Rabbit Diseases

Rabbit Care Guide ~ Diet ~ Health ~ Vet Advice ~ Rabbit Diseases

Myxomatosis

Rabbits suffer all manner of viral or bacterial related diseases and illnesses which can be quite worrying and rather frightening when you just don't know what might be wrong with them.

For a more detailed look at all aspects of bunny health, diet, environment, companionship & longevity check out the revolutionary iRabbit READY System by Kerry Greener of Just Rabbits Limited

However, if you are following the Daily & Monthly Health Checks you should be able to find any symptoms early and prevent some of the rabbit diseases, illnesses and injuries that are listed below.

Know Your Bun
All rabbits hide their illnesses very well. It's a survival trait they have learned from their wild ancestors. The weakest are always 'picked off' first, so showing no sign of weakness saves lives.

However, domesticated rabbits, while still remaining a blank canvas when it comes to sickness, do have personalities of their own. As their owner, you will have come to recognise when something is not quite right.

Keeping a watchful eye on your rabbits on a daily basis is the best form of preventive 'medicine' you can give. If your bunnies begin 'doing' something or 'not doing' something as part of their routine, then would be the time to act.


Use this Rabbit Diseases - Quick Symptom Check Chart to help you decide the best course of action if you think you may have sick bunny on your hands.

Or continue reading for the full comprehensive guide to rabbit diseases...

Common & Uncommon
You may be tempted to glance at this list and think, oh my, those poor rabbits, what a lot of problems they will encounter! But most of the diseases listed here are not really very common and some are actually quite rare.

However, just in case, I have listed some of the commonly known ones as well as some of the rare rabbit diseases, with an overview of symptoms and causes on each. I have also listed any possible treatments that are available plus care & prevention advice to help you look after your rabbits at home, saving you from costly vet bills (in some cases). For example, red coloured urine, while alarming for us, is completely normal for rabbits, unless it is blood of course and not just food related dye. Hopefully the descriptions below will help you understand the differences in severity of many rabbit related ailments and give you the advice to act accordingly.

The Good News
Fortunately most illnesses and rabbit diseases can be prevented simply by taking good care of your rabbit -

  • vaccinate your rabbit against VHD and myxomatosis.
  • neuter your bucks and spay your does.
  • feed them the correct hay based diet.
  • keep their living quarters clean.

Simples!

If you are new to keeping rabbits (and even if you're an old pro for that matter), this comprehensive dictionary-styled list, will be very useful on your quest for learning about rabbit diseases.

Rabbit Diseases, Illnesses & Injuries Guide

Click the letters below to find the name of your rabbit's problem or concern.
Then you can expand the text for detailed symptoms, causes and treatments.
There is also care, treatment and prevention advice for each rabbit disease or illness.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S T U V W

If I have missed anything and you would like me to include it, please let me know via the contact me page.

Rabbit Diseases & Illnesses
Overview, Symptoms, Cause, Treatments, Care & Prevention
A
Rabbit Diseases starting with A

Abscess

An abscess is a cavity containing pus surrounded by a capsule of thickened, inflamed tissue.

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Symptoms
  • A hard swelling or isolated collection of pus or purulent matter occurring in the rabbit's skin.
  • Accompanied by localized fever and heat.

Causes
Usually an abscess is the result of a bacterial infection. The pus is an accumulation of dead cells from the battle to fight the infection. In humans, skin abscesses are often caused by Staphylococcus infections, but in rabbits, they can be caused by aerobic bacteria (those that require oxygen to survive) including Pasteurella multocida, Streptococcus, Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus, and a host of anaerobic bacteria (those that do not require oxygen to survive).

Rabbits can form abscesses in nearly any organ of the body as well as in skin, tooth roots and bone. The most common causes of rabbit abscesses are infections in tooth roots, tear ducts and bite wounds. Most facial abscesses are the result of dental disease. Tear duct abscesses can be the result of an elongated upper incisor tooth root blocking the tear duct. The accumulated fluid in the tear duct is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and an abscess can form easily. Abscesses that form internally can be more difficult to diagnose or manage and include areas such as the uterus, lungs, heart, liver, abdominal fat, intestine and kidneys.

Treatment
Rabbit abscesses can be challenging to treat. One problem is that the pus found in rabbit abscesses is thick, about the consistency of toothpaste, and does not drain easily when the abscess is opened. The reason for the thick consistency is that there is an enzyme missing that is in other mammals, such as dogs, cats and humans that can break the dead cells into a more liquid form. In addition, rabbit abscesses often develop finger-like projections or tracts into the surrounding tissue where new abscesses can form. If these tracts are not removed or thoroughly cleaned, the abscess will return.

There are many thoughts on how to treat rabbit abscesses and much depends on the location of the infection, the cause of the infection and the general condition of the bunny. It should be stressed, however, that no matter what treatment is chosen, it is vital to provide your pet with a healthy diet, daily exercise and a clean environment to enable the immune system to function at full capacity. It will often be necessary to perform diagnostic tests to investigate the cause of the abscess and to determine if other rabbit disease is present. These tests might include bacterial culture of the wall of the abscess (culturing the pus itself is not useful), x-rays and/or ultrasound to determine the location and extent of the infection, and blood tests to determine the response of the immune system and the condition of other organs.

No matter what treatment is selected, rabbit abscesses have a higher probability of returning than abscesses in cats, dogs or humans. This can be related to factors such as difficulty in removing all the abscessed tissue due to location, the inability of antibiotics in the blood to penetrate the abscess wall, draining tracts coming off the abscess, and the possibility that the underlying cause was not treated. Most experienced rabbit veterinarians feel that complete surgical removal of the abscess, along with treatment of the underlying cause, gives the rabbit the best chance for a complete cure. Ideally, all of the wall of all abscesses should be cultured for both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria to determine the best choice for antibiotic therapy with or without surgery.

It is not always possible to surgically remove an abscess due to its location, other rabbit disease (making anesthesia or a lengthy surgery dangerous) or financial restraints. In these cases the abscess can be opened, cleaned out thoroughly and flushed with an antiseptic solution. This procedure is usually performed under anesthesia, unless the abscess is very small. The wall of the abscess should be cultured for bacteria and an appropriate antibiotic can be selected. These wounds must be left open to be flushed at least twice a day for several weeks. If the abscess closes too quickly, it will merely fill with pus again.

Abscesses treated in this manner have a high rate of reoccurrence, but it may be possible to provide at least some measure of relief for your pet for a period of time. Please note that using antibiotics as the sole treatment without at least opening and cleaning the abscess is usually unsuccessful because these drugs cannot adequately penetrate the thick capsule of the abscess and kill the bacteria inside.

Other methods that have been used include injecting the wall of the abscess with effective antibiotics or other solutions at periodic intervals; packing the cleaned abscess cavity with gauze sponges impregnated with various products such as medical grade honey, 50% dextrose solution, antibiotics and enzyme products.

Most rabbit abscess cases will require the use of oral or injectable antibiotics. If the entire abscess is completely removed, then the antibiotics might not be necessary or may be used for only a short time. If the abscess was only lanced and drained, then antibiotic therapy might continue for weeks to months.

Some rabbits can live with abscesses on various parts of their body for years by having them surgically drained as needed. Rabbit abscesses form a thick capsule around the infection that effectively walls it off from the rest of the body. If the abscess is not causing pain, the rabbit may act as if nothing is wrong. However, this does not mean that if you see a lump on your rabbit's body that you should ignore it. Your veterinarian should investigate any unusual lumps or masses as soon as possible. The sooner an abscess can be treated, the greater are the chances of a cure. In addition, some lumps are not abscesses at all but rather tumors or cysts and may need immediate removal.

Care & Prevention
  • Feed your rabbit a healthy diet, provide ample exercise and a clean, safe environment to minimize the formation of abscesses. (See Rabbit Care for more information on general rabbit care.)
  • Have all lumps investigated as soon as possible by your veterinarian.
  • It is important to determine the cause of an abscess, not to just treat the abscess itself.
  • There are several different ways of treating abscesses in rabbits based on location, cause, size, overall health of the bunny and so on.

Whatever the treatment choice, it is imperative to follow through with your veterinarian’s requested recheck appointments and diagnostic testing to improve the chances for abscess resolution.

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Alopecia (hair loss)

Alopecia is the complete or partial lack of hair in areas where hair is normally present. This common disorder in rabbits may often be the symptom of another cause, such as infection, trauma or immune disorder. For rabbits, there is no specific age, breed, or sex that is more susceptible to this disorder.

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Symptoms
The primary sign of alopecia is unusual hair loss. Symptoms may progress suddenly or slowly. The exact pattern and degree of hair loss may help determine the cause of alopecia, and identify the condition as primary (happened on its own) or secondary (occurred due to another illness).

Cause
Alopecia is associated with some sort of disruption of hair follicle growth. This may result from a number of causes, including parasitic infection (such as fleas or ear mites), infectious rabbit diseases (such as a bacterial infection), a nutritional defect (especially protein deficiencies), or neoplastic causes (the presence of unnatural clusters of cell growth, such as a tumor). Also, if there are multiple areas of hair loss (multifocal), it is most frequently associated with a parasitic or bacterial infection.

In some cases alopecia may be the result of a behavioral problem known as “barbering.” This is where a dominant rabbit will chew or pull the hair out of its fellow cage-mate; hair loss predominantly appears on the flanks. Alopecia can occur because of normal shedding patterns, especially in breeds such as the Dwarf, Miniature Lop, and Angora.

Diagnosis
If alopecia is apparent, there are a number of diagnostic procedures that may be done to determine the cause. A skin scraping and biopsy may be done to rule out any bacterial, parasitic or fungal infections. Additional tests that can be conducted include urine analysis, blood tests, and X-rays.

Treatment
Treatment and the medications prescribed depends specifically on the underlying cause of alopecia. Medications to treat parasites such as ear mites or fleas, as well as medications to treat bacterial infections, are available. Of course, if the cause is more serious, such as related to a tumor, more drastic measures, like chemotherapy, may be necessary.

Care & Prevention
Follow-up care after initial treatment depends on the causes of alopecia. If the alopecia is suspected to be the result of “barbering”, the two rabbits must be separated to avoid future incidents.

As there are numerous causes leading to alopecia, no specific prevention method can be recommended. However, a healthy lifestyle, well-balanced diet with sufficient protein, and general cleanliness of the rabbit's habitat may be helpful in avoiding needless hair loss.

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Arthritis

Arthritis is the general medical term for inflamed joints. Septic arthritis, on the other hand, is a condition that occurs when bacteria infects one or more of the rabbit’s joints.

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There is no age, breed, or gender predisposition for septic arthritis in rabbits.

Symptoms

  • Sluggish behavior
  • Lameness
  • Anorexia
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Warmth emanating from the joints
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Signs of infection (e.g., urinary tract infection or dental disease)

Causes
Pyogenic bacteria causes septic arthritis. There are many types of pyogenic bacteria, including staphylococci, pasteurella, and anaerobic bacteria (which can survive without oxygen). These bacteria may lead to an infection in the body and can also migrate to the joints, where they cause septic arthritis.

There are some characteristics that may put an animal at higher risk for developing septic arthritis. These include long-term (chronic) cases of bacterial infection, traumatic injuries to the joints, and immunosuppressive disorders (immune system does not function properly). Some other sources of infection may include dental disease, an infection of the upper respiratory tract, or a wound.

Treatment
A rabbit with a history of upper respiratory tract infection, dental disease, or previous traumatic wound – such as bite wound – may suggest septic arthritis.

If septic arthritis is suspected, a number of tests can be done by the veterinarian. An analysis of fluid taken from around the joints (synovial fluid analysis) may reveal characteristics of septic arthritis, such as an increased volume of fluid or the presence of bacteria. These fluid samples are submitted for testing so the type of bacterium may be pinpointed and treated accordingly. Alternate tests include X-rays and a urine analysis.

When treating the rabbits, it is essential to treat the primary cause in order to cure septic arthritis. In most cases, antibiotics are prescribed to fight the infectious agent, although sometimes surgery is required.

Care & Prevention
There are a few things you can do to make your rabbit more comfortable and improve its condition. Soft bedding, for instance, can help increase the time of recovery from surgery. And activity should be restricted until the pet's symptoms have resolved. It is also essential to ensure that the rabbit is eating throughout recovery; offer fresh foods such as moist greens and good-quality grass hay.

If the veterinarian prescribes medication, follow the instructions carefully. In particular, antibiotics are generally administered long-term. There is also a danger of residual degenerative joint disease - a chronic condition that causes the cartilage surrounding the joints to deteriorate – as a result of septic arthritis.

Because of the many causes which lead to septic arthritis in rabbits, listing all the preventative measures would be impossible. However, it would be wise to keep the rabbit safe and away from potentially dangerous situations to avoid wounds; also, clean its cage regularly.

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Rabbit Diseases starting with B
Bladder Stones (Calculi)

Bladder stones, sometimes called calcium stones, and/or sludge can occur when the rabbit is not processing calcium through its kidneys properly.

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Symptoms

  • lethargic, loss of energy
  • anorectic
  • loss of litterbox habits
  • straining to urinate, hopping in and out of the litter pan
  • wetness around the genital area or chronic skin irritation in that area from urine scalding
  • semi-solid (like toothpaste) urine, or blood in the urine.

NB: Blood in the urine must be confirmed with a veterinary urinalysis or microscopic exam, or by a urine "dipstick" which can be purchased over-the counter from a pharmacy. Many people mistake porphyrinuria (the presence of orange-to-red coloured by-products in rabbit urine that result from chlorophyll and other vegetable component break-down) for blood in the urine.

Treatment
Any animal with clinical signs such as those mentioned should have a veterinary visit. An experienced rabbit veterinarian uses a urinalysis and radiographs (x-rays) as the initial steps in diagnosing a bladder problem. Because rabbits' bladder stones and bladder "sludge" are primarily composed of calcium, they are able to be detected on plain radiographs (x-rays). Your veterinarian should be familiar with normal rabbit urinalysis values and the radiographic appearance of a rabbit bladder. Many normal rabbits may have some radio-opaque material present in their bladders but will not have the abnormal urinalysis or clinical signs to support a diagnosis of bladder disease. Once bladder disease is confirmed, a urine culture, serum (blood) chemistries, and a complete blood count will help the veterinarian determine the extent of the disease and how to treat the problem in that individual rabbit.

Treatment in a patient with actual bladder stones will necessitate having the stones removed, as they frequently do not pass on their own and there is no known way to dissolve them. If these calculi are left unattended, they will continue to enlarge and will irritate and damage the bladder wall, allowing chronic infection and inflammation of the bladder (cystitis) to make the rabbit seriously ill. Depending on the rabbit's condition at the time of diagnosis, the veterinarian may first need to stabilize the patient with fluid therapy, nasogastric feeding, or antibiotic administration prior to surgery. Post-operatively, most rabbits require at least one to two days of hospitalization for continued fluid therapy and pain management before they are discharged.

Rabbit Bladder Stone Bladder stones can be passed but very painfully because as you can see on the photo on the left, they sometimes get very large. The picture shows an average 7lb rabbit, a stone this size would have to be removed surgically.

"Sand" in the Bladder
If a rabbit does not have bladder stones, but has an accumulation of thick "sludge" or "sand" in the bladder causing disease and discomfort, treatment can usually be medical rather than surgical. It is again recommended that the rabbit's overall health be looked into, not only with the urinalysis and radiographs mentioned earlier, but also with a urine culture, serum chemistries, and a complete blood count. This will allow the veterinarian to determine the degree of infection and disease, and whether other organs, such as the kidneys are affected. Rabbits with "sludgy bladder" disease may require several days of hospitalization for fluid and antibiotic therapy before being discharged. They may need manual help from the veterinarian in expressing the thick "sludge" from their bladders, and sometimes will require pain medication for bladder and urethral pain control and spasms.

Care & Prevention
At-home care for rabbits (after hospital treatment is complete) will involve a minimum of ten days of continued antibiotic therapy. Sometimes several weeks of antibiotics may be indicated if the urine culture indicates a severe infection. Dietary changes are also critical if the rabbit is not to have a recurrence of bladder disease.

Rabbits (over six months of age) with a history of bladder problems should have pellets removed or severely restricted. They should receive a variety of fresh vegetables (at least a cup or more daily), excluding those high in calcium such as kale. No alfalfa hay should be fed, but timothy or grass hay should be available at all times. Animals that are overweight should be encouraged to exercise a minimum of one hour at least twice daily. This can be accomplished by letting them chase you and then you chasing them, up and down stairs and around the house. Some rabbits will spend a considerable time tossing a wire ball back to you. There are numerous ways to both enjoy and exercise your rabbit at the same time.

All rabbits that initially presented with bacterial growth on a urine culture should have a urinalysis and urine culture repeated after the completion of antibiotic therapy to be sure all infection is resolved. Also, even with all the treatments described and diet changes, the bladder stones may still reoccur in some rabbits and frequent (at least every six months) visits to the veterinarian for regular radiographs to check for recurrence is important. If caught early by an observant person bladder disease should be controllable and should not cause any permanent damage to the rabbit's health or life-span.

References
1. Veterinary Clinics of North America, Small
Animal Practice, Jan 94
2. Robert Clipsham, DVM, Veterinary Post Graduate Institute Conference, Seattle 1993 "Clinical Considerations for Pet Rabbits" conference notes P265

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Bloat

Bloat 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.

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This may be because the rabbit has eaten wet green food or grass clippings, mouldy hay or simply as a result of irregular feeding. It is a medical emergency and sadly usually fatal.

Symptoms Include:

  • hard, swollen 'balloon like' stomach
  • shortness of breath
  • restlessness

Causes
Bloat can be caused by rabbits eating too many greens, spoiled food, mouldy hay a lack of fibre in their diet, or stress. This causes an imbalance in the bacteria in the intestines and their gut stops working, resulting in a build up of gas in the stomach.

Treatment
Bloat can be fatal within hours and can only be treated by a vet. It is extremely painful and usually the decision is made to humanely end the rabbit's suffering.

Care & Prevention
You can reduce the likelyhood of your rabbit getting bloat by ensuring your rabbit eats fresh hay daily, this helps to keep their gut working and prevent the build-up of gas. Look at our tips on getting your rabbit to eat more hay!

Avoid feeding your rabbit wet green food and keep to a regular feeding pattern with lots of hay.
Never feed your rabbit grass clippings.

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Bordetella bronchiseptica

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a small, gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium of the genus Bordetella. It can cause infectious bronchitis in small animals. Also called "snuffles"and related to Pasteurella infection.

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Symptoms

  • Most often none (as is commensal)
  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Dyspnea

Causes
Transmission is via aerosol, direct contact, or contact with nasal secretions of infected animals. The organism is harbored in the upper respiratory tract and trachea, and may adhere to ciliated epithelium.

Pathogenic forms of B. bronchiseptica produce adhesins and cytolytic toxins.

Inapparent infections are seen and carrier states with chronic shedding appear to be common.

B. bronchiseptica can form biofilms in vitro that may serve to protect the bacterium from host defenses.

In rabbits, the pathogenicity of Bordetella is uncertain. It may contribute to “snuffles” (rabbit upper respiratory tract infections) and is often found as a co-infection with P. multocida.

The organism has been noted to prefer the cilia of the respiratory epithelium in rabbits and so infection with B. bronchiseptica may impair mucociliary clearance and allow for the entry of more pathogenic
organisms, although this is unproven.

Treatment
Treatment of animals with antimicrobials may serve to treat illness, but rarely, if ever, resolves the carrier state, nor will antibiotic treatment eliminate bacteria from the bedding or cage surfaces. Thus, treatment is only recommended to ameliorate clinical signs.

Care & Prevention
Prevention is best accomplished by exclusion of B. bronchiseptica-carrying animals from animal facilities. If rabbits are to be housed together with other species such as guinea pigs, all should be free of B. bronchiseptica.

B. bronchiseptica is susceptible to most common disinfectants used in animal facilities. Any chemical or mechanical sterilant will also serve to remove it from the environment as it is a relatively fragile organism.

To obtain a B. bronchiseptica-free colony, animals should be rederived through embryo transfer or hysterectomy into/onto B. bronchiseptica-free dams

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Bumblefoot (infection)

Bumblefoot results from inflammation of the bottom surface of the foot, it is an extremely painful infection of the footpad. Also known as ulcerative pododermatitis.

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The term bumblefoot refers to the red lumps and bumps which form on the bottom of the feet. They appear to be callouses but can eventually become quite large and may bleed on and off and scab over.

Symptoms
The footpad will become swollen and may become crusted and/or bleed. In severe cases the rabbit will be reluctant to move, depressed and anorectic. If left untreated, pododermatitis can result in osteomyelitis (infection of the bone) and death.

Causes
Pododermatitis typically starts as a wound which becomes infected, usually by staphylococcus aureus, a common environmental bacterium. Abrasions on the feet can often be attributed to wire floors or shelving, or rough bedding.

Poor sanitation, wet bedding, lack of activity, obesity and poor circulation are factors that predispose the pet to chronic infection; genetic predisposition may be a factor with some pets.

Treatment
Examine your rabbit regularly to catch problems early. At the first sign of a problem, see your veterinarian. The first course of treatment is usually a combination of oral antibiotics and topical cleaning and treatment of the wounds. If the lesions do not respond, surgical intervention may be necessary but this carries significant risks and has a variable success rate. Early detection and treatment yields the best odds for success, but even then this condition may not respond well. If the infection progresses to the bone (osteomyelitis), amputation of the leg may be necessary.

Care & Prevention
Provide soft, non-abrasive bedding remove soiled bedding as soon as possible and change it regularly in order to keep it clean and dry; standing on urine pooled on solid floors can contribute to the development of pododermatitis.

Promote optimal weight in your pet by feeding a nutritious, balanced diet, restricting treats and providing ample opportunity for exercise. At your veterinarian's recommendation, increasing the Vitamin C in your rabbit's diet may help. Make sure your pet sees his veterinarian at least annually to detect any underlying problems such as those affecting circulation. Older or frail pets are going to have more problems with circulation, even if at an optimum weight.

Check your pet’s feet regularly for any abrasions, trauma or early signs of problems. Early detection and treatment of any wounds may prevent full-blown bumblefoot as well as alert you to any problems with your pet’s cage or bedding type.

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C
Rabbit Diseases starting with C

Cloudy Eye (cataracts)

A cataract is an opaque film on the lens of the eye, and may mean the lens is entirely or only partially clouded. In most instances, cataracts are present at the rabbit's birth.

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Symptoms

  • Lens is partially or fully opaque
  • Eye discharge (in long staying cataracts)
  • Swelling of the iris
  • White nodule-like bumps on the iris

Causes
Cataracts are most commonly present at birth. However, it may develop spontaneously and with no known cause. It occurs for many reasons, but is usually related to a bacterial infection (encephalitozoon cuniculi). Other causes include a nutritional deficiency or elevated levels of glucose in the blood. Cataracts may also develop spontaneously with no known cause.

Treatment
Cataracts are generally evident by the opaque (cloudy) appearance of the lens. The veterinarian may run tests if bacterial infection is suspected. Other analyses include a urine analysis to test for infectious rabbit diseases and blood tests.

In cases where the rabbit has a white mass protruding from the eye, a sign which may indicate cataracts, alternate diagnoses may conclude an abscess in the eye or an unnatural growth of cells (neoplasia), such as a tumor in the eye.

Surgery to remove cataracts is the primary treatment method, and can be performed on both congenital and spontaneous cataracts. The sooner the surgery is done, the better the prognosis. Various medications may also be prescribed, especially in cases of bacterial infection.

Care & Prevention
Following the treatment, the rabbit should be carefully monitored for signs of cataract recurrence. Owners should be aware of possible complications such as glaucoma and retinal detachment.
If however surgery is successful, the prognosis is good.

In some cases however, surgical treatment is not an option in which case prognosis for the health of the affected eye is guarded – most of these cases will progress until the rabbit contracts glaucoma in the damaged eye.

There are no specific methods of prevention when it comes to cataracts because most cases are congenital, thus unstoppable or spontaneous with no known cause.

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Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is a widespread parasitic rabbit disease, wild rabbits being more commonly affected as opposed to domesticated rabbits. The disease can prove to be fatal in rabbits.

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Rabbits can be affected by eight different types of the causal parasite.

Symptoms
Some rabbits act only as carriers of this infectious rabbit disease and present no signs or symptoms to show that they are or have become infected. Rabbits tend to have more severe signs or symptoms as the number of coccidian parasites within them increases. The signs and symptoms can vary depending on whether the rabbit disease is a hepatic or an intestinal infection.

Other affected rabbits can lose their appetite and lose weight. They may also have diarrhoea which will be very soft, watery, or even jelly-like. Another suggested sign is a “pot-bellied” appearance as well as pain in the abdomen. The rabbit may become dehydrated and present signs of weakness. Some rabbits collapse when heavily infected with the coccidian parasites. Younger rabbits may experience stunted growth and poor coat condition. The intestinal forms of the disease are thought to be the most dangerous to the rabbit’s health as death is more likely.

Cause
Coccidiosis is caused by microorganisms that are called coccidian parasites. The parasites are known as protozoa and are a part of the Eimeria species. They are called E intestinalis, E irresidua, E flavescens , E media , Eimeria magna, E perforans, and E stiedae. The parasites affect the intestines of rabbits with the exception of E stiedae which is known to affect the liver of infected rabbits.

Rabbits more susceptible to the disease are young kittens between the first and four months following their birth. Older rabbits appear to be more resistant to infections. The disease is transmitted once the parasitic oocysts have been passed in the faeces of the infected rabbit. Once this contaminated matter is ingested then the disease is transferred to this unaffected animal. This form of transmission is true for all the types mentioned above.

Affected animals may not show any signs or symptoms and so are asymptomatic. In some cases, however, rabbits may experience diarrhoea. The rabbit may also be depressed and lose weight. E stiedae is non-zoonotic which means it cannot be transmitted to humans. It is also species-specific.

Transmission
Coccidian parasites lay their eggs in the gut and these are released into the environment via the faeces of the infected animal. The eggs are known as oocysts. Transmission is faecal-oral which means it occurs when these contaminated faeces are ingested by the rabbit. Contaminated materials can include grass and other green vegetation, food, water, and bedding. Some rabbits can show no signs or symptoms but be carriers of the disease. Therefore, this increases the risk of infection.

It is between the period of the first and fourth day following defecation and thus excretion of the oocysts does it become infectious. Oocysts are able to survive and remain infectious for longer than even one year. This is dependent on the oocysts being in favourable conditions, that is to say a warm and humid environment.

Diagnosis
Initially, diagnosis may include an observation of the signs or symptoms presented. This is not always simple as many rabbits provide no indication in this way that they are infected with the parasite. A medical history may be required of the animal and the area. Following this, the next step generally involves taking a sample of faeces and analysing them in order to find any signs of infection.

Prognosis
The prognosis for older rabbits tends to be good as they are generally more resistant to infection than their younger counterparts. It is relatively rare for rabbits to die following an infection of the hepatic form of the parasite although stunted growth is a possible effect of the disease. Generally, intestinal coccidiosis results in only mild infections. Despite this, it is more likely for rabbits to die from a severe form of this type of rabbit disease than they are from the hepatic form.

Treatment
If the rabbit is suspected of this infection, the animal should be immediately taken to the vet for treatment. Sulphaquinoxaline used to be the main treatment for a coccidian infection although over the years the parasites have become resistant to it and so it is used much less or even not at all. Currently, it has been suggested that toltrazuril is a more effective medication to treat this rabbit disease. Secondary bacterial infections may need to be treated although care should be taken when using antibiotics with rabbits. Fluids may need to replace those lost and nutritional support can sometimes be necessary.

Infected animals should be isolated for a short period of time to prevent further transmission. The living quarters of the rabbits should be cleaned and disinfected. This is also true for bedding and feeding bowls. Overall, any faecal matter present should be removed and all objects which have had contact with the infected animal should be disinfected.

Care & Prevention
As is true for the majority of rabbit disease, maintaining a high level hygiene is a necessity when caring for rabbits. Oocysts thrive in warm and humid conditions so all bedding should ideally be kept dry and the area given adequate ventilation. Hutches and cages should be cleaned daily to reduce the risks of infection.

Food including hay and vegetables should be prevented from being eaten on surfaces such as the floor. Owners can use hay racks to place these foods in, thus reducing the risks of ingestion of contaminated material. If any faecal matter is present on food or in water sources, then it should be removed immediately. New animals introduced to the rabbit’s environment should be isolated and on occasion tested.

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Conjunctivitis

Inflammation of the conjunctiva in one or both eyes. Also called "pink eye" because the eye appears red and swollen. Pink eye causes the eye to produce a watery discharge and sometimes even pus.

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Symptoms
Rabbits suffering from conjunctivitis will have very watery eyes with noticeable tears on their cheeks possibly even extending to the nose. Here are some basic signs to look out for:

  • eye is bulging
  • swollen eyelid
  • area around eye is red
  • hair loss around eye area
  • clear discharge from eye
  • yellowish, thick discharge from eye
  • tear stains on cheeks
  • frequent scratching of the eye area
  • eye swollen shut

Cause
Typically caused by a staph or strep infection, conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the eyes. Other possible causes of conjunctivitis include a progressive upper respiratory infection such as Pasturella (aka "snuffles) or myxomatosis. Since a rabbit's tear ducts, eyes, incisors and sinuses are all in such close proximity, dental problems may also be the culprit behind conjunctivitis. In rabbits, the lachrymal duct (the tear duct) which is a very narrow duct between the eyes and nose, can become blocked. This blockage in turn becomes inflamed and a discharge results. Two of the complications of conjunctivitis include corneal irritation and eye ulcers.

Rabbits at Risk
Young rabbits are particularly susceptible to conjunctivitis especially if they are not kept in a clean environment. Young rabbits are also at risk for developing systemic conjunctivitis, which is a bacterial infection throughout the body. It is believed that low bone density may be a root cause. This happens when the teeth, which are ever growing, get pushed up through the rabbit's skull possibly penetrating the tear duct and causing it to become inflamed.

Treatment
Since rabbits rub their eye area with their forepaws when grooming, it's possible for them to repeatedly infect themselves with whichever bacteria is causing pink eye. Additionally, other rabbits in close proximity may become infected when they help groom a rabbit with conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis must be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible in order to prevent the spread of infection. A course of antibiotic eye drops are usually prescribed for pink eye along with oral antibiotics to eradicate the infection elsewhere in the body.

A veterinarian can run a test to determine whether the conjunctivitis is caused by a virus or bacteria. Viral conjunctivitis cannot be treated with antibiotics because antibiotics only act on bacteria such as staph. Fortunately, most viral cases of conjunctivitis disappear without requiring medical intervention. Nonetheless, it's important to see a veterinarian when conjunctivitis is suspected. Low dose painkillers can be prescribed to help make the rabbit more comfortable. If the rabbit is experiencing dizziness as a result of conjunctivitis, meclazine (non-drowsy sea-sickness medication) can be given with a small amount of baby food via syringe feeding.

Care & Prevention
Provide a high fibre diet to reduce the chance of developing dental disease. Clean the hutch regularly. Do not obstruct the ventilation by covering the hutch front in an attempt to keep the rabbit warm in cold weather.

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D
Rabbit Diseases starting with D
Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), is a chronic (long-term) condition that causes the cartilage surrounding the joints to deteriorate. Arthritis, on the other hand, is the general medical term for inflamed joints. And much like humans, rabbits can suffer from osteoarthritis.

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Symptoms
Symptoms of DJD vary depending on severity and cause, though affected rabbits may show lameness or a stiff gait, restricted motion, or be unable to hop. These symptoms may also worsen with exercise or after long periods of immobility.Animals with a history of joint trauma, such as fracture or dislocation, are sometimes prone to arthritis. In addition, a physical examination by a veterinarian may reveal further symptoms such as joint swelling and pain, joint instability, or an inability to properly groom (flaky skin or feces residue on the behind), depending on which joints are involved. Cause
DJD may result as a secondary symptom of an alternate problem such as trauma or joint instability. Or it may be a primary symptom, resulting from long-term joint use which usually comes with aging.
Obesity is sometimes identified as a risk factor, as obese animals place more pressure on the joints. However, there is no predisposing cause that leads to the primary form of arthritis.

Diagnosis
Diagnosis of DJD may be done based on an assessment of past symptoms, such as decreased activity or stiffness, as well as a physical examination which will reveal a decreased range of motion, stiff-legged gait, deformity of the joints, and swelling or pain in the joints. Further diagnostic procedures may include X-rays and an analysis of the fluid surrounding the joints.

Treatment
Rabbits with DJD can be treated at home by limiting exercise and administering prescribed medications. Physical therapy may be recommended by the veterinarian to help enhance movement and limb function. For obese patients, however, a diet plan to encourage weight loss decreases the stress on the joint. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually prescribed to alleviate inflammation and pain. While surgery may be a treatment option in some cases, such as reconstructive procedures to fix unstable joints.

Care & Prevention
Unfortunately, DJD is a progressive condition, and symptoms do eventually worsen. Nevertheless, there are some things which can be done to make the patient more comfortable.Soft clean bedding is important, and activity should be limited to a level where the rabbit still feels relaxed. Rabbits in pain may also be reluctant to eat. These pets should be encouraged to eat by feeding fresh moist greens such as spinach, dandelion greens, carrot tops, and cilantro. If the rabbit still refuses to eat, nutrient injections may be necessary.Identifying and correcting predisposing causes, such as obesity, may help prevent the development of DJD. And while DJD is not necessarily preventable – especially for rabbits of old age – some sort of medical or surgical treatment generally allows for a good quality of life.

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Dental disease (malocclusion)

Dental disease is by far the most common problem seen in domestic rabbits today. The scientific term for dental disease is malocclusion, referring to the misalignment of teeth.

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The lines of teeth in a rabbit's top and bottom jaw should match up perfectly when the rabbit grinds its food. As a rabbit's teeth grow continuously throughout their life, when the teeth do not meet correctly they are not ground down at the same rate. This leads to overgrown front teeth (incisors) and/or to spikes forming on the back teeth (molars, or cheek teeth). These spikes cut into the rabbit's cheek or tongue and can cause abcesses.

Symptoms
- refusal of food or approaching food eagerly but unable to eat
- dropping bits of food while eating
- dribbling, wet dewlap
- reduction in size of droppings or excess of soft droppings
- weepy eyes
- runny nose

Cause
Whilst research is still going on into dental disease, it is commonly accepted that there are three main causes:-

  1. Diet - Rabbits need a diet very high in fibrous material in order to grind their teeth down. 80% of a domestic rabbit's diet should be hay or grass. Many domestic rabbits are fed primarily on dry food nuggets or mix which, while providing all the nutrients the rabbit needs, does not provide any fibrous material and fills the rabbit up quickly, leaving it with no desire to eat hay. Dry food and vegetables should be fed as a small supplement to this diet of hay.
  2. Hereditary/genetic - Some domestic rabbits have been bred to look small and cute, with small heads and lop ears. These breeds have a higher risk of dental disease and it can be passed down to their offspring.
  3. Trauma - If a rabbit suffers a blow to the head it can knock the teeth out of alignment, or if it tugs on the bars of its cage or hutch this may also lead to misalignment of the front teeth.

Treatment
Treatment will have to be decided by your vet and is dependent on the severity of the problem. Overgrown front teeth can be clipped without the need for anaesthetic or may even be removed altogether. Overgrown back teeth can be trimmed also but this has to be done under general anaesthetic. In severe cases the only option may be euthanasia.

Care & Prevention
There are two main ways in which a rabbit owner can prevent or reduce the risk of dental disease:-

  1. Feed the correct diet of 80% hay. Some rabbits are fussy about eating hay or what kind of hay they like so try them with different kinds or with handfuls of fresh grass. It is sometimes necessary to significantly reduce the amount of dry food and vegetables to almost nothing in order to encourage the rabbit to eat hay, however this should be done with veterinary advice to ensure the rabbit does not lose too much weight or stop eating altogether.
  2. Adopt a rabbit from a rescue centre that is over a year old. Even if they are of a breed which is prone to dental disease, the problem will almost certainly have manifested itself by this age.

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Diarrhoea (enteritis)

Mucoid Enteritis is very dangerous and probably one of the fastest killing rabbit diseases a bunny can develop. This disease often affects young rabbits, but can affect adults too. Enteritis is a severe watery diarrhoea. This is not to be confused with a soft or sticky stool, which is normal. Enteritis by definition is inflamation of the intestinal tract of the rabbit.

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Symptoms
Feces that is soft or runny and most often covered with a jelly-like mucus
May be bloated
Appears to be in pain, may be grinding teeth
No eating

Cause
Rabbits have normal healthy bacteria in there intestinal tract. This bacteria aids in the digestive process. If a rabbits' diet is suddenly changed this normal bacteria can reach a level that is toxic to the rabbit. This toxicity causes the watery diahrrea and eventually a sluffing of the linning of the intestine.
Another cause of enteritis is the infestation of a foreign bacteria into the intestinal tract. The usual invader is Coccidiosis.

Young rabbits just moving to solid food, or just weaned can be susceptible. Other causes might include any stressful event, sudden change in diet or an inadequate diet.

Some documentation collected suggests that a parasite could be the cause of Mucoid Enteritis in rabbits. Treating rabbit with a safe wormer, like Safeguard, could prove beneficial.

Treatment
Early detection is the most important for any type of survival. Supportive care must be started immediately. This included subque fluids, antibiotics or probiotics. Get your bunny to qualified vet quickly. Neomycin be be very effective.

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO FEED HAY EVERY DAY; costal/bermuda or timothy is the best.
Remove pellets; offer only hay and old fashion oatmeal (not Quick Oats)

Give something for diarrhea; Neomycin Sulfate or Dry-Tail – give about ½ cc to 1cc, according to size of rabbit, every couple hours until symptoms subside.
Infant gas drops can be given to help relieve gas pain; 1cc to 2 cc according to size of rabbit 2-3 times a day
Yogurt – 1/2cc to 1cc 2-3 times a day to help restore good bacteria in gut while we battle bad bacteria.
Keep hydrated; water and Pedialyte mixed 50/50 works well. Feed by syringe if they will not drink on their own. The more you treat for dehydration, the better chance you have of survival.
Gentle belly massages may relieve some discomfort.

A broad spectrum antibiotic, like Baytril, may be needed if infection is suspected. Also, sub Q fluids may be needed if oral hydration is not successful

Care & Prevention
When diarrhea has been successfully stopped and rabbit is eating hay, you can slowly begin to re-instate an eating routine. Add pellets, but do not add too fast or diarrhea may start all over again. Your rabbit should welcome the pellets, but if he doesn’t right away, syringe feed baby food mixture below, for nutrition.

A spoonful of baby food bananas
A spoonful of baby food peas
A spoonful of carrots
A spoonful of yogurt (any of the kinds that do not have the fruit chunks)
About 2 tablespoons of pedialyte or Gatorade.

Feeding slowly, small amounts at a time through a syringe (no more than about 2-3cc at a time to start).

Always feed plenty of hay
Never make sudden feed changes
Limit stress for younger rabbits
Make sure babies are drinking when they transfer from mother’s milk to solid food

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Dystocia

Dystocia is the inability to expel foetus(es) from the uterus during parturition (the birth process) and may be due to maternal or foetal conditions preventing a normal delivery. Maternal factors may include pelvic, vaginal, or uterine abnormalities, such as small pelvic size and uterine inertia, or may be due to malnutrition, parasitism, obesity, and/or hereditary causes.

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Symptoms
The female rabbit prepares a nest 30-33 days after mating, but produces no young. She may have bloody discharge from the vulva. Birth usually occurs in the early hours of the morning so is not usually seen, but if watched she will be seen straining unproductively. After a while she will stop and become very tired. The bloody discharge will be the only sign that labour started.

Cause
Birth is difficult if the foetus is oversized or if it is wrongly postitioned in the birth canal.

Treatment
It may be possible to restart parturition with a hormone injection. However, if the foetus is stuck, the doe will need a Caesarean section. the young produced as a result of the surgery are unlikely to survive but the Caesarean will most likely save the life of the doe if it is done before she is too exhausted.

Care & Prevention
Post-operative instructions
- clean the vulvar area and bedding daily.
- Future breeding discouraged
- Possible ovariohysterectomy at a later date.
- Diet change to decrease the amount of pellets and begin feeding timothy hay to provide more fibre.

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E
Rabbit Diseases starting with E

Ear mites (canker)

A common ectoparasitic rabbit disease condition causing severe crusting, scaliness, scabbiness and itchiness of the external ear canal and pinna (the ear flap itself), called cankers. The skin becomes infested by the mite species: Psoroptes cuniculi.

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Symptoms
Owners may only notice very occasional symptoms of ear-scratching and head-shaking by the rabbit during these early stages of ear mite infestation. Subtle hair thinning or loss of hair around the edges of the pinnas (ear flaps) may also be recognized. Early mite infestation may involve only one ear or both ears of the rabbit (note - as the mite parasite population expands and progresses, both ears will generally become infested). Veterinarians looking down into the ear canals of symptomatic rabbits may be able to see the first crusts and scabs (and sometimeseven live, crawling mites), which are characteristic of this condition, allowing for early diagnosis to occur.

If the early stages of mite infestation are not recognised and treated, the mite infestation will progress. As the ear mites multiply in number, producing more and morecrust and scale, the ear mite infestation and its associated inflammatory process expands and grows, eventually extending from the passage-like ear canal of the rabbit and out onto the outer ear flap (pinna).

With moderate to advanced ear mite infestations, the rabbit ear flap appears crusty and scabby with large quantities of thick, papery, grayish, flaky, cellular debris (crusts) clinging to the inner aspect of the pinna. These crusts canbe so thick and heavy that the infected ears flop down with the weight of them. The rabbit is often extremely irritated and itchy by this stage and scratches and chews at its head and ears frequently, often to the point of self-trauma (making the skin bleed).The rabbit will often shake its head, flicking its ears about to relieve the irritation.

Left untreated, the ears can become so traumatised by the rabbit that secondary bacterial infections of the damaged skin can set in, resulting in the rabbit becoming feverish (pyrexic), lethargic (sleepy)and sick. Allowed to progress, bacterial infection can sometimes invade the middle and inner compartments of the rabbit's ear/s producing severe neurological signs (e.g. head tilt, loss of balance, incoordination of the gait) and even a fatal meningitis.

It has been known for advanced, long-term cases of ear mites to result in the loss of the rabbit's ear flaps. The ears are essentially eaten away over time by the ravenous mites, or by the rabbit themselves driven by trauma and stress.

In very advanced cases of ear mites in rabbits, the Psoroptes cuniculi mites will expand their populations across the rabbit's body, infesting in particular the head, neck and belly of the rabbit as well as the skin regions around the anus and genitals and the legs and feet. This expanded, body-wide mite infestation results in severe, generalised body scratching with widespread skin redness; patchy, trauma-induced hairloss; widespread skin scabbing (numerous skin sores) and extensive dermatitis and secondary bacterial skin infection.

Cause
Caused by the mite Psoroptes cuniculi. They reach 0.7mm in size and be visible to the naked eye. They can come from other animals like cats and dogs who can be asymptomatic carriers. They can also come from grass and hay. If you are buying your hay in bails from a farmer you might want to consider buying bagged hay. Even though the mites can live in all hay it seems that the rabbits that live on farm hay have a tendency to get more infestations.

Treatment
There are two main treatment options available to us for treating ear mite infestationsin rabbits: systemic treatments using oral, injectable or dermally absorbed (e.g. spot-on) antiparasitic drugs and topical treatments (applying antiparasitic medications directlyto the infected ears of the rabbit).

OPTION 1 - Systemic medications (e.g. ivermectin, selamectin):
Systemic treatments seem to be favored over topical treatments as a means of getting ridof ear mites in rabbits because of their less frequent dosing, their ease of administration and theiroverall better results. Systemic treatment refers to medications that are given either orally, by injection or by dermal, "spot-on" application of the drug to the rabbit's skin and whichreach and treat the entire skin area of the rabbit by traveling to the skin via the animal's blood stream.

Systemic medications reach the entire skin of the rabbit, not just the ears, eradicating mite populations that are present on other regions of the rabbit's body;
Systemic medications are not painful to give (except for momentary injection pain if a needle is used to administer the drugs);
Systemic medications are not messy and, except for the "spot-on" formulations, leave no residues on the skin;
Systemic medications are easy to give and kill rabbit ear mites very effectively, even in the presence of thick crusts;
Systemic medications require less frequent dosing than topical medications do (up to 2-weekly dosing).

On the flip side, because systemic medications can not simply be washed away from the rabbit once given, shouldthere be an adverse reaction or side effect (e.g. an allergic reaction or toxic reaction) this can potentially be much more severe and more difficult to treat with the systemic mite therapiesthan with the topicals. Fortunately, however, adverse reactions are not all that commonly encountered with most of the systemic mite treatments that we use, providedthat they are dosed correctly.

Important author's note: Certain systemic mite treatments may leave toxic drugresidues behind in the meat of rabbits that are being kept for meat-production purposes. It maynot be legal for meat-producing rabbits to receive certain systemic mite therapies and, if such treatment is legal, important meat withholding periods may need to be met. Ask your vet or local meat inspector about the rules and the potential for drug residues if you are planning on treating rabbits that are being kept for human consumption purposes.

Important author's note: Certain systemic mite treatments may be toxic tounborn rabbit babies (fetuses) and produce birth deformities. I would not adviseusing systemically-absorbed mite treatments in pregnant animals without first talking to a vet. If your rabbit is pregnant and has rabbit ear mites, ask your vet what the best course of action isfor your circumstances.

Dosing:
Ivermectin (Ivomec) can be given by subcutaneous injection at a dose rate of 0.4mg/kg once every 2 weeks for three treatments.
Alternatively, Selamectin (Revolution) at 18mg/kg can be given topically (spot-on) once a month to control ear mites [ref 3, 11].
Oral moxidectin has also been reported to work (I am not sure of the dose so ask your vet). Because of toxicity concerns, moxidectin must never be given to rabbits by the injectable route.

Ear crusts should start to fall off within 10-14 days of treatment.

Important author's note: Remember that carrier animals could exist in your population. Don't forget to treat all of your rabbits, not just the symptomatic ones! Treat all rabbits that have been in contact with the mite infested rabbit and/or its environment.


OPTION 2 - Topical medications (ear drops and powders):
Topical treatments (ear drops, powders and oils) are rarely used to control ear mitesin rabbits except in very specific circumstances (i.e. when systemic treatments are unavailable or when some other factor precludes their use - e.g. meat producing animals, pregnant rabbits, a history of previous allergic or adverse reactions to systemic mite meds and so on). I almost never use topical treatmentsto control ear mites in rabbits because the systemic medications work so well. Topical treatment refers to medications that are applied directly (topically) onto the skin in regions of active skin mite infestation.Applied as various formulations, including: liquids, drops, rinses, sprays, powders and creams, topicalmedications are designed to kill rabbit ear mites by making direct contact with the mites. If the active ingredient does not make contact with the mites directly, the rabbit ear mites will not die.

There are some major problems and difficulties associated with using topical ear mite therapies:

Topical medications do not reach the entire skin surface area of the rabbit, unless they are deliberately and directly applied to every region of the animal's body (which is seldom practical and can result in toxicity). Consequently, even if they do manage to successfully treat the mites located inside of the rabbit's ears, topical therapies may not eradicate mite populations that are present on other regions of the rabbit's body (this results in rapid reinfestation);
Topical medications are painful to apply (rabbits with sore ears resent them);
Topical medications are messy and leave residues on the skin;
Topical medications are not easy to give because most rabbits try to avoid having their painful ears touched;
Topical medications can not penetrate through thick crusts and scabs and so ear mites living deep within the rabbit's ear canals may well remain alive simply because the treatment never reached them;
In order for topical medications to reach and kill all of the mites, the rabbit's ears may need to be cleaned of crusts, which can be a very painful procedure for the animal.
Topical medications may not be able to enter ear canals that have become inflamed and narrowed and, therefore, they will make no contact with the ear mites located deep within the rabbit's ear canals;
Topical medications require more frequent dosing (up to twice-daily) than systemic medications do;
Topical medications may be more expensive than systemic medications;
Some topical medications may stain the wool of wool producing Angora rabbits, resulting in production losses;

On the flip side, because topical medications can simply be washed away from the rabbit ifthere is an adverse reaction (e.g. an allergic reaction or toxic reaction), adverse side effectsassociated with topical medicants can potentially be managed and treated much more rapidly and completely than those reactions associated with systemic therapies. Likewise, some topical therapies do not get absorbed into the rabbit's body at all, making them muchsafer to use in potentially pregnant animals and in animals being kept for meat productionpurposes.

There are several topical options for treating ear mites in rabbits:
Mineral oil: Instill 1-2ml of mineral oil into each ear canal and massage the ear canalsthoroughly for 30-60 seconds to disperse the oil throughout the crust. This process may need to be repeated twice daily for several weeks to reach all of the ear mites and achieve the right effect.
Flea powder: a rabbit-safe flea powder (applied to the ears and canals) may be an option to help treat ear mitesin rabbits, but it is unlikely to get down a densely-crusted ear canal very well. A dry powder is also likely to hurt and irritate the ears further if it makes contact with open wounds and sores.

Care & Prevention
Rabbit ear mites tend to initially invade the deeper regions of the rabbit's external ear canal(deep down the ear canal where they are not visible to the rabbit owner), rather than the clearly-visible outer pinna (ear flap) of the rabbit. Because rabbit owners can't see mite infestations that are hidden deep within the dark recesses of the rabbit ear canal, early infestations of ear mites in rabbits are often missed by rabbit owners.

Mite infestations tend to be more severe and more widespread throughout a rabbit population when that population of animals is living under conditions of high-stress (especially long-term stress). This suggests that, even though the sensitive immune system of the rabbit is responsible for many of the clinical signs and symptoms seen in rabbit ear mite infestations (e.g. inflammation, crusting, pain, itching), it still has a big role to play in managing and reducing the severity of an ear mite infestation. The rabbit immune system tends to be suppressed (weakened) when the rabbit is exposed to conditions of severe, prolonged internal stress (e.g. physical illness, lactation, pregnancy, growth, concurrent disease, malnutrition) and/or external stress (e.g. over-crowding, unhygienic living conditions, bullying, inadequate provision of nutrients, extremesof heat and cold) and, consequently, mite infestations tend to be more severe when such stressors exist. For example, it is very common to see ear mite infestations explode in pregnant or lactating female rabbits and in over-crowded rabbit populations.

There are ways that future rabbit ear mite infestations can be prevented:

Mineral oil:
Once the ears have been treated for mites and have returned to normal (no crusts or scabs), a few drops of mineral oil placed into each ear weekly can help to prevent new rabbit ear mite infestations from establishing inside of the ears.

Revolution (selamectin):
Monthly revolution treatment (18mg/kg) applied prophylactically(or at the first signs of ear symptoms) is a good way of preventing ear mites in rabbits.

Reduce stress:
Ear mite populations in rabbits tend to explode in the presence of stress. Making every attemptto reduce the stressors impacting on your rabbit's life can go a big way towards reducingthe presence of mites and other rabbit diseases in your rabbit pets. Ensuring that your rabbitsare: provided with adequate nutrition; provided with balanced nutrition; provided withhygienic, clean living conditions; not over-crowded; not being bullied by other rabbits;not exposed to extremes of heat and cold; vaccinated against disease; wormed and treated early for any other medical or disease conditions that arise can help to keep rabbit ear mite numbers low.

Avoid overcrowding:
Rabbit ear mites tend to spread more quickly through a rabbit population when thatpopulation is overcrowded. Avoiding overcrowding reduces mite transmission.

Avoid situations that result in mite transmission:
Mites can be transmitted from wild rabbits and hares and their environments (pastures, fields, reserves)to pet rabbits. Mite infestation can be avoided if wild lagomorphs (rabbits, hares)are not permitted to make contact with your own pet rabbits. Not allowing your rabbits tomake contact with wild-animal-exposed pastures and environments can also help to reduce the risk ofrabbit ear mites being picked up from the environment.

Domesticated rabbits of unknown background and disease status (e.g. rabbits from shelters, pet shops, breeding facilities) can also transmit ear mites to pet rabbits by direct rabbit-to-rabbit contact. Not allowing your rabbits to make contact with unknown rabbits and their environments can also reduce the risk of rabbit ear mites being picked up by your rabbit.

It is also possible for you, the rabbit owner, to transmit ear mites from rabbit to rabbit via your hands and clothes. Petting and handling rabbits with ear mites, even if you don't actually know that they have ear mites, can result in rabbit ear mites crawling onto your skin and clothing. These rabbit ear mites should not harm you in any way, but they can pass from your skin or clothes onto the coat and ears of any other rabbits(including your own pets) that you subsequently handle, rendering them infested. In order to avoid bringing rabbit ear mites (and other infectious rabbit diseases) home to your own pet rabbits, you should refrain from handlingrabbits and hares whose background and health status is unknown. In particular, be verycautious of handling unknown stray and wild rabbits and rabbits in pet shops and shelters.

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E. Cuniculi (Encephalitozoon Cuniculi)

E.cuniculi is a tiny single celled protozoal parasite, which has to live inside a host cell in order to survive. E.cuniculi primarily infects rabbits and just occasionally it can infect humans, especially if they are immuno-compromised. Infection has been diagnosed in rabbits in Europe, Africa, America and Australia. In the UK the parasite is common in laboratory and pet rabbits, but rare in the wild rabbits.

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It is only within the last 10 years that significant research into this disease has been carried out and it remains a hotly debated topic. It is a relatively rare but seriously debilitating disease which all rabbit owners should be aware of.

Symptoms
Although it is thought by most experts that the majority of rabbits infected with E. cuniculi remain well, a small percentage of bunnies are not so lucky.

Renal (kidney) granulomas are usually harmless, although a few rabbits develop mild chronic renal failure with problems such as increasing thirst and weight loss. It's the lesions in the brain that tend to cause problems.

The range of possible neurological presentations is immense but some examples are:

  • Convulsions (fits)
  • Tremors
  • Torticollis (head tilt)
  • Hind limb weakness (ataxia)
  • Coma
  • Urinary incontinence (caused by the central nervous system lesions, not those in the kidney).
  • Loss of balance

E. cuniculi can also affect the eyes. If unborn baby rabbits become infected via the placenta, granulomas may develop around the lens and cause problems after birth. Affected rabbits sometimes have white patches visible in the eye.

If the kits are infected during pregnancy, spores are able to cross into the lens of the eye. Later on in the rabbit's life the spores multiply and erupt causing cataracts and lens rupture resulting in inflammation within the eye (uveitis). This is a serious condition and is painful to the rabbit.

Cause
One of difficulties in trying to decide whether E. cuniculi is the cause of any specific problem is that every one of these neurological problems has other possible (and common) causes.

For example, head tilt is often caused by bacterial infections such as Pasteurella multocida, but can be caused by a multitude of other problems. Some texts suggest that head tilt in dwarf breeds is more likely to be caused by E.cuniculi and in larger breeds by Pasteurella although this is also controversial. But both infections are so common it may be impossible to differentiate which (if either) is the cause of head tilt in any particular rabbit. And some bunnies may have both!

It is likely that the majority of rabbits are infected at a very early age from their mother. The route of infection is orally via ingestion of urine contaminated by E. cuniculi spores. One month after infection, a rabbit will start to shed spores in its urine. Shedding of spores continues for up to three months and possibly on and off for life. The spores are tough little things and remain in the environment for more than a month.

Other causes of head tilt and neurological disease in rabbits should be ruled out, such as spinal trauma, inherited congenital abnormalities ('splay leg'), abscesses, middle ear infections, listeria infection, toxoplasma infection and lead toxicity.

Transmission
Once a rabbit has the disease it passes infectious spores in its urine. Transmission to another rabbit occurs by eating these spores in urine contaminated food and water. The unborn kits may also be infected across the placenta during pregnancy. Once the parasite has entered the rabbit's body it is carried in the blood circulation to target organs such as the liver, kidney and central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). This results in rupture of these cells, inflammation and clinical signs, rimarily in the liver, kidney, brain and spinal cord. Whilst 52% of pet rabbits become infected, only 6% of pet rabbits ever show signs of disease, a percentage of these rabbits do not survive.

Diagnosis
In time a ‘finger print’ test for detecting E cuniculi in the urine of rabbits will be available. The parasite is only shed in urine for 3-4 weeks after initial infection. For the moment diagnosis is limited to a serological test, which just confirms exposure rather than proves current infection.

Treatment and Prognosis
In affected rabbits the inflammation and release of spores results in clinical signs, particularly affecting the target organs (brain, spinal cord and kidney). Treatment is aimed at reducing inflammation, using anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids and killing the parasite. Treatment generally involves anti-inflammatory medication together with Panacur (anti-parasiticide) daily for 28 days.

Response to therapy is dependent on duration and severity of infection at the time of diagnosis and starting treatment.

The organism can survive in the environment (e.g. house / hutch) for 1 month. However the parasite is sensitive to routine disinfectants. Although more research is required, our current knowledge is that the parasite is killed off by 28 days of once daily dosing with Panacur. In time we may learn that a shorter period of treatment is effective, but for now, this is what we have to work with.

Control and Prevention
In an ideally world, all rabbits would be blood tested and kept isolated until test results were known (generally 2-3 weeks). Only negative rabbits would be kept and a disease free colony could be established – however it is not an ideal world.

How can disease be controlled or prevented in which situations?

  1. New, single pet rabbit. 52% of all rabbits will, or have been infected be infected, so it cannot be ignored.

    Blood test, if negative repeat in 1 month, if either test positive, treat for 28 days once a day,
    or;
    Treat the new rabbit once daily for 28 days
  2. You have one or more pet rabbits and are concerned if they might be infected.

    Blood test all rabbits, if negative repeat in 1 month, if either test is positive, treat all rabbits once a day for 28 days. If negative do not introduce further rabbit without testing or treating it,
    or;
    Treat all rabbits in the household once daily for 28 days. Clean and disinfect the environment on a weekly basis during the 28 days.
  3. One or more of a group of rabbits is found to be infected with E cuniculi.

    All rabbits in the group should be treated with Panacur for 28 days. The rabbits’ environment should be cleaned and disinfected each week, until the end of treatment.
  4. A new rabbit is to be added to a ‘clean’ group of rabbits.

    Treat the new rabbit for 28 days with Panacur and keep it separate from the others, for at least the first 14 days.
  5. A rabbit rescue / re-homing facility is concerned about the possibility of re-homed rabbits passing on infection.

    There is no doubt that the more rabbits are kept together (e.g. a rescue centre), the greater the risk of infection spreading between individuals. In view of the risk, we recommend that all rabbits coming into a rescue centre are treated for 28 days with Panacur. Once this treatment is complete, they should be kept in clean accommodation, with other previously treated rabbits.

Part of this description was kindly provided by Great Western Exotics.

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Enteritis (diarrhoea)

Mucoid Enteritis is very dangerous and probably one of the fastest killing rabbit diseases a bunny can develop. This disease often affects young rabbits, but can affect adults too. Enteritis is a severe watery diarrhoea. This is not to be confused with a soft or sticky stool, which is normal. Enteritis by definition is inflamation of the intestinal tract of the rabbit.

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Symptoms
Feces that is soft or runny and most often covered with a jelly-like mucus
May be bloated
Appears to be in pain, may be grinding teeth
No eating

Cause
Rabbits have normal healthy bacteria in there intestinal tract. This bacteria aids in the digestive process. If a rabbits' diet is suddenly changed this normal bacteria can reach a level that is toxic to the rabbit. This toxicity causes the watery diahrrea and eventually a sluffing of the linning of the intestine.
Another cause of enteritis is the infestation of a foreign bacteria into the intestinal tract. The usual invader is Coccidiosis.

Young rabbits just moving to solid food, or just weaned can be susceptible. Other causes might include any stressful event, sudden change in diet or an inadequate diet.

Some documentation collected suggests that a parasite could be the cause of Mucoid Enteritis in rabbits. Treating rabbit with a safe wormer, like Safeguard, could prove beneficial.

Treatment
Early detection is the most important for any type of survival. Supportive care must be started immediately. This included subque fluids, antibiotics or probiotics. Get your bunny to qualified vet quickly. Neomycin be be very effective.

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO FEED HAY EVERY DAY; costal/bermuda or timothy is the best.
Remove pellets; offer only hay and old fashion oatmeal (not Quick Oats)

Give something for diarrhea; Neomycin Sulfate or Dry-Tail – give about ½ cc to 1cc, according to size of rabbit, every couple hours until symptoms subside.
Infant gas drops can be given to help relieve gas pain; 1cc to 2 cc according to size of rabbit 2-3 times a day
Yogurt – 1/2cc to 1cc 2-3 times a day to help restore good bacteria in gut while we battle bad bacteria.
Keep hydrated; water and Pedialyte mixed 50/50 works well. Feed by syringe if they will not drink on their own. The more you treat for dehydration, the better chance you have of survival.
Gentle belly massages may relieve some discomfort.

A broad spectrum antibiotic, like Baytril, may be needed if infection is suspected. Also, sub Q fluids may be needed if oral hydration is not successful

Care & Prevention
When diarrhea has been successfully stopped and rabbit is eating hay, you can slowly begin to re-instate an eating routine. Add pellets, but do not add too fast or diarrhea may start all over again. Your rabbit should welcome the pellets, but if he doesn’t right away, syringe feed baby food mixture below, for nutrition.

A spoonful of baby food bananas
A spoonful of baby food peas
A spoonful of carrots
A spoonful of yogurt (any of the kinds that do not have the fruit chunks)
About 2 tablespoons of pedialyte or Gatorade.

Feeding slowly, small amounts at a time through a syringe (no more than about 2-3cc at a time to start).

Always feed plenty of hay
Never make sudden feed changes
Limit stress for younger rabbits
Make sure babies are drinking when they transfer from mother’s milk to solid food

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F
Rabbit Diseases starting with F

Fleas

Fleas are a group of ectoparasites that can live away from the animal but in order to breed, they need a host to feed from. Fleas are a major vector of the mxyomatosis virus.

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Flea infestation occurs as the result of the common flea inhabiting the body of the rabbit and reproducing. The occurrence varies with weather conditions, and clinical signs will depend on each animal’s individual reaction to the infestation.

Because fleas feed on blood, heavy infestations may cause anemia (low hemoglobin in the blood due to loss of blood), especially in young rabbits. Rabbits can also develop a hypersensitive reaction to fleabite, with excessive scratching and itching that can sometimes lead to lesions on the skin's surface and skin infections.

Symptoms
Some rabbits will not show any symptoms when suffering from a flea infestation, but many more others will display one or many of the following symptoms:

- Self- biting or chewing
- Excessive scratching, licking
- Visible bite marks or evidence of fleas (e.g., larvae, flea dirt, etc.)
- Hair loss
- Scaling on the skin
- Pale mucous membranes, increased heart rate (in anemic animals)
- Secondary bacterial infections ( sometimes seen)

Causes
Fleas are more common in some climates and during particular seasons, but they can affect rabbits year-round. Moreover, fleas can jump from one pet to another, such as from dogs or cats.

Diagnosis
Although flea infestation can be easily apparent by the presence of the insects on your rabbit's body, your veterinarian may want to differentiate the insects from ear mites, skin mites, or other parasites. If your rabbit has symptoms of severe itching (biting, licking, scratching at self), your veterinarian will also want to differentiate the reaction from other allergic reactions, infections, or reactions to injections, if any have recently been given.

For diagnosis of flea infestation, your doctor will do a flea combing; fleas and/or flea dirt are usually found in affected rabbits. An analysis of skin scrapings will determine whether bacterial infections or other skin parasites are present. A study of discharge from the ear, meanwhile, will confirm whether an ear infection is affecting your rabbit or whether ear mites are present. And a complete blood profile will be conducted as part of a standard physical examination. This will include a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. If your rabbit is suffering from a condition of anemia, this will be determined and treated quickly.

Eradicating and controlling exposure to fleas is currently the only means of therapy. You will need to treat all animals in the household as well as the household environment, and if possible, the environment outside of the home. Sprays and fumigators can be used to treat the living environment, both indoors and outdoors, but you will need to remove your pets and family members from the home before applying these chemicals, as they can be severely toxic for some animals and individuals.

There are specific powders and ointments that are made to kill fleas. Typically, boric acid, diatomaceous earth, and silica aerogel can be very safe and effective, as long as they are applied properly following the manufacturer's recommendations, but you may want to consider checking with your veterinarian before choosing a specific skin treatment. There may be some medications that are not indicated for your rabbit's particular age or size. Antibiotics may also be necessary for treating severe skin infections that have resulted from the flea infestation.

Care & Prevention
Use extreme caution when dipping or bathing rabbits in medicated flea-killing shampoos. Due to the high risk of skeletal fractures and excessive chilling, sudden death may occur. If you are applying topical spot-on products, make sure that the product has dried before allowing your rabbits freedom to groom themselves of their mates. The fleas and flea dirt should decrease with effective flea control. Itching and hair loss should decrease with effective flea control; if signs persist you will need to return to your veterinarian for an evaluation of other causes.

Instill measures for flea control for all other pets in the household, especially dogs and cats. If you are living in a year-round warm climate, be especially cautious of flea infestation all year long, beginning aggressive flea control as early as April or May.

Secondary bacterial infections and adverse reactions to flea-control products may occur. If any signs of toxicity are noted or if your rabbit should show any signs of behavioral or physical change, you should bath the rabbit thoroughly to remove any remaining chemicals and treat the rabbit appropriately.

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Flystrike

Blowflies become attracted to any soiled skin and lay their eggs which in hot, humid conditions can develop in to maggots in less than 24 hours. These maggots eat under the skin and release poisons, which will be fatal for the rabbit.

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Fly strike (Myiasis) is predominantly caused by the green bottle fly (Lucilia sericata) and related fly species which lay eggs on living rabbits. The green bottle flies are attracted to damp fur, urine, faeces or the odour of rabbit scent glands.


Symptoms
Flies will strike any healthy animal, but generally those that have a wet and dirty groin area are most at risk. Any rabbit which is unable to clean itself properly may become infected, typically this includes obese rabbits, females with large dewlaps, or skin folds around their abdomen, rabbits with urinary problems, elderly or arthritic rabbits, long-coated breeds, and rabbits with teeth problems who are unable to groom themselves. Wounds also provide a perfect place for the fly to lay its eggs, as the odour and moisture from the flesh attracts them.

Cause
Fly strike (Myiasis) is predominantly caused by the green bottle fly (Lucilia sericata) and related fly species which lay eggs on living rabbits. The green bottle flies are attracted to damp fur, urine, faeces or the odour of rabbit scent glands. They lay their eggs on or around the rabbit's rear end where they hatch within hours into maggots that eat into the rabbit's flesh, eating it alive and releasing toxins in the process. Fly strike in domestic rabbits is a common problem throughout the summer months.

Treatment
If you find maggots on or around your rabbit’s anus immediate veterinary attention is required and the situation should be treated as an emergency. If possible, ring ahead, so that the vet can be prepared for your arrival and treat your rabbit immediately as your rabbit will probably be in pain and shock and will require careful nursing if it is to survive.

If you can not get to a vet immediately, then pick off as many of the external maggots as you can, using a pair of tweezers. The maggots which have burrowed into the flesh can be encouraged to the surface of the skin, by heat such as a warm, damp towel. Ideally you should avoid wetting the rabbit’s coat, as damp fur will clog the clippers that vets use to shave the infected areas, however, dipping your rabbits rear into water can help to get rid of some maggots providing the area is dried afterwards.

The preferred method of treatment for fly strike is to remove the maggots using tweezers and shave off any damp or dirty fur. This should be carried out by your veterinarian as the rabbits skin is very thin and tears easily. Your vet will not only have skilled and experienced staff on hand but they will also be able to administer sedation or an anaesthetic to make the process easier, which in turn will ensure that your rabbit does not experience discomfort. Rabbits that have fly strike will also often need antibiotics to prevent infection. Anti-inflammatory and pain killing drugs are sometimes also administered.

Care & Prevention
Fly strike is a distressing and potentially fatal condition which can be prevented by a few simple measures. Unfortunately we cannot eliminate flies from the rabbit’s environment and therefore we should keep a watch full eye over the rabbit, especially during the summer months.

Remove all soiled bedding daily.
Ensure that your rabbit is not being overfed, as this can result in diarrhoea, leading to a dirty groin
Feed greens and fruit in moderation, as some rabbits can not tolerate an over-abundance of green food, again leading to diarrhoea and a dirty anus .
For the same reason, take care when putting your rabbit out on the lawn in the summer, not to allow too much access to fresh grass.
Check your rabbit twice daily to ensure that it is clean and dry. This includes house rabbits, who can also be at risk.
Disinfect hutches every week.
Keep the rabbit dry and use a cleanser to remove faeces.
Keep the hair around the anus very short by trimming with scissors or clippers.

Ridding the environment of flies, by means of chemical insecticides may damage the environment, animals, and people along with the flies. Fly traps catch many flies but not all. Repellents may work temporarily, but one must remember to use them repeatedly. Screens on doors and windows reduce the number of flies that get into the house, but some slip through.

Nylon netting can be used to cover outdoor hutches and runs, to prevent flies entering your rabbit’s environment. It can also be used to create inner fly doors in sheds. But do take care not to trap any flies inside when hanging it.

A number of plants can be used to repel insects and flies. Some may be planted in pots to sit on top of outdoor hutches or near runs, whilst others may be dried and hung in the home, or the rabbit shed. Just make sure that all these plants are out of reach of your rabbit.

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G
Rabbit Diseases starting with G

GI (gastro intestinal) stasis

An intestinal slow down can cause ingested hair and food to lodge anywhere along the GI tract, creating a potential blockage. Also, because the cecum is not emptying quickly enough, harmful bacteria can proliferate, their numbers overwhelming those of the normal, beneficial bacteria and fungi in the cecum.

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Symptoms
If your rabbit is demonstrating any of these symptoms of GI stasis, they will need vet care.

  • Small and/or malformed fecal pellets
  • No fecal pellets
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy / hunched posture

Cause
A rabbit's intestine can become static for a variety of reasons, including stress, dehydration, pain from another underlying disorder or illness (such as gas, dental problems, infections, or urinary tract disorders) an intestinal blockage or, insufficient dietary crude fiber. Left untreated, the slowdown or complete cessation of normal intestinal movement (peristalsis) can result in a painful death, in a relatively short period of time. If your rabbit stops eating or producing feces for 12 hours or more, you should consider the condition an emergency and get them to a vet immediately.

An intestinal slow down can cause ingested hair and food to lodge anywhere along the GI tract, creating a potential blockage. Also, because the cecum is not emptying quickly enough, harmful bacteria such as Clostridium species (related to the ones that cause botulism and tetanus) can proliferate, their numbers overwhelming those of the normal, beneficial bacteria and fungi in the cecum. Once this overgrowth occurs, gas emitted by the bacteria can cause extreme pain. Some Clostridium species also produce potentially deadly toxins. It is the liver's job to detoxify these poisons, at a high cost to that all-important organ. Damage to the liver can be a serious--even life-threatening--side effect of GI stasis.

Here's a summary on causes:

  • hair ingested during grooming
  • high fat, low fiber diet (such as a pellet-only diet)
  • too many carbohydrates in the diet (breads, crackers, etc.)
  • stress (moving, illness, changes in family life, loss of rabbit companion, etc.)
  • long term use of antibiotics
  • partial paralyzation or mobility problems
  • lack of proper exercise

Treatment
It is very important that your rabbit receive a diagnosis and treatment at the first signs of this problem as GI Stasis can be fatal within 24 to 48 hours after the GI tract begins to slow down.

Treatments that you can start immediately at home can make a big difference in saving the life of your bunny.

For a medium size rabbit (7 to 9 pounds), you can give 0.5ml of Infant Tylenol to relieve the pain. Also, there is probably some gas building up by this time, so you can give about 1/4 teaspoon of Little Tummy, an over the counter gas medication for infants. Most important, give them water. Start with 12 to 24 ml of water and continue with the water every 1 to 2 hours.

Your can also administer massage. Turn your rabbit around facing you and gently rub their tummy from the bottom of the rib cage back and massage from side to side. This will help to move and loosen any blockage, and help create movement within the GI tract. If the rabbit’s problem is gas or blockage, they will probably enjoy this massage. Just remember to be gentle.

Care & Prevention
Prevention is always the best medicine in rabbits. The most important factors in preventing gastrointestinal stasis are:

1. Keeping rabbits on a high fiber diet by

  • Feeding limited amounts of rabbit chow (about 1/8 of a cup for a 2 to 3 pounds rabbit)
  • The rabbit chow should have a crude fiber content in excess of 17%
  • Feeding free choice timothy (grass) hay
  • Feeding dark green, leafy vegetables

2. Regular removal of shedding hair from the rabbit to prevent ingestion. Any hair not physically removed will probably be ingested when the bunny grooms itself. Shedding hair can also be removed by brushing, plucking or using sticky lint rollers. Some bunnies even tolerate being vacuumed!

3. Using laxatives such as cat hairball medicine several times weekly, or when the rabbit is having a heavy shed. Also, pineapple or papaya juice or papaya enzyme tablets are recommended. These fruits contain an enzyme known as papain that is supposed to digest hair. Their ability to do this in the rabbit's intestinal system is uncertain and controversial, but the fluid may be helpful in loosening up the sludging. The juice should always be fresh or frozen, as the enzyme is not active in canned products. Also juices tend to high in sugar and should be diluted 50:50 with water.

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H
Rabbit Diseases starting with H
Haematuria

Haematuria is defined as blood in the urine It can be differentiated from 'red urine' by a simple dipstick test.

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Symptoms
Blood in the urine, either mixed evenly with the urine or passed as clots at the end of urination.

  • Red-tinged urine (due to the discharge of blood clots)
  • Painful abdomen on palpation
  • Development of tumor/lump
  • Enlarged bladder, leading to distended abdomen
  • Frequent bruising (due to excessive clotting)
  • Urocystoliths (bladder stones) may be detected by abdominal palpation; often, one single, large calculus can be felt

Cause
The source of the blood can be either the urinary system (bladder and kidneys) or in the doe, the reproductive system, (uterus).

Blood from the urinary system can be associated with infection (see cystitis) or bladder stones (urinary calculi). Blood associated with bladder problems is usually mixed evenly with the urine and may be accompanied by pain on urination.

Blood from the reproductive system is usually associated with blood clots or blood passed at the end of urination. The commonest uterine (womb) disorders are endometrial hyperlasia and uterine adenocarcinoma.

Diagnosis & Treatment
Vets may implement a number of diagnostic tests to identify the cause of the bloody urine. These may include:

  • Full Clinical History and Comprehensive physical examination
    • Reason: To rule out or identify underlying causes of the problem and to identify all symptoms and pathologies present
  • Full Urine Tests – Urine Specific Gravity, Dipstix and Cytology
    • Reason: To identify whether the pet is concentrating their urine properly and to identify any possible infections or crystals which may indicate a UTI or bladder stones
  • Laboratory Urine Tests – Urine Culture and Sensitivity testing, Urethral Crystal Analysis (stones)
    • Reason: To determine the specific bacterium causing the urinary tract infection and to determine which antibiotics will be effective against that infection. Also, crystal analysis can be used to identify the composition of the bladder stones which is necessary to formulate treatment and prevention plans for your pet.
  • Special Blood Tests - Coagulation Profiles – if suspecting bleeding/clotting disorders
    • Reason: To ascertain if there is a bleeding disorder and distinguish the type whether it be a clotting factor deficiency or a platelet deficiency
  • Imaging, X-RAYS, Ultrasound, Endoscopy, Contrast radiography
    • Reason: To located undiagnosed masses or tumours which may be causing the bleeding
  • Biopsies (Kidneys, Urethra, bladder, etc). Methods include: Ultrasound guided, Traumatic Urethral Catheterisation, Full surgical biopsies
    • Reason: To obtain samples of suspicious tissues to be tested by a pathologist and allows further identification of the underlying cause.
  • Hormone Tests (testosterone, oestrone sulphate, etc)
    • Reason: if suspecting your pet may be showing signs of being in season

Treatment
Treatment is entirely dependent upon the underlying cause. Please see your Vet to have the bloody urine diagnosed so a correct treatment can be started. With this symptom, there isn't any standard symptomatic therapy that Vets are likely to implement whilst waiting on a definitive diagnosis.

Blood in the urine is a symptom which can be seen in most domestic animals. It can be caused by a variety of different rabbit diseases or pathologies and is diagnosed with tests ranging from blood and urine tests to imaging. Symptomatic treatment involves the use of anti-nausea medication and dietary modification. As always, seek Veterinary consultation at all times.

Care & Prevention
After the initial treatment has resolved the cause of the hematuria, your veterinarian will schedule a follow-up visit to monitor your rabbit's response to treatment. Physical examinations, laboratory testing, and radiographic and ultrasonic evaluations will be required, as your vet looks for any complications or recurrences of anemia, urinary tract obstruction, or kidney failure.

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Hairballs (trichobezoar)

A hairball is a solid mass or mat of hair that has been ingested, often combined with thick or undigested food and can be found in the stomach and/or intestines. Because rabbits groom themselves frequently, they can accumulate large amounts of hair in this way.

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Symptoms
It is not abnormal to find hair in a rabbit's stomach, since they self-groom, and this normally would not cause symptoms or be a cause for concern or a sign of disease. However, inspissated stomach contents (thick, dry, and less fluid and motile), which may include hair, is an abnormal finding and a cause for further inspection. The finding of inspissated contents or a mass of hair may suggest that your rabbit is receiving too little fiber in its diet, or that there is a problem with its gastrointestinal tract.

Unlike cats, which also can suffer from excessive trichobezoars, rabbits are not physically capable of vomiting (jury's still out on this one), the contents of their stomachs. For this reason, everything that goes into a rabbit's mouth must be able to pass through the digestive tract, otherwise, the presence of excess hair can lead to severe complications, such as intestinal blockage. If the issue is not resolved quickly, the condition can be fatal.

Most of the hair will pass through the intestinal tract harmlessly, especially if the rabbit is eating a good diet composed mainly of hay and other high-fiber foods.

If a solid hairball forms and lodges in the intestinal tract, however, a life-threatening obstruction can occur. The signs of such an obstruction include refusal to eat, lack of fecal pellets, abdominal pain and lethargy. Any rabbit exhibiting these signs should be seen by a veterinarian right away. If an obstruction is present, surgery may be required to relieve it.

Cause
Most rabbits that show these signs, however, are not truly obstructed by a hairball, but are suffering from a similar condition called gastric stasis. This is a common syndrome in which the gastrointestinal tract loses its normal motility, resulting in dehydration of the gastrointestinal contents and firm ingested material accumulating in the stomach and cecum (a part of the intestine). Although hair can be found in the stomach of rabbits with gastric stasis, it is usually not the cause of the problem.

Common causes include an inappropriate diet, lack of hay, excessive carbohydrates and stress from environmental factors or illness. Therapy for gastric stasis involves rehydration, nutritional support, and drugs to increase gastric motility and reduce pain. Unlike a true obstruction, this condition is managed medically rather than surgically and usually has a better outcome, although it is still a medical emergency.

Care & Prevention
Fortunately, we can prevent most cases of gastric stasis and hairball obstruction in rabbits by feeding them a high-fiber diet composed mainly of hay and green, leafy vegetables. Give limited amounts of pellets and few if any high-sugar treats.

Home remedies for hairballs such as laxatives and papaya tablets can actually be counterproductive if the rabbit has gastric stasis, as these products can be loaded with sugars.

Finally, brushing rabbits, especially long-haired breeds such as the Angora or Jersey Wooly, is an important way to help prevent hairballs.

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Hair loss (Alopecia)

Alopecia or hairloss, is the complete or partial lack of hair in areas where hair is normally present. This common disorder in rabbits may often be the symptom of another cause, such as infection, trauma or immune disorder. For rabbits, there is no specific age, breed, or sex that is more susceptible to this disorder.

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Symptoms
The primary sign of alopecia is unusual loss of fur. Symptoms may progress suddenly or slowly. The exact pattern and degree of fur loss may help determine the cause of alopecia, and identify the condition as primary (happened on its own) or secondary (occurred due to another illness).

Cause
Alopecia is associated with some sort of disruption of hair follicle growth. This may result from a number of causes, including parasitic infection (such as fleas or ear mites), infectious rabbit disease (such as a bacterial infection), a nutritional defect (especially protein deficiencies), or neoplastic causes (the presence of unnatural clusters of cell growth, such as a tumor). Also, if there are multiple areas of hair loss (multifocal), it is most frequently associated with a parasitic or bacterial infection.

In some cases alopecia may be the result of a behavioral problem known as “barbering.” This is where a dominant rabbit will chew or pull the hair out of its fellow cage-mate; hair loss predominantly appears on the flanks. Alopecia can occur because of normal shedding patterns, especially in breeds such as the Dwarf, Miniature Lop, and Angora.

Diagnosis
If alopecia is apparent, there are a number of diagnostic procedures that may be done to determine the cause. A skin scraping and biopsy may be done to rule out any bacterial, parasitic or fungal infections. Additional tests that can be conducted include urine analysis, blood tests, and X-rays.

Treatment
Treatment and the medications prescribed depends specifically on the underlying cause of alopecia. Medications to treat parasites such as ear mites or fleas, as well as medications to treat bacterial infections, are available. Of course, if the cause is more serious, such as related to a tumor, more drastic measures, like chemotherapy, may be necessary.

Care & Prevention
Follow-up care after initial treatment depends on the causes of alopecia. If the alopecia is suspected to be the result of “barbering”, the two rabbits must be separated to avoid future incidents.

As there are numerous causes leading to alopecia, no specific prevention method can be recommended. However, a healthy lifestyle, well-balanced diet with sufficient protein, and general cleanliness of the rabbit's habitat may be helpful in avoiding needless hair loss.

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Head Tilt (torticollis or wry neck)

Head tilt or torticollis, Latin for "twisted neck" and sometimes called "wryneck" causes a rabbit's head to twist over sideways. Often, torticollis is accompanied by a rapid side-to-side movement of the eyeballs (nystagmus), an indication that the rabbit is suffering from dizziness/vertigo.

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Causes

A diagnosis as to the cause of the problem is frequently made after elimination of other possibilities.

Stroke
Stroke is usually suspected on the basis of physical signs. Imaging to diagnose this problem is available to humans but difficult to arrange for companion rabbits. As in humans, acerbrovascular accident can kill, but if it does not, then the rabbit may initially be left with one side of his face, and perhaps one entire side of his body affected. One side of his face will droop, he may drool, and one eye may not function properly. He may not move normally or may move in circles. Function usually will slowly return over a period of months. Almost three years after a stroke, one of my rabbits has only a slight tilt to his head, unnoticeable, unless pointed out. Benny just looks a bit quizzical.

Care for a bunny who has suffered a stroke involves nursing him through his difficulties in eating, drinking and moving. Antibiotics do not help these cases, but sometimes are given to help rule out infection. Acupuncture should also be considered in treatment of these cases.

Trauma
A blow to the face, neck or head can result in an injury to the brain which can cause the rabbit to have a head tilt. Trauma even could result from a panic reaction. Depending upon the severity of the trauma, an anti-inflammatory might be helpful to speed recovery.

Cancer
Tumors occurring in the brain, neck or ear could produce a symptom of head tilt.

Cervical muscle contraction
A "muscle spasm" could cause a temporary head tilt. This situation will resolve itself once the muscle is relaxed.

Encephalitozoonosis
Encephalitozoon cuniculi, a protozoan parasite, can cause brain disease (meningooencephalitis and microscopic cysts), and can result in paralysis anywhere in the body, since every part of the body is controlled by a specific part of the brain. Frequently there are signs preceding a head tilt caused by E.cuniculi such as tripping, dragging of feet, tipping over. These symptoms may have appeared and then vanished weeks or months prior to the head tilt. A blood test for antibodies to E. cuniculi can tell whether your rabbit has been exposed.

Although there is very little conclusive evidence that this microsporidian parasite, related to coccidia and to the protists that cause malaria and other serious rabbit diseases, is truly a causative agent of torticollis. However, more and more circumstantial evidence seems to support the contention that, if only in some cases of rabbits with immunosuppression, that E. cuniculi can cause head tilt and other nervous system disorders, such as hind limb paresis, general weakness, and even seizures.

E. cuniculi is apparently passed from rabbit to rabbit via cysts in the urine. The adult organisms inhabit the central nervous system and the renal (kidney) system, and rabbits with symptoms of "E. cuniculi type" head tilt (this is subtly different from that caused by infection, and is difficult to describe) often show signs of renal disease, as well.

At the moment, positive diagnosis can be made only upon necropsy, and even then, histological results are not always conclusive. Some vets take blood samples to send to a laboratory for titer testing, to see whether the rabbit is producing antibodies against E. cuniculi. All this test will tell the vet, however, is that the rabbit has been exposed to the organism. A high titer may indicate that there is an active infection being battled by the immune system, but such results may be interpreted differently by each professional.

Some practitioners have reported success in arresting symptoms of E. cuniculi (head tilt, hind limb paresis, renal dysfunction) with administration of the bendazole drugs (albendazole, oxibendazole, fenbendazole), which cross the blood-brain barrier and inhibit the function of tubulin, a protein vital for the parasite's feeding and infection of new cells. In a recent study, Suter, et al. (2001) reported that administration of 20mg/kg QD (once per day) of fenbendazole (which is metabolized to its active form, oxfendazole) was effective not only at preventing infection of rabbits by E. cuniculi, but also at eliminating signs of E. cuniculi infection in seropositive rabbits after four weeks of treatment. This is a promising new finding for a rabbit disease that was considered fatal and untreatable not long ago.

Cerebral larva migrans
Baylisascaris spp are round worms which live in the intestine of raccoons and skunks. A rabbit may acquire eggs from these works by eating grasses, food, or bedding contaminated by feces. Larvae hatch from the eggs and migrate into the brain, where they live and grow and destroy brain tissue. There is no known cure for this invasion. Ivermectin probably does not penetrate the brain in sufficient quantities to kill the larvae, although it may kill them before they reach the brain.

Intoxication
This could be caused by ingestion of lead, found in paints or imported pottery, or ingestion of a toxic plant such as the woolly pod milkweed.

Treatment
Apart from the obvious suitable treatments the vet advises and prescribes, acupuncture, chiropractic treatments and massage help, but it seems that the single most important form of physical therapy was regular exercise in a spacious play area where they can run in wider and wider circles, working themselves up to straight lines. (See the individual rabbit diseases for a more detailed treatment)

Care & Prevention
Regardless of the cause, most cases of head tilt have similarities. The "down" eye (the one facing the floor) will usually not close and will require eye ointment to keep the eye moist.

Lack of balance is what causes rabbits to "roll" and be unable to stand, so pick them up as little as possible. When you must pick your rabbit up, hold him securely against your own body, to help him feel stable. Depending upon the size of your rabbit you can usually figure out how to confine him to a smaller space (perhaps a sweater box with the higher sides). Place one of the synthetic sheepskin rugs (that allows urine to pass through but will keep the rabbit dry) on the floor of the cage or box, and then place rolled towels or small blankets to help prop him up, so that he will be less likely to roll when he loses his balance.

Most rabbits will keep eating but may need to be hand fed with lots of sympathy with every bite of food. He may not want his pellets, but he will usually eat a variety of fresh green veggies, carrots and fruits if you hold them for him. It may help to switch from timothy to alfalfa hay to encourage him to eat lots of roughage.

If your rabbit decides to decline food, you will have to be ready to syringe feed him. There are many recipes for syringe feeding and you can be fairly creative. The primary point is to get food into his stomach so that his gut doesn't stop moving, which would add further complications to the process of getting him well. A sample recipe might be pellets mixed with 2 parts water, mixed garden baby food, some banana, some powdered acidophilus, some apple sauce (some of whatever he usually likes that has a strong taste). Feed him as frequently as possible throughout the day, and as much as you can get down him at each feeding. When he clenches his teeth and won't swallow, stop for awhile and try more later.

Regardless of the cause, sometimes a rabbit who survives will be left with a slight head tilt for the rest of his life. I've found that while the rabbit will adjust rapidly, his caregiver is the one who may have more difficulty accepting the "cosmetics" of the situation. Rabbits are mighty fighters and you can help him in his fight by offering lots of sympathy and healthy treats.

References

Deeb, B.J., R.F. Di Giacomo, B.L. Bernard, and S.M. Silbernagel .1990. Pasteurella multocida and Bordetella Bronchiseptica infections in rabbits. J. Clinical Microbiol. 28:70-75.

Deeb, B.J., and R.F. Di Giacomo. 1994. Cerebral larva migrans caused by Baylisascaris sp. in pet rabbits. JAVMA.

Deeb, B.J. 1993. Update for veterinary practitioners on pasteurellosis in rabbits, JSEAM 2:112-113.

Fox, R.R., R.F. Norberg, and D.D. Myers. 1971. The relationship of Pasteurella multocida to otitis media in the domestic rabbit (oryctologus cuniculus) Lab Anim.Sci. 21:45-48.

Greene, C.E. and J.E. Oliver, Jr. 1983 Neurologic Examination. pp, 450-452 In S. J. Ettinger (ed.) Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 2nd ed W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, PA.

Kunstyr, I., L. Lev, and S. Naumann. 1985. Head tilt in rabbits caused by pastuerellosis and encephalitozoonosis. Lab Anim. 19:208-213.

Kunstyr, I., and S. Naumann. 1986. Humoral antibody response of rabbits to experimental infection with Encephalitozoon cuniculi. Vet. Parasit. 21:223-232.

Kazacos, K.R., and W.M. Boyce. 1989. Baylisascaris larva migrans. JAVMA 195:894-903.

Kazacos, K.R., and E. A. Kazacos. 1988. Diagnostic exercise Neuromuscular condition in rabbits. Lab. Anim. Sci. 38:187-189

Mitchell, D, and E. Riggs. 1993. Sno-Wood Veterinary Hospital, Woodinville, WA. Personal communication.

Pakes, S.P. 1974. Protozoal Diseases pp. 273-278 in S.H. Weisbroth, R.E. Flatt, A.L. Kraus (eds.) . The Biology of the Laboratory Rabbit, Academic Press, Inc., Orlando, FL.

Smith, D. T., and L.T. Webster. 1925. Epidemiological studies on respiratory infections of the rabbit. VI Etiology of otitis media. J. Exp. Med. 41:275-283

Smith, D. T., and L.T. Webster. 1925.Epidemiological studies on respiratory infections of the rabbit. VI Etiology of otitis media. J. Exp. Med. 41:275-283.

Snyder, S.B., J.G. Fox, and O.A. Soave.1973. Subclinical otitis media associated with Pasteurella Multocida infection in New Zealand white rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) Lab. Anim. Sci. 23:270-272.

Wilson, J.M. 1979. The biology of Encephalitozoon cuniculi. Med. Biol. 57:84-104.

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Heat Exhaustion (heat stroke)

Heat stroke occurs when your rabbit overheats and is unable to get cooled back down to a reasonable temperature. In extreme cases, heat stroke can cause death.

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Symptoms
Watch out for these signs of overheating or heat exhaustion:

  • Reddening of the ears
  • Panting
  • Lethargy
  • Salivating
  • Weakness/Slow movement
  • Acting Confused
  • Convulsing

Cause
Heat from direct sunlight or a hot radiator can raise the rabbit's body temperature above 105 degrees F.

Treatment
If your rabbit exhibits any of the above symptoms a good idea would be to begin misting their ears with cool water and immediately call your vet. Never put your rabbit under cold water or into a cold bath if they appear to have heat stroke.

Care & Prevention
To help prevent this condition in your pet rabbit, there are several ways to keep them cool as the temperature rises.

  1. Provide an area for your rabbit that is out of direct sunlight and shaded. A little shade can make a big difference in temperature.
  2. Stone or ceramic tiles will provide a nice cool feeling on their stomachs.
  3. Air conditioning can help alleviate heat.
  4. Open windows that provide a breeze. A fan can also be used, but do not have it blow directly onto your rabbit.
  5. Groom your rabbit. Helping your rabbit to rid themselves of excess fur will help cool them down.
  6. Freeze some water bottles and leave them out on the floor or garden. They enjoy laying in the cooled air around these bottles and may even lick some condensation off the sides.
  7. Provide plenty of cool fresh water for your rabbits. You can add an ice cube or two they might like to lick them.
  8. Give them a little water spraying. Rabbits use their ears to regulate temperature, so by spraying some water mist on their ears you can help cool them down. Never get the ears completely wet; a quick mist will do.
  9. A cool damp towel draped over an area where they like to sit. Make sure it is not dripping right on your rabbit
  10. Veggies! Give your rabbit vegetables to help keep them hydrated. You can leave a little water on them after you rinse them off to add to their water intake

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I
Rabbit terms starting with I

Intervertebral Disc Disease - IVD (slipped disc)

The intervertebral discs are like small jelly pads between each bone in the spine which act as shock absorbers. As the rabbit ages these pads become calcified and then they can move or burst upwards pushing on the spinal cord.

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Symptoms
Hunched posture and will move its hind legs with a shuffling gait, or may have complete paralysis of the hind legs. The symptoms seen reflect the amount of damage that there is to the spinal cord.

In addition to limited range of motion in the joints, abnormal positioning of joints, and abnormal joint sounds, a rabbit with lameness may display signs such as:

  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Hunched posture while sitting
  • Reluctance to move
  • Hiding
  • Teeth grinding
  • Grunting or crying with movement
  • Decreased appetite or water intake
  • Lack of self grooming
  • Faulty gait — difficulty with hopping, climbing (stairs)
  • Imbalanced muscle mass
  • Bony prominences
  • Swelling over joints
  • Urine scald in the perineal region (due to inability to correctly position self for urination)

Cause
Discs (made of cartilage) normally cushion the bones in the spine (the vertebrae), and give the back flexibility. But when discs are compressed or "pinched," they can protrude onto the spinal cord and pinch the spinal nerves.

It is thought that forceful hyperflexion of the spine results in protrusion of the intervertebral disc and extrusion of nuclear material which leads to compression of the spinal cord.

Treatment
Treatment is aimed at reducing the pressure and swelling around the spinal cord. This involves a large dose of corticosteriods. If the rabbit is paralysed it will need intensive nursing. It should be kept clean and dry as it is likely to suffer from urine and faecal soiling. The perineal area can be bathed and a protective moisturising cream apllied.

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause and severity of the disease. If your rabbit is suffering from severe loss of appetite, tube feeding can be used to sustain nutrition until its condition has stabilized. Sedatives, or strong or mild pain relievers may be used - such as morphine or regular anti-inflammatory drugs to decrease inflammation and swelling, thereby decreasing discomfort. If infection is suspected, antibiotics may be used with caution.

Bandage or splint care may be all that is needed to correct the limb problem, but if the condition is of a more severe nature, such as joint deformities, fractures, abscesses, etc., surgery may be done to repair or remove the cause of the disability.

Care & Prevention
At home, you will need to provide your rabbit with a quiet spot in which to recover, with soft bedding and daily bedding changes. Removal of soiled bedding and measures to keep the fur clean and dry will be an important part of protecting your rabbit from a worsening of its condition. Activity should be restricted to protect the limb from any further injury until the symptoms have resolved.

It is important that your rabbit continue to eat during and following treatment. Encourage oral fluid intake by offering fresh water, wetting leafy vegetables, or flavoring water with vegetable juice, and offer a large selection of fresh, moistened greens such as cilantro, romaine lettuce, parsley, carrot tops, dandelion greens, spinach, collard greens, and good-quality grass hay. Also, offer your rabbit its usual pelleted diet, as the initial goal is to get the rabbit to eat and to maintain its weight and nutritional status. If your rabbit refuses these foods, you will need to syringe feed a gruel mixture until it can eat again on its own.

Unless your veterinarian has specifically advised it, do not feed your rabbit high-carbohydrate, high-fat nutritional supplements.

Just Rabbits Note: There is a great article 'How Acupunture Helped Howie Hop' - by Sara Busch which gives an alternative diagnosis from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medical (TCVM) with successful treatment!

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Rabbit Diseases starting with K

Kidney Failure

When the kidneys are no longer able to function properly. Acute failure occurs suddenly; caused by a bacterial infection or eating poisonous plants. Chronic kidney failure is progressive over a longer period of time and more common in older rabbits as part of the aging process or with obese rabbits.

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Symptoms

  • Depression
  • Inability to eat
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Lack of stool or inability to produce stool
  • Heart complications (often in acute renal failure cases)
  • Painful or tender kidneys (when palpitated)

Causes
The causes of chronic and acute renal failure in rabbits vary; acute renal failure (or ARF) may arise from shock, trauma, extreme stress, stroke, heart failure and blood infection.

Meanwhile, a urinary tract obstruction or a urinary tract infection which has spread to the pelvis can bring on either the chronic or acute form of renal failure in rabbits. Aging and diabetes are some other common causes for the condition.

Diagnosis
To diagnose renal failure, a veterinarian will first want to rule out some other potential causes for the rabbit's symptoms, including lymphoma, abscesses, or other types of kidney infections. And although it is rare, cysts in the kidneys can also cause the symptoms listed above.

Laboratory tests on the rabbit may reveal high levels of electrolytes, including potassium or nutrients such as calcium. This may suggest the animal's kidneys are not properly excreting these substances. X-rays, CT scans or ultrasounds may also be performed on the rabbit to reveal potential kidney or bladder stones in the bladder, a common source of pain.

Treatment
A rabbit will generally receive treatment on an outpatient basis. However, if it is experiencing acute renal failure (or crisis), it will require immediate fluid balance therapy to prevent additional injury to the kidneys. Fluids are usually administered intravenously, although the veterinarian may also suggest adding fresh greens to the rabbit's diet for rehydration. If the veterinarian prescribes glycoprotein medication for the rabbit, it is to help with anemia or a low red blood cell count.

Care & Prevention
Lots of rest, a good diet and adequate consumption of fresh water and greens are important for a good prognosis. Even chronic forms of renal failure can be dealt with by following your veterinarian's instructions and bringing the rabbit in for follow-up care, although older rabbits are less likely to recover with time. Also, rabbits at risk of renal problems should avoid substances that may be harmful to the kidneys including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

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Rabbit Diseases starting with L

Limping Due to Pain or Injury (lameness)

Limping or lameness is defined as the disabillity of a limb to the point where movement is impaired. This is typically the result of a severe limb injury or as a side-effect of severe pain in the limbs.

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As the rabbit spends less time using the limb it may begin to favor other unaffected limbs. Moreover, the rabbit will appear to walk rather than hop, as it will not use its hind limbs to push off. The muscular, nervous, and skin systems may all be affected by lameness.

Symptoms
In addition to limited range of motion in the joints, abnormal positioning of joints, and abnormal joint sounds, a rabbit with lameness may display signs such as:

  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Hunched posture while sitting
  • Reluctance to move
  • Hiding
  • Teeth grinding
  • Grunting or crying with movement
  • Decreased appetite or water intake
  • Lack of self grooming
  • Faulty gait — difficulty with hopping, climbing (stairs)
  • Imbalanced muscle mass
  • Bony prominences
  • Swelling over joints
  • Urine scald in the perineal region (due to inability to correctly position self for urination)

Causes
There are a variety of causes for lameness, including:

  • Congenital development abnormalities
  • Injury to soft tissue, bone, or joint
  • Infection — abscess, septic arthritis, pododermatitis (foot infection)
  • Soft tissue or bone tumors
  • Arthritis
  • Shoulder or hip dislocation (dysplasia)
  • Elbow dislocation (dysplasia)
  • Ligament tears or injuries
  • Fractures
  • Spinal diseases (intervertebral disc disease)
  • Spondylitis (inflammation of the vertebrae)
  • Obesity, lack of exercise
Diagnosis
Your veterinarian will need to begin by differentiating between lameness due to muscle imbalance and lameness due to a nervous disorder. You will need to give a thorough history of your rabbit's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. A blood and urine analysis will be performed, and an examination of joint fluid to identify and differentiate joint disease.

Visual diagnostics will include X-rays for all suspected musculoskeletal causes, and computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to help identify and differentiate between causes. Your doctor may also use electromyography (EMG) to test the muscle's electrical activity. A muscle and/or nerve biopsy to study the cellular structure of the muscle tissue may also be necessitated by your doctor's findings.

Treatment
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause and severity of the disease. If your rabbit is suffering from severe loss of appetite, tube feeding can be used to sustain nutrition until its condition has stabilized. Sedatives, or strong or mild pain relievers may be used - such as morphine or regular anti-inflammatory drugs to decrease inflammation and swelling, thereby decreasing discomfort. If infection is suspected, antibiotics may be used with caution.

Bandage or splint care may be all that is needed to correct the limb problem, but if the condition is of a more severe nature, such as joint deformities, fractures, abscesses, etc., surgery may be done to repair or remove the cause of the disability.

Care & Prevention
At home, you will need to provide your rabbit with a quiet spot in which to recover, with soft bedding and daily bedding changes. Removal of soiled bedding and measures to keep the fur clean and dry will be an important part of protecting your rabbit from a worsening of its condition. Activity should be restricted to protect the limb from any further injury until the symptoms have resolved.

It is important that your rabbit continue to eat during and following treatment. Encourage oral fluid intake by offering fresh water, wetting leafy vegetables, or flavoring water with vegetable juice, and offer a large selection of fresh, moistened greens such as cilantro, romaine lettuce, parsley, carrot tops, dandelion greens, spinach, collard greens, and good-quality grass hay. Also, offer your rabbit its usual pelleted diet, as the initial goal is to get the rabbit to eat and to maintain its weight and nutritional status. If your rabbit refuses these foods, you will need to syringe feed a gruel mixture until it can eat again on its own.

Unless your veterinarian has specifically advised it, do not feed your rabbit high-carbohydrate, high-fat nutritional supplements.

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Rabbit Diseases starting with M

Malocclusion (dental disease)

A misalignment of teeth. An inherited defect where the upper and lower jaws do not let the teeth meet, resulting in long, uneven teeth extending out of the rabbit's mouth.

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Mammary Gland Neoplasia (Mammary Adenocarcinoma)

Mammary carcinosarcoma is rare in rabbits. Carcinosarcoma is a neoplasia composed of cells morphologically resembling malignant epithelial components and cells resembling malignant connective tissue elements.

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When referring to tumors in general, the words “neoplasm, “neoplasia” and “neoplastic” may also be used. The words refer to an abnormal new growth of tissue, either malignant or benign.

In spite of the rarity in rabbits, carcinosarcoma should always be considered in the different diagnoses of the mammary neoplasias, especially those of undifferentiated neoplasias.

Symptoms

  • Mammary gland: enlargement - mild cystic changes
  • Range of small mass in a single gland to multiple coalescing firm masses in the mammary tissue.
  • Brown-red sterile discharge from the teat(s).
  • Enlarged teat(s).
  • Hair loss around teat(s).
  • No response to antibiotics.
  • Localized mammary gland carcinoma:
    • Clinically bright, normal appetite and behavior.
    • Normal CBC [Hematology] & CHEM [Blood biochemistry: overview] Clinical Chemistry and Hematology.
  • Metastasized mammary gland carcinoma (signs depend on how rapid the carcinoma spreads):
    Can be alert and active until shortly before death.
    Can be depressed, lethargic, inappetant, respiratory signs (if tumors have metastasized to the lungs) [Respiratory: stertor / stridor] , progressive weight loss and cachexia (if goes undiagnosed for a long while).

Acute presentation
Red-brown discharge from the teat(s).
Palpable mammary enlargement +/- masses.
Depressed and inappetant +/- cachexia (metastasis).

Age predisposition
All ages of female rabbits are at risk: older, intact female rabbits are at higher risk.
Risk increases with age.

Sex predisposition
Primarily females, often multiparous, but nulliparous are also at risk.
Has not been reported in males, but theoretically can occur.

Breed predisposition
Any breed is susceptible.
Reports of familial mammary tumors in Belgian and English breeds.
If the mammary carcinoma is linked with uterine adenocarcinoma, there is a breed predisposition for this.

Cost considerations
If diagnosed early and without complications and metastasis, surgery is curative.
But, diagnostics often involve tests to rule out other underlying issues which may turn out to be costly.

Special risks, eg anesthetic
High risk anesthesia if the carcinoma has already metastasized to the lungs.

Symptoms & Signs Summary
A female rabbit has eight to twelve mammary glands and is less likely to experience this type of cancer if she is spayed before two years of age.

There is a higher mortality risk with this cancer, as there is only a small window of opportunity to treat it. In addition, this multi-centric cancer can show up in a gland at one end of the body, then in another gland at the other end. Because it travels through the lymphatic system, the cancer spreads throughout the body, including the brain and nervous system.

Since the rabbit may initially seem completely normal, she will have to be closely watched to determine when pain medication is needed. Depending on how quickly and to which organs the cancer metastasizes, other signs will become evident. The rabbit may stop grooming, playing, exercising, and interacting normally; these are all definitive signs that she needs pain control. Weight loss, weakness and equilibrium problems, and anorexia may also occur.

Treatment
Fine needle aspiration, which uses a needle to suction out cells from the lesion, can give some initial information as to whether a tumor is a cancer, a granuloma, or an infection. The lumpectomy is scheduled as quickly as possible to prevent any potential spread of cancer. Mammary adenocarcinoma is an invasive cancer that generally recurs, even after surgery.

Following surgery, the rabbit should be checked every week by a vet. If satisfied after three weeks bimonthly exams are recommended. However, if any lumps are noticed, then metastasis is looked for through radiographs of the lungs and abdomen. If there appears to be no sign of spread to other organs, removal of the entire mammary chain is recommended as soon as possible.

When the mammary gland cancer appears to be contained to one side of the mammary chain, then the long-term prognosis for the rabbit changes from fair to good. In this case, the caregiver may elect the surgery and commit to the extensive aftercare. Not only will the rabbit require pain medication, but her movement will be hampered, affecting eating and drinking. Extensive supportive care and watching for signs of GI stasis [gastrointestinal shutdown] are important, as is maintaining the rabbit in as stress-free environment as possible.

If, however, it appears that both mammary chains are affected, then the long-term prognosis is poor. The invasiveness of removing all mammary glands is severe in any animal, and especially for one as sensitive as the rabbit. It’s a very difficult decision at this point.

Care & Prevention
Depending on how and where the cancer metastasizes, the rabbit will likely exhibit other signs, requiring the bunny’s caregiver and veterinarian to devise a maintenance plan for daily care, which may include pain medication. If surgery is performed, your veterinarian will work out a home-care plan with you.

Prevention is the best option: have a qualified veterinarian spay the rabbit before two years of age or as soon as she is adopted (assuming good health). In addition, be vigilant for any abnormal lumps or bumps during handling sessions (e.g., playtime and grooming).

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Mastitis

Mastitis normally only occurs in rabbits that are lactating. This rabbit disease is most often found in rabbits that not kept in a clean environment. It is caused by bacterial infection in mammary glands. Seldom seen in small rabbitries, this disease is curable but sometimes turns acute.

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Symptoms

-Firm swelling of one or more breasts - which can take on a "blue" appearance
-The breasts feel hot
-There can be abscess formation within the breast
-There may be a foul-smelling discharge from the breast
-There may be a blood-stained discharge from the breast
-The rabbit may have a poor appetite
-High body temperature is present
-Death of kits may occur

In severe cases the Doe may develop septicemia which is an infection in the bloodstream, and will die.

Cause
The infection is thought to reach the breast through a duct in the teat which carries milk from the gland.
Damage to the teat during suckling by young kits may also cause some contamination if their environment is kept unsanitary.

Bacteria causing this rabbit disease include:

  • Staphylococcus
  • Streptococcus
  • Pasteurella

The disease is caused by various bacteria, staphylococci usually being responsible for the chronic form, whilst streptococci are usually concerned in the acute form. The teat or teats are swollen and painful, and in the acute form there is usually a discharge. The acute form is sometimes wrongly known as milk fever.

Treatment
Treatment consists of bathing the affected parts with warm water containing an antiseptic. Besides this, use of antibiotics like quinolones and penicillin is prescribed as expert opinion. Dipping the infected body parts in sterile warm water is commonly practiced.

In such a situation its treatment becomes very important. A daily inspection of each doe helps the early detection of the illnesses. Like this, the quick spread of the disease through the unit can be easily restricted.

Care & Prevention
Mastitis in rabbits can't be cured completely but it can be controlled. Practicing good nutrition, providing enough moving space and plenty of ventilation also helps. Immediate vet consultation is highly beneficial during the initial stages of infection as it helps to prevent further severity of the disease.

On the whole, a doe doesn’t get infected unless it is breeding. Always remember to remove old bedding from rabbit cages and keep them disinfected, especially around the time a doe is due to kindle. However, the young ones need protection and require immediate separation from the mothers to avoid poison consumption.

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Middle & Inner Ear Infections (Otitis Media and Interna)

Otitis Media and Interna are conditions in which there is inflammation of the middle and inner ear canals (respectively) in rabbits. It is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection that has spread from the external ear cavity into the inner ear.

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There are three main parts to a rabbit's ear:

- Inner (interna)
- Middle (media)
- Outer (externa)

Outer Ear
External ear infections (otitis externa) occur can easily seen at the base of the ear flap (pinna), and should be visually inspected at least weekly. In rabbits the cause is usually ear mites. This is one of the most common disorders seen in pet rabbits overall, but lop-eared rabbits are more likely to show signs of otitis externa (inflammation of the outer ear).

Middle & Inner Ear
Otitis Media and Interna are the ear chambers located behind the tympanic membrane (ear drum) and involve about 50% of all cases of acute vestibular disease. The middle ear is the region located directly behind the tympanic membrane (eardrum). It is made of the different bones and nerves responsible for the diffusion of the sound coming from the outer ear to the brain. The middle ear is connected to the nasal cavity by the Eustachian tube, opening that enables the adjustment of the air pressure inside the middle ear. It is responsible for balance.

General Symptoms
Symptoms are related to the severity and extent of the infection; they may range from none to mild discomfort to signs of nervous system involvement. Other common signs associated with otitis media and interna include:

- Sudden loss of balance, dizziness
- Head tilting to one side - see head tilt
- Lean or roll toward the affected side (this may appear similar to a seizure)
- Anorexia or teeth grinding due to nausea
- Reluctance to move, digging at the cage floor
- Pain – reluctance to chew, shaking the head, pawing at the affected ear, holding the affected ear down
- Facial nerve damage - facial asymmetry, inability to blink, discharge from eye, ipsilateral head tilt (tilting head on affected side)
- Discharge from ears, dry eyes, throat infection

Otitis Media
Middle ear infections (otitis media) includes the ear drum, the Eustachian tube, three tiny bones, and the tympanic nerve. The area is protected by a bony shell attached to the skull. Infection can enter this area in three ways: through the external ear, from the pharynx up through the Eustachian tube, and through the bloodstream.

Symptoms
Signs of otitis media may include excessive scratching at the base of the ear (pinna), periodic temporary head tilting (with no loss of balance) shaking on the infected side (due to pain), and head rubbing. If both sides are affected - as with ear mites; more on that later – your rabbit may alternate this signs from side to side. If the nerves become damaged, you may see drooling, reduced or absent blink reflexes (and associated dry eye), visible third eyelid, drooping ear and deafness. The causes of otitis media are basically the same as for otitis interna (inner ear infection) with the exception of ear mites. In an extremely severe ear mite infection, the ear drum can rupture and the parasites can then enter the middle ear. Significant pain may be present, interfering with appetite.

Treatment
Diagnosis and treatment is about the same as for otitis interna (see below).

If otitis media progresses to the inner ear (otitis interna), the rabbit will develop a persistent head tilt and other neurological signs: such as loss of balance, rolling and/or circling when attempting to walk, nystagmus (involuntary side-to-side or rolling movements of the eye). The rabbit will try to maintain his usual body posture as best he can, despite the head tilt. Deafness may occur; the infection can spread into the brain.

Otitis Interna
The inner ear includes the auditory canals and is controlled by the nerve in the brain that maintains balance and head posture. The inner ear controls balance and hearing, so disease in this area will result in head tilt towards the affected side.

Symptoms
-
otitis interna is the number one cause of head tilt in house rabbits
- as well as circling
- nystagmus
- inability to walk properly (ataxia)
- deafness
- occasionally tremors.

Rabbits usually remain mentally alert and frequently regain their appetites within 24 hours. The onset is usually rapid but can occur gradually.

In the initial stages, the rabbit may feel nausea related to the ear infection and may demonstrate loss of appetite with refusal of food. It may also affect the rabbit's nose and the throat if the infection spreads.

The ears, the vestibular system (inner ear balance mechanism), the nerves in the ear area, and the eyes may all be affected.

Causes
If only one side is affected, it may be due to foreign bodies, trauma, and tumor. However, bacterial infection is the most common cause of otitis media and interna. Other underlying causes include:

- Candida, a fungal yeast
- Ear mite infestation
- Vigorous ear flushing can lave tissue irritated and susceptible to infection
- Impaired immune system (due to stress, corticosteroid use, concurrent disease, debility) also increases susceptibility to bacterial infections
- Ear cleaning solutions may be irritating to the middle and inner ear (avoid using any internal medications of fluids if the eardrum is ruptured)

Diagnosis
There are several causes for ear infection, and your veterinarian will need to distinguish from other causes of head tilt and rolling episodes. You will need to provide a thorough history of your rabbit's health leading up to the onset of symptoms. A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Your doctor will also take a tissue sample. The results of these tests may show an underlying bacterial infection that has migrated to the ear, a fungal yeast infection, or the presence of parasites.

Visual diagnostics may include X-rays of the ear and face region to look for evidence of foreign materials that have gotten lodged in the ear canal, or tumors that are blocking the canal. A computed tomography (CT) can be used for better resolution and visualization if the X-ray does not give your doctor enough information.

Treatment
Chloramphenicol and penicillin (bicillin) antibiotics pass the blood-brain barrier and have successfully treated middle or inner ear infection in rabbits. Trimethoprim sulfate is sometimes advised, but appears to bring poor improvement in rabbits. Ciprofloxacin has been successful to treat a case of inner ear infection in a dwarf rabbit. Combined antibiotic therapies can be administered, such as enrofloxacin/chloramphenicol or marbofloxacin/penicillin.

The treatment must be aggressive and long, a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks, or continued another 2 weeks after full disappearance of the symptoms. If no improvement is observed after 14 days, it is possible to switch to another antibiotic. In order to minimize the appearance of resistance in the pathogenic bacteria, it is best to administrate a cocktail including the old antibiotic and the new one.

An otoscopic examination is necessary to determine if the eardrum is ruptured. If this is the case, antibiotic-containing eardrops will lead to ototoxicity. The consequence is permanent deafness, loss of balance or death. A safe alternative to remove pus and debris is to wash out the outer and middle ear with a saline solution.

The antibiotic therapy should be accompanied by NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) pain medication. Meloxicam can be used over a longer period of time, without reported side effects in rabbits.

The use of glucocorticosteroids in the treatment of ear infection is controversial. They are advisable during the first days of treatment, in order to reduce the inflammation, but their use of should not extent over 5 days, due to their immunodepressive properties.

The administration of meclizine, a motion sickness drug, is advisable in case of otitis interna. If the rabbit has trouble eating and drinking, force-feeding and administration of SC fluids are necessary. If the middle ear or the nerves are damaged, deafness or head-tilt is irreversible.

Inpatient treatment will be advised if the infection is severe, or when neurological signs are seen. Fluid and electrolyte therapy will be given until the rabbit stabilizes, with bacteria specific antibiotics administered orally, and also applied directly in the ears if the eardrum has not ruptured. Antifungal medications will be administered of the infection is found to be caused by yeast. If the ear canal or eardrum has been severely damaged, it is possible that surgery will need to be performed to remove the ear canal.

Your rabbit will be discharged from inpatient care once it is stable, or if the infection was not severe, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate medications for you to administer at home. Generally, a warm saline solution can be used to clean and disinfect the ears, followed by gentle drying with a swab. Unless your veterinarian has instructed you otherwise, you should not put any solution or material inside the rabbit's ears.

Prognosis of surgical drainage, e.g. bulla osteotomy, is poor and is accompanied by post-operative complications in rabbits. It should be used in cases of severe infection of the middle or inner ear, when antibiotics fail to keep the situation under control.

Care & Prevention
Although lab studies done on inner ear infections reports a very poor cure rate, I have spoken to many individuals, and can personally attest, to having a high success rate in getting rabbits through this illness. The "secret" if there is one, is long term antibiotics, which is for a minimum of 30 days. However it is common for the rabbit to be on antibiotics for 6 months and even for the remaining years of his life and this must be in conjunction with a loving and supportive environment for him to feel safe in.

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Mites (mange)

Cheyletiella mites, commonly referred to as skin mites or mange mites, are the most common skin problem seen in rabbits. Invisible to the eye, they are easily spread on hay and other bedding and, whilst not a serious problem in themselves, can carry the myxomatosis virus.

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Symptoms
- patch of dandruff on rabbit's coat, usually at nape of neck or around tail area
- patch may look like its moving due to activity of mites

Cause
The causes of mite infestation are still being debated, with some experts believing that many rabbits carry these mites naturally with problems only occuring when the population flares up. The mites feed on keratin which is present in patches of dead hair, meaning that rabbits that are unable to groom themselves thoroughly due to obesity or illness are more at risk.

Treatment
Skin mites can be treated with a course of ivermectin injections.

Care & Prevention
The infected rabbit's hutch or living area should be thoroughly disinfected.

Regular grooming helps to remove the dead hair upon which mites may feed.

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Mucoid Enteritis

Mucoid enteritis is a subacute fatal disease in young rabbits and has long been a major source of economic loss to commercial rabbitries.

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Symptoms
Feces that is soft or runny and most often covered with a jelly-like mucus
May be bloated
Appears to be in pain, may be grinding teeth
Not eating

Cause
Mucoid Enteritis is very dangerous and probably one of the fastest killing rabbit diseases a rabbit can develop. This disease often affects young rabbits, but can affect adults too. Young rabbits just moving to solid food, or just weaned can be susceptible. Other causes might include any stressful event, sudden change in diet or an inadequate diet.

Treatment
Remove pellets; offer only hay and old fashion oatmeal (not Quick Oats)
Give something for diarrhea; Neomycin Sulfate or Dry-Tail – give about ½ cc to 1cc, according to size of rabbit, every couple hours until symptoms subside.
Infant gas drops can be given to help relieve gas pain; 1cc to 2 cc according to size of rabbit 2-3 times a day
Yogurt – 1/2cc to 1cc 2-3 times a day to help restore good bacteria in gut while we battle bad bacteria.
Keep hydrated; water and Pedialyte mixed 50/50 works well. Feed by syringe if they will not drink on their own. The more you treat for dehydration, the better chance you have of survival.
Gentle belly massages may relieve some discomfort.

Treating rabbit with a safe wormer, like Safeguard, could prove beneficial.

A broad spectrum antibiotic, like Baytril, may be needed if infection is suspected. Also, sub Q fluids may be needed if oral hydration is not successful

When diarrhea has been successfully stopped and rabbit is eating hay, you can slowly begin to re-instate an eating routine. Add pellets, but do not add too fast or diarrhea may start all over again. Your rabbit should welcome the pellets, but if he doesn’t right away, syringe feed baby food mixture below, for nutrition.

A spoonful of baby food bananas
A spoonful of baby food peas
A spoonful of carrots
A spoonful of yogurt (any of the kinds that do not have the fruit chunks)
About 2 tablespoons of pedialyte or Gatorade.

Feeding slowly, small amounts at a time through a syringe (no more than about 2-3cc at a time to start).

Care & Prevention
Always feed plenty of hay
Never make sudden feed changes
Limit stress for younger rabbits
Make sure babies are drinking when they transfer from mother’s milk to solid food

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Myxomatosis (myxi)

Myxomatosis is caused by the myxoma virus, a poxvirus spread between rabbits by close contact and biting insects such as fleas and mosquitoes. The virus causes swelling and discharge from the eyes, nose and anogenital region of infected rabbits.

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Myxomatosis was introduced to Australia in 1950 to reduce pest rabbit numbers. The virus initially reduced the wild rabbit population by 95% but since then resistance to the virus has increased and less deadly strains of the virus have emerged. Pet rabbits do not possess any resistance to myxomatosis and mortality rates are between 96-100%. With such a poor prognosis treatment is not usually recommended.

Symptoms
Myxomatosis can take several courses. Rabbits may suddenly become very ill with conjunctivitis (red, runny eyes), a high fever, loss of appetite and lethargy, and may die within 48 hours. Sometimes the illness lasts longer, and the mucous membranes and other tissues become swollen, including the eyes, nose, mouth, ears (which become droopy) and the genital and anal areas. The entire face may become very swollen, and thick pus may be discharged from the nose and the rabbit may have difficulty breathing. Most rabbits die within 14 days.

In more chronic cases (and depending on the strain of virus and immunity of the rabbit) lumps and nodules (myxomas) may develop over the body. Rabbits with this form may survive, and become immune to myxomatosis virus. This seems to be a less likely course of disease in domestic rabbits, however, with most suffering from the acute forms with eventual death.

Cause
Myxomatosis is caused by the myxoma virus, a kind of pox virus. There are different strains of the virus which vary in their virulence (basically the ability to cause disease). The susceptibility of different rabbit species (e.g. domestic rabbits, vs hares, vs cottontails etc.) to the virus varies as well.

The virus is spread by biting insects (e.g. fleas, mosquitoes, mites, lice, and flies) as well as by direct contact (between rabbits), indirect contact (via items that such as food dishes or clothes that carry the virus from rabbit to rabbit), and by aerosols.

Treatment
There is no specific treatment for myxomatosis so only supportive care (fluids, antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, etc.) can be offered. However, because domestic rabbits tend to be very susceptible to the virus and tend to suffer a long and painful death, euthanasia is often recommended to prevent suffering.

The only way to prevent infection is to protect your pet rabbits from biting insects such as fleas and mosquitoes. Put mosquito netting around your rabbit’s hutch even if indoors (this will help to prevent flystrike aswell). If your rabbits are allowed to exercise outside avoid letting them out in the early morning or late afternoon when more mosquitoes are more numerous. Please talk to your vet about flea prevention for rabbits. You can use Revolution (Selamectin) or Advantage (Imidocloprid) for flea prevention, but you must check first with your vet for dosages. Do not use Frontline (Fipronil) as this has been associated with severe adverse reactions in rabbits.

Vaccination
There are vaccinations against myxomatosis available in the UK but are currently not available in Australia or the U.S. The vaccine may not completely prevent myxomatosis, but does reduce the severity of the disease, and vaccinated rabbits generall recover. The vaccine can be given to rabbits once they are six weeks old (immunity develops within 14 days), and repeated yearly, or every six months where myxomatosis is common.

Care & Prevention
If your pet rabbit does develop myxomatosis, your vet will advise the best course of action, which may be euthanasia. Treatment is rarely successful, even if commenced early in the infection and the course of disease is very painful and stressful. Thoroughly disinfect your rabbit hutch, water bottles and food bowls with household bleach, rinsing it off so that it cannot be ingested by any other rabbits. Bringing a new rabbit home is not recommended for at least four months after a case of myxomatosis as the virus is able to survive in the environment for some time.

Keep your rabbit indoors and away from insects (especially at dawn and dusk).
Control insects that may spread disease (e.g. screens, no standing water in yard, an appropriate flea control program).
Don't take rabbits to fairs, shows, or any other places where rabbits are brought together when an outbreak is underway.
Quarantine sick rabbits and take steps to prevent direct transmission via your clothes, food dishes, and other supplies. Place mosquito netting over infected rabbits' cages.
Quarantine rabbits that have been exposed to the virus for 14 days.

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Rabbit Diseases starting with N

Nasal Discharge

Rabbits may have nasal discharge for a variety of reasons. A white sticky discharge may be a symptom of upper respiratory infection - see snuffles.

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Or it could be associated with dacrocystitis - see tear duct infection.

Blood from the nose can occur following trauma, but is also a symptom of a serious viral disease - see VHD (viral haemorrhagic disease).

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Rabbit Diseases starting with O

Obesity

Obesity in rabbits is caused by an incorrect diet that is too high in dry food (commercial rabbit food) and too low in hay...

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Excess body weight, or obesity, is as much a problem in rabbits as it is in any other species, especially household rabbits. Rabbits that are obese are not able to function normally because of their large size and body fat percentage.

Although certain breeds of rabbit, including the dwarf rabbit, are more at risk for obesity due to their shorter stature and inactivity, it occurs most often among middle-aged rabbits that are caged, and is independent of their gender.

Symptoms
Typically rabbits prone to obesity tend to be more than 20 to 40 percent overweight. An easy way to determine this is to give the rabbit a physical exam. If you cannot find the ribs under the layer of fat and skin, then it is probably obese.

Other signs of obesity may include flaky dermatitis, as the rabbit has difficulty fully cleaning under its skin folds. The animal may also have difficulty breathing and be excessively tired.

Cause
The causes for obesity in rabbits include being caged too often, along with excessive feeding habits. If it is fed too many treats or snacks during the day and not allowed to exercise it off, then it is sure to become obese.

Diagnosis
To diagnose obesity a veterinarian would naturally rule out conditions like pregnancy, a tumor mass or other abdominal and intestinal masses; fluid in the abdominal cavity can also mimic obesity. Other tests include those which measure the rabbit's body fat.

Treatment
Proper nutrition is the key to treating obesity. Often high-quality grass hay and fresh greens, including lettuce, parsley and carrot tops are generally recommended over an exclusive pellet diet. Fresh fruits and other non-leafy vegetables are not recommended during the obese period, as these can lead to other health problems in the rabbit.

Care & Prevention
With proper education from the veterinarian, you will establish long-term, reachable weight loss goals that will guide the rabbit toward a healthier and more productive life.

It is also important for the animal’s overall wellness that its caged area be kept free from debris or fecal matter. Clipping excess hair and brushing matted hair will also help keep the rabbit clean.

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Rabbit Diseases starting with P

Pasteurellosis (snuffles)

Pasteurella Moltoceda is the bacterium that causes Pasteurellosis in rabbits. Over half of all wild and domestic rabbits carry Pasteurella bacteria in their mouth or respiratory tract but most are not ill, as a healthy immune system either destroys the bacteria or keeps it under control and harmless.

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Symptoms
Symptoms depend on the strength (virulence) of the specific Pasteurella strain involved, which body organ(s) are involved and how long the disease is present. One of the most common symptoms is respiratory, usually manifested as a nasal discharge. When a rabbit wipes its front paws on its nose to remove the discharge the hair on the legs becomes matted. These are the symptoms that lead to the laymen’s name for this rabbits disease, snuffles.

Other respiratory signs of Pasteurella include sneezing, congestion, and conjunctivitis. The tear ducts (lacrimal ducts) can become clogged with dried discharge, causing excess tearing and subsequent scalding of the skin around the eyes and face.

In some cases Pasteurella can localize in the eye and cause complete loss of function. This eye has to be removed, since the rabbit cannot see, and it is painful.

In addition to the respiratory tract, the bacteria can also infect the reproductive tract, the sinuses, the eyes, the ears, and the internal organs. It sometimes causes abscesses under the skin. These abscesses can become chronic and require surgery to correct. Severe cases can cause central nervous system symptoms like oscillations of the eyes (nystagmus), circling to one side, and severe tilting (wry neck or torticollis) of the head. - see head tilt

Cause
A harmful proliferation of Pasteurella bacteria is more likely to occur in a rabbit that is run down or otherwise immunocompromised thus causing Pasteurellosis.

Pasteurella is spread by mating, through general contact (especially respiratory), or through wounds from fighting.

Treatment
Most cases are treated with antibiotics. They sometimes need to be given for weeks or months. The majority of cases brought for treatment are chronic in nature. In these situations the bacteria has had time to become well entrenched, and there is no guarantee that antibiotics will work. If they do work the problem can recur when the antibiotics are stopped. This emphasizes the need for routine exams in general (every 6-12 months), and a physical exam any time the above symptoms are noted.

Other medications are used if your pet is showing central nervous system or ocular symptoms. Pets that are circling or are wry necked might respond to oral medication to make them more comfortable. Plugged tear ducts are flushed and conjunctivitis is treated with antibiotic drops.

Abscesses are treated surgically. Rabbits have a very thick and tenacious discharge when they form an abscess, and require more care than the abscesses of most other animals. Surgical removal can be difficult, especially in the chronic cases, because the abscessed area can become extensive in nature. Multiple surgeries might be needed, and wound care at home is necessary.

Care & Prevention
Most rabbits are exposed to this bacteria early in life. Determining which rabbits will develop symptoms of this problem is difficult. Minimizing stress (heat, overcrowding), proper diet (high in timoth hay, minimal pellets), a clean environment, fresh drinking water at all times, along with early neutering can help in minimizing the chance of this infection.

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Pathogenic Escherichia coli (e.coli or EPEC)

Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) is a subset of pathogenic E. coli (Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli - EPEC) that can cause diarrhea or hemorrhagic colitis in rabbits.

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Escherichia coli is a Gram negative rod (bacillus) in the family Enterobacteriaceae. Most E. coli are normal commensals found in the intestinal tract. Pathogenic strains of this organism are distinguished from normal flora by their possession of virulence factors such as exotoxins. The specific virulence factors can be used, together with the type of disease, to separate these organisms into pathotypes.

Transmission
EHEC are transmitted by the fecal, oral route. They can be spread between animals by direct contact or via water bowls, shared feed, contaminated exercise area or other environmental sources. Birds and flies are also potential vectors. It is also suspected to travel in the air by becoming aerosolized in water spray during high pressure washing of infected areas.

Symptoms
Health problems range from a simple upset stomach to severe diarrhea complicated with dehydration and possibly death.

E. coli infections are generally a problem with young rabbits but not while they are still nursing as the antibodies in the mother's milk protect them. It is during weaning that the first symptoms develop, and when it is most dangerous. The animal is adjusting to new feed and learning to drink water rather than suckle its mother. The normal intestinal fauna is just getting established and the E. coli is an opportunist that takes over quickly, disrupting the system. The young animal cannot absorb nutrients properly and starts to lose water, a dangerous and often lethal combination.

E. coli is a bacterium that has several different serotypes, which when infected can cause varying degrees of weight loss and mortality in growing rabbits. One serotype causes yellow diarrhea in suckling rabbits and is associated with high mortality. However, E. coli most commonly affects 4-7 week old rabbits shortly after weaning and is characterized by severe diarrhea and dehydration. E. coli grows and multiplies in the latter part of the digestive tract causing abrasion to the absorptive surface. This results in excess secretion of fluids into the digestive tract, as well as a decrease in fluid absorption leading to severe diarrhea. Typically, infection leads to death within a few days or stunted and unthrifty rabbits, if they survive.

Treatment
There has been some success in developing vaccines for E. coli, but they are not yet commonly used. Probiotics can also be used in order to promote the development of good bacteria in the caecum, preventing E. coli from multiplying. The many benefits from a diet high in fibre can include improving the resistance of the rabbit to E.coli infections. The favourable effect of a diet high in fibre was shown in a study by Gidenne and Licois (2005). The infections were experimentally induced and compared to two diets, one low in fibre and one high in fibre.

If you have more than one rabbit they will all need to be treated for at least 4 weeks at the same time. All areas where the rabbits have access to must be cleaned out with particular attention being paid at days 21 and 28 of treatment to prevent recontamination.

It is essentital to remember that infected spores survive in the enviroment (if untreated) at 22C for 4 weeks, although the survival rate at lower temperatures such as the outdoor temperature in the UK will mean that rabbits need to be kept off previously used areas for longer periods of time unless they can be cleaned by heating, boiling or by using any discinfectant which will destroy the spores.

Care & Prevention
The antibiotic treatment for E. coli is can cause problems due to the potential of residues in the meat, and create resistant strains of bacteria and harming the natural bacterial content of the caecum. Therefore, the best way to manage E. coli is through prevention.

Recent studies have looked into the protective action of milk against E. coli infections. Suckling rabbits do not commonly get infected with E. coli and it has been hypothesized that this is due to their milk consumption. In the past, studies have shown that medium chain fatty acids have antimicrobial properties. These fatty acids are highly abundant in rabbit milk, especially caprylic and capric acids (Skrivanova and Marounek, 2006; Gallois et al, 2007; Gallois et al, 2008; Skrivanova et al, 2008). One study by Skrivanova et al (2008) demonstrated that feeding weaned rabbits a diet containing caprylic and capric acids led to reduced E. coli numbers and improved growth. Late weaning may be desirable to protect rabbits against infections with E.coli. The natural characteristics of milk in protecting young animals against numerous pathogenic viruses and bacteria have been known for many years.

The inclusion of fibre is another dietary intervention that can help to alleviate the occurrence of E.coli infections in young rabbits. The benefits of a diet high in fibre are that it increases caecal activity causing an increased production of volatile fatty acids which leads to a decreased pH. This drop in pH causes an increase in feed intake and growth while reducing sickness, death and susceptibility to E.coli infections (Gidenne and Licois, 2005). Dietary fibre has a critical role to play in maintaining gut health and gut motility, all while preventing disease. High starch diets are usually not completely digested in the rabbit small intestine due to rapid transit time and because it is very easily digestible. This excess of starch results in rapid growth of microbes and of pathogenic bacteria are present. These will flourish and could lead to death or severe illness. Therefore, inclusion of a high fibre diet is a very important aspect in proactively preventing the onset of enteric disease in your rabbitry.

These changes to the diet are minor but could have a large impact in reducing the incidence of E.coli. Through small changes to the diet of weaning rabbits, the incidence of E. coli infections could be greatly decreased. Although more research is required to assess the effectiveness of these diets, the future outlook is promising.

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Rabbit Diseases starting with R

Rabbitpox

Rabbitpox is a disease of rabbits caused by a virus of the genus Orthopoxvirus and the family Poxviridae. Rabbitpox virus (RPXV) is highly virulent for rabbits and it has long been suspected to be a close relative of vaccinia virus.

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Rabbitpox was first isolated at the Rockefeller Institute in New York in 1933, following a series of epidemics in the laboratory rabbits. It is an acute rabbit disease only known to infect laboratory rabbits as no cases have been reported in wild rabbits; it also cannot infect humans.

Transmission
The spread of this rabbit disease is extremely rapid.
The virus is spread via nasal discharges which appear around the third day after infection. These airborne droplets may be ingested or inhaled.
The recovery from infection does not result in a carrier state.

Symptoms
Pox lesions may or may not be present on the skin.
Most rabbits develop a fever and nasal discharge.
The mortality varies but is always high.
The most characteristic lesions seen at necropsy are a skin rash, subcutaneous edema, and edema of the mouth and other body openings.

Cause
Rabbitpox has not been recognised in wild rabbits, however a few outbreaks have been reported in the USA since 1930.

Rabbitpox virus is a highly infectious airborne agent, which spreads very rapidly through laboratories which contain rabbits causing a high rate of mortality. Because of the edematous condition, “poxless” rabbitpox may be confused with myxomatosis.

Treatment
The virus may be isolated or the infection diagnosed serologically by methods appropriate to vaccinia.

Care & Prevention
Spread through a rabbitry is rapid, but rabbits inoculated with smallpox vaccine are immune.

Rabbitpox virus is closely related immunologically to vaccinia virus, consequently rabbits that have been inoculated with the smallpox (vaccinia virus) vaccine have immunity against rabbitpox.

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Red Urine

The normal colour of urine from rabbits is yellow. Sometimes the urine can become red, pink, brown, or orange. This condition, often simply called "red urine," can occur in healthy rabbits as well as those who are ill.

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Symptoms
Bloody urine (see haematuria) in rabbits may be rare, but red urine is not. Owners who pay close attention to what is in their rabbits litter tray will be familiar with the variation of colour that normal rabbit urine can be.

Red urine is observed in rabbits, and is almost always caused by plant pigments and does not affect the animal's health. Vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and dandelions will often result in the excretion of red urine. Normal rabbit urine will vary from a pale yellow or clear colour, through various orange and brown colours, right up to a deep red colour. Rabbit urine may also look cloudy due to the presence of calcium carbonate being extreted within the urine. Red urine is not a medical problem and usually returns to normal within one to three days, although it has been seen to take as long as three to four weeks before the urine returns to the pale yellow colour.

Dark and/or very strong smelling urine can result from heat stress or dehydration, so always ensure that your rabbit has plenty of fluids, especially in the warmer months of the year when they may appreciate a water bowl to drink from as well as a water bottle. If your rabbit frequently has dark or very strong smelling urine then it may be worth discussing this with your vet.

Cause

  1. Plant pigments: In healthy rabbits, the red colour of urine can be due to porphyrins and other plant pigments that have not all been identified. Sometimes diets with large amounts of plants high in beta-carotene, such as carrots and spinach, can cause the reddish discolouration. Ingestion of pine or fur needles has resulted in red urine as well. The discolouration is unpredictable: two rabbits may be on the identical diet, and one may have red urine, and the other not. Generally, the changes in urine colour caused by diet are intermittent and only last 2-3 days.
  2. Antibiotics: The administration of some antibiotics may increase the levels of pigments in the urine.
  3. Stress: Some have suggested that stress or even a change of season may result in reddish discoloured urine in some rabbits.
  4. Dehydration: Dehydration will concentrate the urine, causing it to become darker in colour and intensifying any pigmentation that is present.
  5. Blood: If the red colouration is due to hematuria (the presence of blood in the urine), it is a sign of disease in the urinary tract, such as:
    • Kidney or bladder infection
    • Kidney or bladder stones
    • Kidney or bladder cancer
    • Bladder polyps

    Blood in secretions from the uterus or vagina normally appear as a bloody discharge on the vulva, or as several bloody drops before or after urination. If the rabbit is not seen urinating, the blood may appear to be uniformly mixed in the urine found in the cage. Secretions from the reproductive tract that may cause red urine in nonspayed females may be due to:

    • Endometrial hyperplasia (thickening of the lining of the uterus)
    • Uterine infection
    • Uterine cancer
    • Uterine polyps
    • Abortion
  6. Bilirubin and urobilinogen: In very rare instances, the discolouration of the urine may be due to the presence of chemicals called bilirubin and urobilinogen. Increased levels of bilirubin and urobilinogen may be found in the blood and the urine if the rabbit has liver disease or her blood cells are being destroyed.

Diagnosis
A veterinarian can test the urine quickly to determine if the discolouration of the urine is due to blood, bilirubin, or urobilinogen. If one of these is found, a complete physical is necessary.

A good medical history including urinary habits is very important. If the animal has been straining to urinate, attempting to urinate more often, or urinating smaller quantities (sometimes only several drops) each time, a urinary bladder problem is likely. The condition can be very serious in rabbits who are "blocked" (have an obstruction of the urinary tract, such as with a bladder stone, and are unable to pass urine).

Various tests of the blood and urine, including a culture and sensitivity may be used to confirm the diagnosis. Ultrasonography and radiography (x-rays) may also be helpful in determining the cause.

Treatment
If the discolouration of the urine is due to dietary pigments, no treatment is necessary. If there is an obstruction, the rabbit may need to be sedated or anesthetized while the obstruction is removed. Dehydrated rabbits will need to be given intravenous (IV) or subcutaneous (SQ) fluids. Depending upon the diagnosis, treatment may include surgery, antibiotics, or other medications.

Summary
Discoloured urine should always be checked by your veterinarian. If your rabbit is not showing any changes in eating, urinating, or other behavior, you may simply need to take in a urine specimen to be tested. To obtain a urine specimen, have your rabbit urinate into a clean, empty litter box. Collect the urine with a syringe, and store it in a clean, covered container in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours. It is sometimes difficult to get a clean sample of urine from a rabbit this way, so you may need to take your rabbit to the veterinarian, who can collect the specimen. A specimen that is less than ½ teaspoon in volume, contaminated with droppings, or not stored correctly can cause inaccurate test results.

If your rabbit is straining to urinate and producing little, if any, urine, she may be blocked, and should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

References
Harkness, JE; Wagner, JE. The Biology and Medicine of Rabbits and Rodents. Williams & Wilkins. Media, PA. 1995.

Paul-Murphy, J. Reproductive and urogenital disorders. In Hillyer, EV; Quesenberry, KE. (eds.). Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery. W.B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia, PA. 1997.

Quesenberry, KE. Rabbits. In Birchard, SJ; Sherding, RG (eds.) Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice. W.B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia, PA. 1994.

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Rabbit Diseases starting with S
Snuffles (nasal discharge or pasteurellosis)

Snuffles is a term used to describe the symptoms of runny eyes, runny nose and sneezing in rabbits. The cause of these symptoms is often a chronic bacterial infection in the tear ducts and nasal sinuses. The bacteria involved are usually Pasteurella spp or Staphylococcus spp.

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Symptoms
The first sign of a problem is usually runny eyes with wet, tear-stained fur on the cheeks. The discharge from the eyes is initially clear (just like normal tears). If left untreated, the discharge can become purulent (white-yellow coloured) and the fur around the eyes can fall out.

As the condition progresses, your rabbit will develop a discharge from its nose which it will wipe away with its front paws. You may spot the dried discharge on your rabbit's front paws.

In severe cases, snuffles can result in pneumonia which requires very intensive treatment - and unfortunately is often fatal.

Cause
Rabbits with dental disease are prone to developing snuffles. This is because the tooth roots pass very closely to the tear duct as it drains from the corner of the eye to the nose. When the teeth become maloccluded (do not meet), the tooth roots push upwards and can obstruct the tear duct. This blockage prevents normal drainage of tears through the duct and allows the bacteria to grow.

Rabbits kept in poorly ventilated hutches may also be prone to developing snuffles. The build-up of fumes from urine or from certain types of wood shavings, eg cedar, may cause irritation to the eyes, and possibly trigger snuffles.

Treatment
If you suspect that your rabbit has snuffles, you should take it to see your vet. He/she will carefully examine your rabbit, including its teeth, and may ask you questions about your rabbit's diet and housing. Your rabbit's eyes may be swabbed to collect some of the bacteria from them. These bacteria will be grown in culture and then exposed to different antibiotics. This test is called a 'culture and sensitivity' and it will help your vet prescribe the most effective antibiotic for your rabbit. The antibiotics are usually in the form of drops or cream to be applied directly to the eyes. Your vet or veterinary nurse will demonstrate how to administer the drops correctly.

Oral antibiotics may also be necessary to treat the infection in the nasal sinuses. You will need to administer these directly into your rabbit's mouth using a syringe. Ask your vet or veterinary nurse to show you how to do this if you are unsure.

Your vet may recommend that your rabbit has its tear duct(s) flushed with an antibiotic solution. Flushing removes any pus and bacteria from the blocked duct and helps the antibiotics to penetrate the duct and be more effective. Your rabbit may need to be sedated for this procedure.

If your rabbit is found to have problems with its teeth, it may need to have them clipped or filed. This is usually performed under general anaesthesia. Your vet may also recommend some changes to your rabbit's diet to help prevent further teeth problems.

Snuffles is a difficult rabbit disease to cure and treatment may need to be continued for several months before the condition improves.

Care & Prevention
Ensure that your rabbit's living quarters are well ventilated and are regularly cleaned-out to prevent the build-up of fumes from urine. Also do not use cedar shavings for bedding.

Recent research by veterinary surgeons and rabbit food companies has shown that there is a strong relationship between rabbit's diet and dental disease. Rabbits with dental problems are prone to snuffles, so the best way of protecting your rabbit from snuffles, is to ensure that its teeth are healthy and this may require changes to your rabbits diet.

Rabbits in the wild eat a very high-fibre diet consisting predominantly of grass, hay and bark, and they rarely suffer from dental problems. As rabbit's teeth grow throughout their life, they need to be continually worn down by the action of chewing on food. The major consitituent of your rabbit's diet should be grass and hay. Only a small amount of commercial rabbit mix should be fed, and this should be one of the high-fibre mixes such as Supreme's Russell Rabbit Mix or Burgess Supa Rabbit Excel. If you do need to alter your rabbit's diet introduce the changes gradually over a minimum period of 2 weeks, to allow its digestive system to adjust.

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Spinal Column Disorder (Spinal Cord Injury)

The spinal cord is a large bundle of nerves that runs through the backbone carrying the nerve messages, detecting sensation and controlling muscular movement. Damage will cause pressure on the spinal cord and loss of nerve function in the rabbit.

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Rabbits have very weak spines that can become damaged after a fall, a struggle or even from leg stamping.

Symptoms
If the spinal cord is completed severed you may notice the following:

- Complete back end paralysis
- Grating of bone (on bone)
- Inability to pass urine or feacal matter
- No reaction to skin pinching on legs or toes

If the spinal injury is a bruised spine, without complete severing of the cord you may notice the following:

- motobility problems
- curvature of the back
- temporary paralysis caused by swelling of soft tissues (putting pressure on the spinal cord)

( Rabbits with symptoms of spinal injury are in minimal to no pain)

Cause
Many rabbits have weak spines but those on a low-calcium diet and are mostly confined to a hutch or a cage, with no opportunity to exercise will be more susceptible to spinal cord injury.

Treatment
Your rabbit will be cared for as an inpatient if it presents with severe weakness or paralysis, or until bladder function can be ascertained (an indicator of the severity of the condition). If possible, the veterinarian will treat the underlying cause of the paresis or paralysis. For example, pain relieving medication as well as anesthetics and gastric protective agents may be provided. If paralysis is present, the bladder may be emptied by manual compression. Inability to urinate voluntarily can make the rabbit more susceptible to infection, so it will be important to monitor for signs of urinary infection and the spread of infection into the bladder.

For fractures and damaged nerves, your doctor may be able to surgically repair them. It must be kept in mind that some injuries are too traumatic for repair. The final outcome will be dependent on the diagnosis.

Care & Prevention
If your rabbit is having problems with urinary continence, you will need to make extra efforts to keep the bedding clean so that the rabbit is not in soiled bedding. Additionally, keep the fur clean and dry; check and clean your rabbit's genital and hind leg area frequently to prevent urine scalding.

You will need to restrict your rabbit's activity until spinal trauma and disk prolapse can be ruled out. If your rabbit has been placed on cage rest, you will need to make sure to move your rabbit at regular intervals in order to prevents lung congestion and pressure sore (bed sore) formation by turning it from one side to the other four to eight times daily. This is very important, as the rabbit will not be able to do this on its own. If your rabbit is unable to urinate on its own, you will need to perform manual expression of its bladder regularly enough tot prevent the possibility of bladder infection. Your veterinarian will go over the procedure with you so that you can perform this task at home.

If your rabbit is only affected in the hind legs, a cart, the type that is made for small breed dogs, may sometimes be fitted for larger rabbits, and may be tolerated for limited periods. Encourage oral fluid intake by offering fresh water, wetting leafy vegetables, or flavoring water with vegetable juice, and offer a large selection of fresh, moistened greens such as cilantro, romaine lettuce, parsley, carrot tops, dandelion greens, spinach, collard greens, etc., and good-quality grass hay. You should also continue to offer your rabbit it's usual pellet diet, as the initial goal is to get the rabbit to eat a full diet. If your rabbit cannot, or will not eat, you will need to syringe feed a gruel mixture. High-carbohydrate, high-fat nutritional supplements are contraindicated and should not be given with the approval of your doctor. Do not give your rabbit any foods or medicines that have not been preapproved by your veterinarian.

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T
Rabbit Diseases starting with T
Tear Duct Infection (dacrocystitis)

Dacryocystitis is a significant problem in that it is commonly seen, can cause a severe purulent discharge and can be very difficult to cure.

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Symptoms
- ocular discharge, white in colour or purulent
- tear-stained fur on face

Cause
Often related to dental disease, secondary to incorrect diet.

Treatment
- Nasolacrimal duct flushing and topical antimicrobials
- Appropriate dental treatment.

Prognosis
A good proportion of cases will resolve after flushing and topical antibiotics but many persist since the underlying cause is difficult to resolve - in these cases, control is the only solution; prognosis in the presence of significant dental disease is not as good.

Care & Prevention
With the frequent finding of osteomyelitis it is important that medium- to long-term systemic antibiosis and analgesia (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often effective) are instigated.

Unlike many rabbit abscesses tear duct infections do lend themselves to regular flushing. Cannulae may be inserted into the opening of the tear duct and anti-microbial solutions may be instilled into the duct. Dilute pus may be seen exiting the nose. In some cases the duct may be so blocked that the solution will not flush through. Repeated flushing may be successful especially after use of systemic drugs. Instillation of proteolytic enzymes may also assist in breaking down solid pus.

Antibiotic-containing eye and skin creams/gel may also be used to reduce peri-ocular irritation.

Therapy is likely to be prolonged and recurrences of dacryocystitis are common owing to the nature of the underlying dental disease.

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Torticollis (head tilt)

See head tilt

Tyzzer's disease

Tyzzer's disease is an illness that can cause cell death in the liver and intestinal tract of many small mammals including rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils.

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Symptoms
Animals that carry the bacterium are usually asymptomatic.

Nonspecific signs such as anorexia, lethargy, emaciation, ruffled fur, or sudden death without clinical signs may be observed. Mucoid, bloody diarrhea may also be seen. On necropsy, animals may have megaileus. Many other organs, including liver, cecum, colon, and heart, can have characteristic pathol Histopathologic observation of bacilli in target organs is diagnostic, and best obtained using a Warthin-Starry silver or Giemsa stain. The acute form results with diarrhea, dehydration and death within 48 hours.

Cause
It is a bacterial infection usually associated with stress conditions and poor sanitation and caused by Clostridium piliforme, formerly known as Bacillus piliformis, a spore-forming bacterium. It is transmitted horizontally through the fecal-oral route.

Treatment
There is no specific therapy that will kill C. piliforme, although tetracycline is often administered. Treatment is generally aimed at supportive care including fluids, good nutrition, and providing the optimal temperature and humidity. In young and stressed animals, treatment is usually unsuccessful. Treatment with antibiotics is usually not very effective. However, antibiotics effective against Clostridia spp. may be used.

Care & Prevention
The best preventative measures are clean stock and good husbandry practices. Conditions that cause stress should be avoided, especially in young animals during weaning. Extreme care should be taken to assure animals have a proper environment, diet, and treatment of any parasitic infections. Healthy animals should be separated from any animals showing signs of the disease. There is no vaccine for Tyzzer's disease. The bacteria and spores can be killed using a 1:10 dilution of household bleach and water (½ cup of bleach to 5 cups of water).

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U
Rabbit Diseases starting with U

UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)

Urinary tract infection, also called cystitis is characterized by the inflammation of the urinary bladder caused by a buildup of bacteria.

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Symptoms
Symptoms to watch out for are straining to urinate or only urinating a little at a time, inability to urinate, excessive tiredness or lethargy, redness or hair loss around the genitalia area or on the sides of the legs, dribbling urine, a decrease in appetite, or blood in the urine.

Here's an overview of the more common signs:

Bloody urine (haematuria)
Thick, beige- or brown-coloured urine
Urinary incontinence, especially during confinement or at places that are not customary
Frequent urination, but only in small amounts
Skin scalding/burns due to urine, especially around genitals and hind legs

Cause
Some rabbits have abnormal urinary tract structures that can predispose the animal to infections. Abnormal structural change can develop in a rabbit’s urinary pathway; it can increase the pressure in the ureters, the tubes that release urine. In addition, the excretion of too much calcium can lead to bladder or kidney stones which will further block the tubes that excrete urine.

Cystitis is not only caused by obstructions to urinary pathways but may also be caused by inflammation or physical trauma that blocks the normal flow of urine from the kidneys. An overgrowth of urinary tissue, also known as hyperplasia, may also contribute to difficulty urinating. This condition is associated with cancer but is very rarely diagnosed in rabbits.

Although the bacteria ultimately causes the bladder infection, there are many factors that may make the rabbit more susceptible to the infection, including:

Obesity
Lack of exercise
Cage confinement
Exclusive diet of alfalfa-based pellets
Conditions that can cause urine retention or incomplete emptying of the bladder (e.g., obstruction of the urinary tract, bladder)
Not drinking enough water (due to unavailability or poor source of water)
Inadequate cleaning of litter box or cage
Excessive administration of vitamin and/or mineral supplements such as calcium

Diagnosis
Your vet should have a good history of your rabbit's health and onset of symptoms. They will then do a blood and urine analysis. If an infection is present, the urine will typically show apparent abnormalities such as abnormal colouring or increased white blood cell counts. Based on these, your veterinarian will order a urine culture in order to determine the exact strain of bacteria that is present in your rabbit's urinary tract.

Because other disorders may be present as well, your doctor will need to differentiate a urinary tract infection from other urinary tract diseases, such as a more severe bladder infection, kidney stones, bladder stones, tumors, etc. Visual diagnostics may include ultrasound of the bladder or urethra, and both regular and contrast X-rays – by which an oral or injected dose of liquid barium, a material that shows up on X-rays, is used to provide a better view of the internal organs as the material travels through the body's fluid systems.

Films are taken at various stages to examine the passage of the barium through the body, making clear any abnormalities, objects (stones), or strictures in the passages. A biopsy may also be necessary to collect samples from the bladder wall for laboratory analysis if tumors are suspected. A cystoscopy, a relatively minimally invasive procedure in which a flexible tube with a camera and or surgical devices is inserted into the bladder via the urinary tract so that the doctor can conduct a visual examination of the internal organ, may be sufficient for this procedure.

Treatment
Rabbits that have been diagnosed with a urinary tract infection are usually treated as outpatient. Affected rabbits often respond to a combination of antibiotic therapy, increased water consumption, dietary modification, weight loss, and an increase in exercise alone. In more severe cases, such as for rabbits with large amounts of calcium in the bladder, fluid therapy and manual massage to empty bladder will be necessary.

If urine scald is present on the skin or genitals, gentle cleaning, with a zinc oxide plus menthol powder will help to heal the skin. Otherwise, keeping the area around the genitals/urinary tract clean and dry will be amongst the basic care.

Care & Prevention

Increase your rabbit's activity level - with games & toys.
Encourage bladder emptying by providing large exercise area.
Offer plenty of fresh water. (Providing multiple sources of fresh water in several locations and flavouring the water with fruit and/or vegetable juices (with no added sugars) may also be helpful.)
Reduce calcium in diet to discourage formation of calcium stones in the bladder and urinary tract.
Encourage oral fluid intake by wetting leafy vegetables, and offer a large selection of fresh, moistened greens such as cilantro, romaine lettuce, parsley, carrot tops, dandelion greens, spinach, collard greens.
Increase good-quality grass hay (Feed timothy and grass hay instead of alfalfa hay)
Do not feed alfalfa pellets
Monitor your rabbit's urine output and contact your veterinarian if the symptoms should recur.

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V
Rabbit Diseases starting with V
Vent Disease (rabbit syphilis)

Vent disease or rabbit syphilis causes lesions on the genitals and sometimes the face. Spread through mating and at kindling, it is caused by a spirochete, Treponema cuniculi in the blood stream.

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Symptoms

  • vesicles (blisters - that burst then crust over)
  • crusty lesions primarily on genitalia (anus, scrotum & vulva)
  • may see lesions on the face - nose, eyelids & mouth (spreading due to rabbit cleaning themsleves)
  • swelling around genitalia
  • leaking pus ranging from pale to bright yellow
  • occasionally blood from cracked skin
Does that have had six or more litters are often seropositive as are bucks that have been breeding for 6 to 12 months. i.e. More likely to have vent disease, whether visible symptons are there or not.
Even with no visible signs of scabs or sores you may see:
  • decreased conception rates
  • more retained placentas
  • greater nest box losses (neonatal deaths)
  • increased uterine infections

Cause
Vent disease is caused by a spirochete called Treponema cuniculi. Transfered by direct contact at mating or by a doe to her young at parturition (birth). The incubation period (the time between infection and development of clinical signs) is at least eight weeks so some rabbits can carry the organism for months before the disease is triggered, usually by stress.

Treatment
No ointment can cure vent disease. If you think you have cured your rabbit of vent disease, you probably just had a bad case of hutch burn (scabby, dirty vent area - often confused with vent disease) or your rabbit was an asymptomatic carrier.

Treating vent disease is the only time Penicillin should be given. All affected and in-contact rabbits should be treated at the same time.

Penicillin G benzathine-penicillin G procaine, standard anti-spirochete drugs, (sold as Combi-Pen and commonly referred to as Pen B) should be given at seven day intervals for 3 injections. However, your vet will advise you on the correct dosage.

This treatment is harder on the rabbit’s GI tract and hard to administer and breeders have found that vent disease is more likely to reoccur with the Pen G treatment.

There are many things that can affect nestbox outcomes: the weather, fluctuations in feed, the season, and your rabbits’ genetic predispositions. But if your herd once produced well and is experiencing many of the problems associated with vent disease over a period of time, considering treating your herd.

Care & Prevention
As with any antibiotic care should be taken to watch your rabbit for any signs of diarrhea. Hay should be free fed during the treatment to aid the rabbits digestive system and prevent diarrhea. You may also consider removing pellets from the diet for the first couple of days after treatment.

As with any rabbit disease, it is extremely important to find the initial cause of such a problem. Always be sure to check each rabbit over thoroughly before breeding them. Do not use a rabbit that is in poor flesh condition or that shows signs of any rabbit diseases or illness.

References
Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents:
Clinical Medicine and Surgery
by Katherine E Quesenberry and James W. Carpenter

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VHD (Viral Haemorrhagic Disease or RHD)

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) also known as Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is a very serious infectious rabbit disease which first emerged in China during the 1980s. It is now an endemic disease in wild rabbits in the UK with infection being mostly fatal, with no visible symptoms.

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VHD is sometimes known as rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD) because the disease is caused by a calicivirus.

The animals will almost certainly die if infected by the virus between a time period of twelve and thirty-six hours following infection. Once the virus has entered the body, it reproduces and increases its numbers in the liver, thus damaging it. The virus then travels to the organs including the lungs, heart and kidneys and causes haemorrhaging as they trigger blood clots which clog up the major blood vessels. Rabbits in the bracket of the species Oryctolagus cuniculus are the only type affected. For example, American cotton tails do not become infected by the disease.

Symptoms
Sudden death, often preceeded by convulsions and nose bleeding. Less acute cases may be anorexic, breathless and lethargic before they convulse and die. Some cases may just have a preiod of lethargy and anorexia before they recover. However, recovered rabbits are more prone to develop secondary infections such as 'snuffles' and diarrhoea.

Cause
Caused by the calci virus, which once in the body causes haemorrhages in many organs, particularly the lungs and kidneys. The virus is spread between rabbits via their nasal secretions but can also be spread indirectly via insects, birds, rodents, people and their clothing. The virus was first identified in China in 1984, it spread across Europe and reached Britain in 1992, thought to have been brought to Britain via cross-channel traffic.

Transmission
Transmission can occur in a direct, but also in an indirect manner. Often a healthy rabbit becomes infected following contact with a living or deceased infected rabbit which could either be wild or domesticated. If the rabbit is exposed to the faeces of an animal with the virus then once again the virus is able to be transmitted. Fomites such as rabbit hutches or cages, feeding bowls, hay, straw, woods shavings, water bottles, human clothing, or footwear can often be sources of infection. Additionally, rodents who are near the rabbit can spread the disease. Insect such as fleas are able to act as vectors thus transmitting the virus from rabbit to rabbit. Birds, dogs, and other animals can carry the virus to the rabbit without the knowledge of the owner and so infecting the rabbit.

Treatment
Vaccinations are available in the UK since there is unfortunately no cure against infection from the virus. In very mild cases then supportive therapy may be administered to reduce and treat the symptoms and antibiotics are occasionally given to prevent secondary bacterial infections. Unfortunately most unvaccinated rabbits will actually die with or without this treatment. Most infected and unvaccinated animals are euthanized to prevent further suffering.

Vaccinations are highly recommended in the UK and administered as early as eight to twelve weeks old. Annual boosters are then given to provide long term immunity for the rabbit against viral haemorrhagic disease. This form of medicine is preventative and since there is no cure then British vets strongly encourage its use.

Diagnosis and Prognosis
Viral haemorrhagic disease is usually diagnosed after the animal has died due to the rapidity of the fatal effects it produces. Samples are sent to veterinary laboratories where the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or ELISA test is used. The virus is isolated and identified. The prognosis for unvaccinated rabbits is extremely poor and results in a very high number of fatalities.

Care & Prevention
This rabbit disease is not currently found to be zoonotic and no humans have been found to have adverse health implications from contact with infected animals.

Vaccinate your rabbits with the combined VHD & Myxomatosis jab every year. Vaccinated animals which have the contracted the disease are more likely to survive.

The virus is able to survive for very long periods of months at a time, around approximately one hundred and five days, in temperatures as high as 60°C or even below freezing. A vital aspect in preventing the spread is good hygiene and there must be as little exposure as possible to the animal from vegetation acquired from areas in contact with other unvaccinated rabbits. Contaminated and inanimate items such as hay and straw should be burned to destroy the virus. Very strong bleaches may also be used, although obviously not on the animal itself.

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W
Rabbit Diseases starting with W

Wet-tail

Wet tail refers to a variety of gastrointestinal and urinary issues in rabbits. There is a common misconception that Wet Tail (or proliferative ileitis) is simply diarrhoea. Diarrhoea is a symptom of Wet Tail, which is an infection of the stomach and bowels caused by an overgrowth of bacteria.

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Symptoms

Wetness around the hind legs, tail and lower back (not from sitting in a wet hutch or rain)
Loss of appetite
Bloating
Lethargy
Rabbit not wanting to drink
Tooth grinding (can be a sign of illness and distress)
Obvious signs of a bad tummy or diarrhoea

The most obvious signs of a rabbit having wet tail is the wetness around hind legs, genitals, tail and bottom it can sometimes spread further.

Cause
Wet-tail is a disease in the animal's intestines caused by the bacteria, Lawsonia intracellularis. Wet-tail is stress related. The stress can be caused by:

  • Too much handling
  • Change in environment
  • Change in diet
  • Inadequate cage cleaning
  • Being away from mother and/or siblings
  • Death of a mate

The most common cause is the greens such as carrot, which often new bunny owners assume is the food for rabbits when in fact it can prove to be rather bad for them. If you have suddenly introduced them to the diet, you must stop use them as a treat or once a week a rabbit does not need them every single day especially with their normal grass this can be too much for their digestive system. Lettuce and cabbage should not be given to a rabbit. Dry food, hay and grass is essential to your rabbits well being (HAY BEING THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN THEIR DIET AS THIS CAN HAVE A MAJOR IMPACT ON THEIR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM)

A dirty, wet or unpleasant hutch is also very common, if a hutch has been left wet with rain or urine and dirt the rabbit is at a higher risk of catching something Wet tail is usually seen in dirty environments. Scrape out your rabbits toilet corner every day and make sure all bedding is dry and clean even in their bed, everywhere might seem clean but some rabbits (like mine) will go in their nest. Be sure their run is also clean and free of piles of faeces, as well as wet tail this can be a very serious health hazard in summer due to fly strike.

Treatment
Only the vet can decide if your rabbit has signs of a proper wet-tail stomach or bowel infection and therefore will give you the proper advice and treatment after diagnosis. If you have followed all the other instructions and advice in this section and your rabbit is still suffering with wet tail, you may have mis-diagnosed - it could be something a little more serious - take your rabbit to the vet!

Care & Prevention
Clean out the cage regularly, scrape toilet corners and use a cage cleaner or anti-bacterial wipes to clean the inside of the hutch allow it to air dry itself out and replace fresh, rabbit friendly bedding. If rain constantly leaking is a problem buy a new hutch or simply nail some thicker planks of wood onto your existing one or move the hutch into a garage or sheltered part of the garden to keep it out of the bad weather.

Check your rabbit regularly, they are prey animals and well often exhibit no signs of illness or distress until it it too late, any signs of wetness and discomfort of docility and you should take your rabbit straight to the vets.

Clumps of poo around the bottom are common and must be cleaned, rabbits often eat these which is perfectly safe and good for digestion but still must be cleaned to prevent trapped urine, faeces and fly strike.

Change of diet. Some foods are too rich and do not contain the high dosage of fibre needed to keep a rabbit healthy. HAY is an essential part which can cut the risks of wet tail and runny bums drastically, they need a pile at least the size of their bodies, every single day, it also keeps their teeth down.

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Click here for a quick consultation with a rabbit knowledgeable
vet for any of the rabbit diseases and illnesses listed above.
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to make it easier for you to refer to this page for notes.)

They will be familiar with the various options available to you and if anything,
put your mind at rest if you are worrying about your pet rabbit.


NB:

Please note, this list has taken a long time to compile (2 long eye-aching weeks) and I have put it together for the benefit of all rabbit lovers and rabbit community members.

It is simply a place where all the research, information, facts, articles, papers and book knowledge has been brought together in one place so it is easier to find solutions.

Acknowledgements
Most of the information has been copied, transcribed, adapted or edited from web pages, scientific documentation, study articles, books, etc that were available to me.

In most cases I have referenced the contributing author where I have known the information source. If you see content you recognise as your own and would like me to endorse you as the author, please let me know and I will acknowledge you straight away or remove it if requested.

I'm NOT a VET
Also note that I am not a qualified vet and after researching all of that lot I wouldn't really want to be either. Some of it was quite distressing. Although it did make me appreciate how amazing rabbits really are and how easily they can suffer over the smallest of things, such as incorrect bedding!

If you feel your rabbit may be suffering with any of the rabbit diseases or illnesses listed, PLEASE do not delay and contact your vet.
Or you may speak to one online here...

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The Surprising 7 Fundamentals of Rabbit Health

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