
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