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PNW 310-E Revised January 2008

Diseases and

A Pacific Northwest Extension Publication

Oregon Idaho Washington
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Factors in disease prevention Fungal diseases ...................................... 18
and control ................................................ 4 Parasitic diseases .................................. 19
Body soundness and livability......................4
Adequate nutrition......................................4 Prevention and control..............................19
Suitable environment..................................4 External parasites.......................................20
Prevention, eradication, and control Ear mites.............................................20
of transmissible diseases...............................5 Fur mites.............................................20
Sanitation program................................5 Cuterebrid flies....................................20
Disinfection..........................................6 Fleas and ticks.....................................21
Practices to maintain health and Internal parasites.......................................21
prevent disease.............................................7 Coccidiosis..........................................21
Bacterial diseases ................................... 7 Toxoplasmosis.....................................23
Pasteurellosis...............................................7 Roundworms......................................23
Rhinitis (snuffles)..................................7 Tapeworms..........................................24
Pneumonia............................................8 Nutritional diseases .............................25
Orchitis.................................................9 Pregnancy toxemia....................................25
Otitis media..........................................9 Vitamin A deficiency.................................25
Subcutaneous abscesses..........................9 Vitamin E deficiency.................................25
Septicemia.............................................9 Hereditary diseases . .............................26
Enteritis......................................................9 Glaucoma..................................................26
Enterotoxemia.......................................9 Malocclusion.............................................26
Mucoid enteropathy............................10 Splay leg and ataxia...................................26
Tyzzers disease....................................10
Coccidiosis..........................................11 Miscellaneous ..........................................27
Listeriosis..................................................11 Cannibalism..............................................27
Necrobacillosis..........................................11 Heat prostration........................................27
Salmonellosis.............................................12 Broken back..............................................27
Staphylococcosis........................................12 Sore hocks.................................................28
Mastitis...............................................13 Tumors......................................................28
Conjunctivitis (weepy eye)..................13 Fur eating and hairballs.............................28
Treponematosis (vent disease)....................13 Coprophagy..............................................29
Hutch burn...............................................14 Yellow fat..................................................29
Pseudotuberculosis....................................14 Winter breeding depression.......................29
How to pack and ship specimens
Viral diseases .......................................... 15 for laboratory diagnosis . ...................29
Myxomatosis.............................................15 Shipping dead animals..............................29
Rabbit pox................................................16 Accompanying information.......................30
Herpes virus infection...............................16
Rabbit papilloma.......................................16
Oral papilloma..........................................16
Viral enteric diseases..................................17
Viral hemorrhagic disease..........................17

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Domestic Rabbits: Diseases and Parasites

N.M. Patton, K.W. Hagen, J.R. Gorham, and R.E. Flatt

Domestication of the Euro been improved from the long, Rabbit raising has continued
pean rabbit probably occurred in rangy, lowmeatyield type to the to be a backyard or parttime
monasteries during the Middle compact, blocky animal of today. business. However, the size of
Ages. By the middle of the 17th The offspring of one doe the herds has expanded from a
century, rabbits were commonly yield more than 120 pounds of few does to the current average
raised in England and continen meat per year, and 200 pounds rabbit herd of 20 does, and it is
tal Europe. Oryctolagus cuniculus, per doe is not unlikely in the not uncommon to see herds of
one of the more successful mam future. Feed required to pro 300500 breeding does.
mals of the world, is both pro duce 1pound of meat has been Commercial rabbitries aver
lific and adaptable. reduced from about 6 pounds to aging fewer than 30 rabbits per
Most of the fancy breeds were 3.5 or 4 pounds. cage per year (sent to market)
developed within the past During the past 10 years, the find it very difficult to show a
100 years, and only since the rabbit industry has expanded profit. Typically, the profitable
early 1900s have rabbits been considerably. It may not, as yet, commercial number is more
raised domestically in the United have reached the popularity it than 40 rabbits per cage per year.
States. The first commercial experienced during World As in all facets of agriculture,
colonies were started in southern War II. But the nutritional the profits from rabbit raising
California. Meat rationing dur qualities of rabbit meat are depend a great deal on manage
ing World War II gave the infant making rabbit more acceptable, ment and market. If an area has
industry a push. and production is increasing. a steady demand for rabbit meat
Today, approximately and a stable processor, the rab
200,000people are engaged in bit farmer can net a reasonable
some phase of the rabbit business profit and add to the family
in the United States, and animals income.
are produced in every state. Meat
processors serving major cities Nephi M. Patton, director emeritus,
Rabbit Research Center, Oregon State
market more than 10 million
University; Karl W. Hagen (deceased),
pounds of rabbit meat annually. bacteriologist, and John R. Gorham,
Over the years, the breeds have veterinarian, Agricultural Research Ser
vice, U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Pullman, Washington; and Ronald E.
Flatt (deceased), veterinarian, Depart
ment of Veterinary Pathology, Iowa
State University. Revised in 2007 by
John Harkness, professor emeritus,
Mississippi State University. This
publication is a revision of USDA
Agriculture Handbook 490, originally
published in 1976. It was prepared
with the support and permission of the
Agricultural Research Service.

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The difference between profit from diseaseis a better source r abbits. A simple change to a
and loss often comes down to of replacement stock than a diet higher in fiber and lower in
a persons ability to master the rabbit that does not show these energy gives adequate growth
husbandry and disease control traits. without the risk of enteric
techniques necessary for success. Healthy, wellframed, well disease.
The only rabbit that will fleshed mature does producing On the other hand, does need
return a profit to its owner is a litters containing from 812 live adequate energy for reproduc
healthy one. This publication is young, with low mortality at tion, which may not be pro
designed to help ranchers recog 8weeks, good feed conversion, vided by diets extremely high in
nize the more common rabbit and high weights are potential fiber. Progressive rabbit raisers
diseases and to know when pro sources of breeding stock. Care now feed two diets, one to the
fessional advice is needed. Dis fully examine each individual growing fryers and another to
eases are classified according to selected for breeding. Look for the producing does. A simple
major causebacterial, viral, defects and general health, and diet that provides good health,
nutritional, hereditary, fungal, eliminate animals that deviate growth, and production is pre
and miscellaneous (including from normal. Through rigid ferred but often difficult to find
poisoning, tumors, and vices). application of this practice, a because the needs of the various
profitable, high-producing herd classes of rabbits are considerably
can be established. different.
Factors in disease Inadequate nutrition is a
prevention and Adequate nutrition costly problem. A general decline
control Feeding is the most important
in health may increase suscepti
bility to diseases, which can lead
Factors conducive to good husbandry technique in the to large monetary losses. In
health include body soundness rabbitry and should be done by addition, young rabbits grow
and livability; adequate nutri an experienced person. Most slowly if the doe has inadequate
tion; suitable environment; and disease and potential disease milk or they do not get enough
prevention, eradication, and con problems are discovered during feed. Thus, feeding is a criti
trol of transmissible diseases. feeding time. Some disease prob cal element in successful rabbit
lems can be corrected by chang raising.
Body soundness ing the amount or type of feed.
and livability Much has been learned in the
past few years concerning rab
Suitable environment
Sound, vigorous rabbits are The term environment
bit nutrition. Diets that produce
necessary both as quality meat includes every factor that influ
good growth in poultry and
products and as replacement ences a rabbits life. Some of
swine are disastrous in rabbits.
stock. Carefully examine the these factors are hutch size and
Rabbits are foraging animals that
background of animals saved for location, nearness to other ani
live on grasses and seeds in the
breeding so that recognizable mals, dryness, temperature, ven
wild. Their digestive system and
defects are not perpetuated. A tilation, amount of light, shelter
its microbes do not adapt well to
healthy, mature breederone design, availability of water, and
high-energy, cerealgrain diets.
that has a history of several litters general management. Careful
showing fast development, good In fact, diets high in starch
and carbohydrates often cause examination and control of the
reproduction, high livability of environment are essential for
the young, and relative freedom diarrhea and death in fryer
effective disease prevention.

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Prevention, the presence of Pasteurella, but ronment plays an important part

eradication, and cultures usually cost too much to in the time interval involved.
be used routinely. Sanitation program
control of transmissible
diseases Mechanical transmission of A constant sanitation pro
disease occurs when the infec gram is an important part of
If disease prevention has failed tious agent is carried accidentally disease prevention. Cleanliness is
and transmissible diseases are from place to place. People are required to establish and main
established in a rabbitry, high the chief offenders. The grower tain a safe environment in which
mortality may lead to business who treats a sick animal and animals can live and reproduce.
failure. Growers commonly then moves on to check or count Elimination of disease carriers is
encounter pasteurellosis, ear newborn young can be an most important.
mange, and coccidiosis. These important carrier of respiratory
infectious diseases usually are Environmental factors must
infection and coccidiosis. Feed be considered in any sanitation
introduced by contact with salespeople, service representa
infected rabbits or by contami program. Unfavorable environ
tives, rabbit buyers, and others mental factors lower animals
nated mechanical carriers. who have visited other rabbitries resistance to disease and facilitate
Pasteurellosis and liver coc may be sources of infection. the spread of infection. Particu
cidiosis are important diseases Avoid visiting other rabbitries larly important are hutch and
spread by contact. Adult rabbits where disease is present. These shelter construction and mainte
are the most important contact examples might seem extreme, nance (Figure 1, next page). Ease
carriers. An animal may seem to but they happen repeatedly and of cleaning, a supply of clean
recover from a disease but still are definite factors in introduc water, and space for rodentproof
shed infectious organisms in its tion of disease. Dogs, cats, birds, feed storage are important.
feces, urine, or in droplets and rodents have been incrimi Proper drainage is another factor.
exhaled while breathing. Intro nated in carrying diseases to rab Provide for water runoff from
ducing new stock directly to a bits and should be kept out of the rabbitry area. Construct
herd or exhibiting animals at the rabbitry. Insects also should hutches so that individual units
shows and fairs increases the risk be controlled. may be removed for disinfecting.
of disease outbreaks. Keep new When disease prevention fails, Adjust the number of animals
or exhibition animals in a special you must consider how to con per unit based on the area and
isolation section of the colony trol and eliminate the disease. the environment.
until you are reasonably certain When liver coccidiosis is
they are diseasefree. This quar Water should be fresh, clean,
involved, the adult carrier may and protected from contamina
antine period usually is at least be freed from infection by che
2 weeks. tion by urine, fecal matter, and
motherapy, but improved man feeds. It is important to clean
Carriers of disease often are agement practices are the only water containers frequently.
not recognized because they way to eliminate the disease from
seem healthy. Tests to pinpoint Feed contaminated with feces
the herd. may act as a mechanical car
which animals are carriers are In some cases, it may be nec
not always practicable. Liver coc rier for infection. Protecting the
essary to depopulate to eliminate feed from contamination by the
cidiosis is found when the fryer a disease. The time between
is dressed out for market, too use of properly designed and
depopulation and repopulation wellconstructed feed hoppers
late to trace back to the doe that with clean, healthy animals
produced it. Bacterial cultures is necessary in any good sanita
depends on many factors. Envi tion program. Clean feeders
of the nasal cavity may show

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no disadvantages to using this

method of sanitation except that
coccidial oocysts might not be
Another disinfectant used
by some rabbit breeders is lye
water. One 13-ounce can of lye
is enough to make 15 gallons of
cleaning and disinfecting solu
tion. For large ranches, it is
advisable to buy the lye in the
form of caustic soda. Each
pound makes about 20 gallons
of solution. Heating is advisable
but not necessary. In addition to
acting as a disinfectant, lye cuts
grease and partly dissolves and
penetrates fecal material.
Figure 1.Shed construction suitable for mild climates. Use of lye has some disad
vantages. Concentrated lye is a
Good feed utilization and effectiveness of even the most poison and damages aluminum
waste removal are important in efficient disinfectants. Thorough paints and clothing. The lye
disease prevention. Feed scat scraping and washing should may be slightly irritating to the
tered about the rabbitry attracts precede disinfection. hands and face of the operator.
insects, mice, rats, and birdsall A solution of sodium Consequently, take precautions
potential carriers of disease. Store hypochlorite (bleach) is both to avoid excessive exposure of
bulk feed properly. In small rab effective and economical for dis the skin during the disinfecting
bitries or where large quantities infecting cages, nest boxes, and process. Keep containers of lye
of bulk feed are not stored, metal ancillary equipment. Make the tightly covered.
garbage cans with tight lids are solution by adding an ounce of Some ranchers use steam
good feed-storage containers. bleach to a quart of water. Place under pressure to clean and
the solution in a spray bottle and disinfect pens and equipment.
Disinfection spray it on the equipment to be When using steam, first soak
Disinfection refers to the kill sanitized. caked fecal material with water.
ing of infectious agents such as Cages generally are sprayed Use of a good cleansing com
bacteria, viruses, and parasites. after rabbits are sent to market pound, followed by steam, cleans
To facilitate the use of disinfec and before the next occupants and disinfects satisfactorily.
tants, all equipment and other arrive. Spray feeders and water Sunlight is a potent disinfec
construction should be as simple ing devices at the same time. tant if equipment is very clean
and easy to clean as possible. Clean and wash nest boxes and sufficient exposure time is
Fecal matter and other organic before spraying with the solu allowed. A cement slab exposed
material protect disease tion. You can soak or rinse to the direct rays of the sun is a
producing bacteria, viruses, removable equipment in the good place to disinfect movable
and parasites and nullify the hypochlorite solution. There are equipment.

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Flaming or burning cages with etermine the cause. The follow

d rabbits to a diagnostic labora
a propane torch to remove hair ing course of action is suggested: tory or your local veterinarian.
does not sanitize the cage 1. Mark or note pens that con 5. Destroy all hopelessly sick
because the wires are not heated tain sick animals. animals and bury or burn all
to a sufficient temperature to dead animals. Open disposal
2. Isolate sick animals. If pos
destroy the organisms. Be careful pits are not recommended.
sible, keep them in rooms
not to singe rabbits when burn
or buildings separate from 6. Clean and disinfect all pens
ing hair. This procedure also is a before placing new rabbits in
healthy rabbits.
fire hazard. them.
3. Care for the sick animal only
after all other rabbits in the
Practices to maintain
health and prevent
herd have been cared for to pre
vent carrying infection from
Bacterial diseases
disease sick to healthy rabbits. Be sure Pasteurellosis
to wash hands and disinfect Pasteurellosis is the designa
Successful growers practice
boots after caring for sick tion for all diseases associated
good sanitation and manage
animals. Clean and disinfect with Pasteurella multocida. The
ment, feed an adequate diet of
any equipment moved from disease manifestations are varied
simple ingredients, and give their
an area where there are sick and include rhinitis (snuffles),
animals plenty of fresh water.
animals to the pens containing pneumonia, pyometra, orchi
It is important to inspect all healthy animals.
animals in the herd each day. tis, otitis media, conjunctivitis,
4. If you cannot determine the subcutaneous abscesses, and
When you first notice sick
cause of the trouble quickly, septicemia.
rabbits, immediately try to
send a few typically sick
Rhinitis (snuffles)
The mucous membranes of
the nasal sinuses become infected
by bacteria from inspired air or
by direct contact with infected
animals or contaminated objects.
The clinical disease is character
ized by nasal sounds and by a
catarrhal (mucus or pus) nasal
discharge (Figure 2). The extent
to which the infection spreads
into the lower respiratory pas
sages depends on the virulence
(invasiveness) of the bacteria and
the susceptibility of the animal.
If the disease is confined to the
upper passages, the first signs are
sneezing followed by a nasal dis
charge. The inner aspects of the
rabbits forepaws may be caked
with exudate because of attempts
Figure 2.Adult showing signs of snuffles. Note discharge from nose. (The
large dewlap is normal on this animal.)

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to wipe the exudate away from residues might remain in the bluish eye color in albinos, and a
the nose. treated rabbits meat for days or nasal discharge. The body tem
Pasteurella bacteria often are weeks, making the meat unus perature usually is above normal.
found in the nasal sinuses of able for human consumption. Gross lesions of the lungs
healthylooking rabbits. Stress Penicillin use may cause fatal appear as red consolidated areas,
resulting from extremes of tem enterotoxemias. sunken purple areas, and
perature, high humidity, high If the nasal discharge regresses, abscesses. The consolidated
ammonia levels, travel, preg take care not to stress the rabbit. lesions most often are in the
nancy, and lactation is a primary It should not be used as a anterior lobes of the lungs
factor in the development of breeder. The next stress period (Figure 3). A catarrhal exudate is
snuffles. (e.g., kindling, lactation, heat found in the air passages.
Treatment of snuffles has not wave) very likely will cause the Abscesses appear with thin,
proven to be economically effec symptoms to reappear. Vaccines fibrous capsules close to the
tive in commercial rabbitries. By have not proven to be effec surface of the lungs. Sometimes
using broad-spectrum antibiot tive. The only effective method there are adhesions between the
ics such as oxytetracycline or of control is strict culling. If a wall of the chest cavity and the
chlortetracycline, the symptoms rabbit has a nasal discharge or lungs.
might be alleviated. However, matted paws or sneezes on 2 Pneumonia rarely is treated in
the animal often remains a car consecutive days, cull it from the rabbitries as it usually is a
rier of P. multocida and is able herd. If you are not sure whether postmortem diagnosis. Broad
to infect offspring and caged to cull a rabbit, when in doubt, spectrum antibiotics have been
neighbors. cull it out. used with some degree of success
Fluoroquinolones (e.g., Bay In addition to a strict culling with pet and show rabbits.
tril) may be used in individual program, good ventilation must
rabbits. Antibiotic combina be provided to control snuffles.
There is a direct correlation Pyometra means pus in the
tions have been used to reduce uterus. The walls of the uterus
symptoms in pet rabbits with between the level of ammonia
in a rabbitry and the amount of usually are dilated, and the organ
some success. Antimicrobial is filled with pus. Affected
respiratory disease. An effective
manure removal system and females will not produce and,
1020 air changes per hour are therefore, are culled and often
necessary to reduce the ammonia slaughtered. Pyometra results
to an acceptable level. from the introduction of Pasteu-
rella bacteria into the uterus dur
Pneumonia ing mating and may be traced
Upper respiratory disease to a single buck with a chronic
(snuffles) may spread to the infection of the testicles. It also
lungs and cause pneumonia. can occur as a retrograde infec
Rabbit mortality surveys reveal tion from the vagina.
pneumonia to be present in Does that are nasalpositive
25 percent of the animals exam for P. multocida often are vaginal-
ined; it is the greatest single positive for the same bacteria,
cause of death in mature ani especially if the doe has a nasal
Figure 3.Gross appearance of
mals. Signs of pneumonia are discharge. The vagina is thought
rabbit lungs, showing consolidation
due to Pasteurella bacteria. depression, labored breathing, to be contaminated during the

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normal practice of coprophagy Enteritis

(eating their own feces; see Enteritis is a group designa
page 29) or during the kindling tion much like pasteurellosis.
(birth) process. Any diarrhealtype disease that
Treatment of pyometra sel kills rabbits generally is placed
dom is attempted because the in this grouping. In the past, the
disease usually is not noticed group designation often has been
until the female is slaughtered. called enteritis complex, as
Successful treatment is unlikely. many different symptoms were
Pets sometimes can be saved by observed, but the one unifying
an ovariohysterectomy. factor was death as the final
Figure 4.Wryneck resulting from a result of the syndrome. More
Orchitis middle and inner ear infection.
recently, specific diseases have
Orchitis is an infection of the
been described; they are dis
testicles. The testicle becomes Although the Pasteurella organ
cussed below.
enlarged and usually contains an ism is sensitive to certain antibi
abscess. Pus can be seen when otics, treatment generally is not Enterotoxemia
the testicle is cut open. Some effective because of the isolated Enterotoxemia is an explo
times infection is limited to the location of the infection. sive diarrheal disease of young
membranes covering the penis, a
Subcutaneous abscesses rabbits 48 weeks of age. Rab
condition called balanoposthitis. bits often are observed to be
Pasteurella may cause abscesses
Balanoposthitis appears as a normal one day and dead the
in many organs, but abscesses are
reddening and swelling of the next with or without evidence
especially evident when they
membrane covering the penis, of diarrhea. This acute death is
occur in the subcutaneous tissue.
and a white exudate (pus) is due to a deadly toxin produced
These appear as soft swellings
present on these membranes. As by the bacteria Clostridium spi-
under the skin. Treatment con
described above, the infection is roforme. Young rabbits die in
sists of opening and draining the
transmitted to does by infected 2448hours; occasionally adult
abscess and administration of
bucks during breeding. and junior breeders are affected,
systemic antibiotics.
Treatment seldom is and they may live as long as
attempted; however, balanopos- Septicemia 96hours. Penicillin used to treat
thitis may be treated by applying This form of pasteurello rabbits may also cause the disease
antibiotic ointment containing sis usually is an overwhelm by altering the gut bacteria.
penicillin or other suitable anti ing blood stream infection of The typical lesions of entero
biotics to the penis. short duration without clinical toxemia seen at necropsy are a
signs, resulting in death. Tis fluidfilled intestine that is cov
Otitis media
sue changes are limited to a few ered with petechial hemorrhages.
Middle ear infection of one or hemorrhagic areas on the heart The hemorrhage is most apt to
both ears causes filling of the and pericardium, swelling of the be observed in the cecum. The
tympanic cavity with a purulent spleen, and slight congestion of causative agent, C. spiroforme,
exudate. If the process spreads to the upper digestive tract. The can be isolated on blood agar,
the inner ear, the equilibrium of lack of clinical signs and short but it is an anaerobic bacte
the animal is disturbed, and head duration do not allow time for rium and must be grown under
tilt or wryneck results (Figure 4). suitable treatment. anaerobic conditions. Diagnosis

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Mucoid enteropathy feed seems to increase water

This uncommon enteric dis consumption and decrease the
ease affects rabbits of any age incidence of the disease. Add
and is a chronic type of diarrhea ing salt to the drinking water
or constipation. Rabbits live or salt spools in the cage is not
for several days and sometimes beneficial.
several weeks with this disease. Tyzzers disease
However, they will not eat and Tyzzers disease was first
they sit hunched in the cage and described in Japanese waltzing
Figure 5.This rabbit has mucoid
grind their teeth as if in pain. mice, but since has been found
enteropathy. Note feces on hind feet, They sometimes look bloated in a variety of animals, including
rough fur coat, hunched posture, and and often are crouched near the (uncommonly) rabbits. Clos-
squinty eyes. water supply (Figure 5). tridium piliformes is the causative
The etiology of this disease is organism.
of this disease is accomplished by unknown, but one common Signs of the acute form seen
demonstrating the iotalike toxin finding in almost all cases is in weanling animals are diarrhea,
in the intestinal contents or by constipation. Impaction of the listlessness, lack of appetite, and
staining and microscopic exami cecum and/or terminal part of dehydration, followed by death
nation for the distinctive bacteria the small intestine is observed at within 72 hours. Lesions include
in centrifuged cecal content. A necropsy in about 75 percent of edema, hemorrhage, and necro
mouse bioassay test or an intra- the cases. Along with the finding sis in the wall of the cecum and
dermal test in guinea pig skin of a gelatinoustype of mucus focal necrosis in the liver and
commonly is used to detect the in the colon, this leads to the heart (Figure 6). The organisms
toxin. diagnosis of mucoid enteropathy. are found in cells near necrotic
Little is known about the Other lesions observed during areas, and the demonstration of
transmission of the organism, a postmortem examination are typical bacteria within the cell is
but it has been shown that rab generalized dehydration and essential to diagnosis. Animals
bits do not have this organism as excess water in the stomach. This
part of their normal microflora. latter finding causes a splash or
The type of diet seems to be a water bottle sound when these
factor in the development of the animals are rocked to and fro
disease. Diets high in fiber close to ones ear.
reduce the incidence of the The impaction often can be
disease. The addition of hay or palpated through the abdominal
straw to a lowfiber diet is ben wall on young fryer rabbits, but
eficial. Antibiotics used in the treatment is not very successful.
feed or water give temporary By the time the disease is recog
remission of symptoms, but the nized, the rabbit seldom can be
disease recurs once they are saved. Rehydration with electro
Figure 6.Tyzzers disease. This rabbit
removed unless the diet has been lytes sometimes is beneficial. The
died acutely with diarrhea. At autopsy,
changed. addition of excess salt to the focal areas of cell death (arrows) were
ration occasionally helps stop seen in the liver. Photograph courtesy of
an outbreak. Salt added to the Academic Press and Co., New York.

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surviving the acute stage might In septicemia, death can occur Necrobacillosis
live to adulthood but fail to grow suddenly without previous ill
at a normal rate. ness. Generally the rabbit is Fusobacterium necrophorum,
depressed, weak, has a nasal an anaerobic bacterium in
Transmission of Tyzzers dis farm animals, is considered a
ease is by direct contact with discharge, and may have con
vulsions. Nervous system signs secondary invader rather than a
fecal-contaminated feed and primary cause of disease.
bedding. Some form of stress, include incoordination, loss of
such as overcrowding or equilibrium, and rolling move Lesions first appear on the
extremes in temperature, is nec ments. These signs may persist lower lip, which becomes swol
essary for initiating the condi for several days or weeks, and len, purplish, and painful to the
tion in nature. complete recovery is rare. Sick touch. Later, small abscesses are
pregnant animals have a puru seen that contain a thick, puru
Antibiotics reduce the effect lent material. These abscesses
of the disease in mice, but drugs lent metritis, lose weight, and
may abort. Survivors generally are enclosed in a tough, fibrous
seem to be of little value in rab capsule, with little tendency to
bits. The best alternative is pre are useless for breeding because
of uterine damage and pyometra rupture and drain. The disease
vention through strict sanitation, progresses to ulceration and
especially daily thorough (pus within the uterus).
The most consistent lesion at necrosis of the skin and subcu
removal of fecal material from taneous tissues in the face, head,
the cage floor. Because this seems necropsy is liver necrosis. The
lesions consist of a few pinpoint and neck. When the liver and
to be a highly transmissible dis lungs become involved, the ani
ease, the only way to treat severe foci to almost complete stud
ding of the liver. The mesenteric mal becomes emaciated and dies
outbreaks is to depopulate and after several weeks.
repopulate with diseasefree lymph nodes may be enlarged
rabbits. and reddened. In cases of metri Inadequate sanitation in the
tis, the uterine wall is thickened, rabbitry, especially dirty cages,
Coccidiosis the mucous membrane may be is prerequisite to this disease.
Coccidiosis is one of the covered with a grayish exudate, When scratches, bite wounds, or
enteric diseases. The etiologic and the fetuses are decomposed skin wounds become contami
agents are protozoan parasites or mummified. When infected nated with feces containing the
that attack the liver or intestines. fetuses are retained in the uterus, etiologic agent, necrobacillosis
This disease is discussed under severe metritis develops. is most likely to occur. The bac
Internal parasites, page 21. Due to their tolerance by rab teria are sensitive to exposure to
bits and their specific mode of aerobic conditions and will not
live long when exposed to air
Listeriosis action, antibiotics of the tetra
cycline group are the best drugs
Listeria monocytogenes causes When the disease is recog
for treating listeriosis. In treat
a rare septicemic infection in nized and treated in its early
ing pregnant rabbits, antibiotics
young rabbits, a meningo stages, recovery is usual; when
probably will not prevent fetal
encephalitis in adults, and metri there is extensive ulceration
death, and females saved by
tis and fetal mortality in preg and abscessation, death ensues.
antibiotics may be sterile as a
nant does. Pregnant females and The organism is sensitive to
result of the infection. The most
does that recently have delivered some antibiotics, including
effective prevention of losses is
young are most susceptible. metronidazole.
immediate isolation of diseased
The organisms are ingested or
pregnant animals.

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gramnegative bacteria. In organisms in their feces long

rabbits, the disease is char after treatment. Pigeons, spar
acterized by septicemia and rows, and wild rodents have
rapid death, with diarrhea and been shown to be reservoirs of
abortion commonly observed. Salmonella. Protect stored feed
When outbreaks occur, they and bedding from these possible
often are explosive, with high carriers.
morbidity and mortality. Mortal
ity is highest in young rabbits Staphylococcosis
and pregnant does. Bacteria are
shed in the feces of carrier rab Staphylococcus aureus causes
bits and clinically ill animals. septicemic infections and
Infection usually takes place abscesses in numerous organs,
including the subcutaneous tis
by the oral route, and signs
appear after 36 days. The first sue, lungs, kidneys, and heart.
signs are listlessness, ruffled hair This organism is known espe
coat, loss of appetite, and cially for causing infection in
diarrhea. Later, the respiration the mammary glands of nursing
rate increases, and body temper does. The breasts become swol
ature may rise. In its acute form, len, hot, and may become blu
the disease progresses rapidly to ish, accounting for the alternate
death. In the chronic form, there name bluebreast.
may be no signs of illness other Cutaneous lesions in young
Figure 7.Cutaneous abscesses on than a transient diarrhea. animals appear as small abscesses
young rabbit caused by Staphylo- and later develop into firm case
coccus. The most prominent lesions
found at necropsy are in the ous nodules (Figure 7). These
liver, spleen, mesenteric lymph abscesses usually are found on
Salmonellosis nodes, lungs, and intestine. the lower abdomen, on the inner
Naturally occurring Salmo- Hemorrhagic and ulcerative aspects of the forelegs, and on
nella infections are uncommon changes are present in the intes the lower jaw. Small, white nod
in domestic rabbits. Salmonella tine. The liver and spleen usually ules also may be found in the
organisms are spread easily by are enlarged and contain pin lungs and heart. The Staphylo-
fecal contamination, and a single point, pale areas of necrosis. The coccus organism also may cause
infected animal can quickly lymph nodes may be soft, hem bronchopneumonia. The lungs
infect a whole colony. Rabbits orrhagic, and enlarged. Surviving are consolidated, with numer
also can become infected by rabbits become carriers and may ous necrotic lesions. The bron
human caretakers, as Salmonella shed bacteria in their feces inter chi and trachea may contain a
bacteria occur in humans as well. mittently for a long time. mucopurulent exudate.
Salmonellosis in rabbits gen Streptomycin and other anti Bacteria enter the skin
erally is caused by Salmonella biotics have been used effectively through broken or abraded areas
typhimurium or S. enteritidis, against Salmonella. Animals following birth; transmission
but S. pullorum also has been treated with chlortetracycline occurs from mother to young.
isolated. All members of the respond to the medication, but Staphylococci live in the nasal
salmonellae group are aerobic, may continue to excrete passages of rabbits, and the close

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contact associated with kindling is so rapid that few if any lesions s urrounding tissues, flushing the
and nursing offers opportunities are observed. Occasionally, small, eye with sterile saline or boric
for both direct contact and aero superficial pustules or abscesses acid solution, and applying an
sol transmission. (Figure 7) are seen on the skin of ophthalmic ointment containing
Mastitis results from inva dead kits or littermates. Diagno an antibiotic.
sion of the milk glands by the sis usually depends on isolating Conjunctivitis sometimes
diseaseproducing bacteria. The S. aureus from the heart blood. becomes a chronic problem in
glands and teats become red The organism generally enters show rabbits, where the lacrimal
and swollen and may advance to the young kit from ingested milk secretions cause a loss of fur at
blueblack tissues, which are from mammary glands, or it may the medial canthus of the eye.
warm to the touch. The doe enter the body through abrasions This condition sometimes is alle
may refuse to nurse her young or scratch wounds that become viated by intravenous antibiotic
and generally loses her appetite. contaminated with S. aureus. administration or by repeatedly
Young from does with mastitis Staphylococci might be sen flushing the lacrimal duct with
should not be fostered to other sitive to several medications; an antibiotic solution. This
nursing does because the disease however, some strains of the procedure is best done with the
might be transmitted to the fos organism are resistant to one or rabbit under anesthesia and with
ter doe. Mastitis also may result more of these drugs. Laboratory a small-gauge cannula inserted
from abrasions to the teats or tests may be necessary to deter into the opening of the delicate
insufficient removal of milk mine which drugs should be and tortuous lacrimal duct found
when too few young are left with used. Consult a veterinarian for on the lower eyelid near the
the doe or when the young are current recommendations. medial canthus.
weaned too soon. Mastitis
The septicemic form of staph Mastitis most commonly Treponematosis
ylococcosis results in peracute is caused by Staphylococcus (vent disease)
death in young rabbits, primarily aureus; it is discussed under Treponematosis, sometimes
those still in the nest box. Death Staphylococcosis, page 12. called vent disease, spirochet
Conjunctivitis (weepy eye) osis, or rabbit syphilis, is caused
by Treponema cuniculi. Other
Conjunctivitis is a common
members of the genus include
malady of young rabbits raised
T. pallidum, the cause of human
under crowded conditions.
syphilis. Some of the early work
Mature does and bucks occasion
on human syphilis was done
ally are affected. Red, swollen
with rabbits. After finding that
eyes with a copious exudate are
rabbits had a natural spiro
characteristic of this disease. In
chete, T. cuniculi, the validity
young rabbits, the eyelids often
of this early work in rabbits was
are stuck shut (Figure 8). It may
affect only one eye or both. The
bacteria most often isolated are There is a great deal of confu
Staphylococcus aureus and Pasteu- sion concerning the incidence of
rella multocida. Conjunctivitis treponematosis in rabbits.
is treated by opening the eye Recent reports indicate it is
Figure 8.Conjunctivitis (weepy eye) lids, if stuck shut, cleaning the much more common in com
caused by Staphylococcus infection. mercial rabbitries than previously

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believed. In fact, serological tests Spirochetes also are found in with pathogenic bacteria and
have demonstrated antibodies to regional lymph nodes, and becomes very sore. Antibiotic
T. cuniculi in a high percentage they seem to survive in this tis salves and ointments hasten heal
of adult rabbits despite the sue much longer than on the ing, but cleaning and drying the
absence of observed lesions. skin surface. Old lesions heal floors are essential to prevent
Transmission of the organism completely without scarring, but recurrence.
originally was believed to be by recovered rabbits are susceptible
sexual contact, and this method to later infection. Pseudotuberculosis
still is thought to be primary; The spread of spirochetosis
however, vertical transmission Pseudotuberculosis is an
can be prevented by examining
from mother to offspring has uncommon disease, but some
the genitals of both sexes before
been demonstrated. Vertical times occurs in rabbitries with
mating and by eliminating rab
transmission accounts for substandard sanitation. The
bits with lesions. The organism
the rabbits 68 weeks of causative agent is a bacterium,
is sensitive to arsenicals and
age that show evidence of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis.
penicillin. Three subcutaneous
treponematosis. Granulomatous nodules resem
injections of benzathene peni
bling tuberculosis are observed
Lesions of treponematosis cillin G-procaine penicillin G
at necropsy throughout the
may resemble those of injury, (42,000IU/kilogram of body
intestine and occasionally in the
fungal infection, or ectoparasites. weight) are necessary to eradi
parenchyma of the liver, lungs,
A correct diagnosis is important cate treponematosis from a rab
or spleen. The organism, which
because the disease is transmitted bit herd. Injections are given at
seems to thrive in filthy condi
primarily by breeding, and an weekly intervals, and all rabbits
tions, enters the host through
isolated case can lead to an out must be treated, regardless of the
contaminated food or water.
break among the breeding stock. presence or absence of lesions.
The disease is a chronic, debili
Exchange of infected bucks may Penicillin, however, may cause
tating condition with signs of
spread the infection among fatal enterotoxemias in some
poor appetite, depression, slowly
colonies. rabbits.
developing emaciation, and
The first signs usually are eventual death.
small blisters around the external Hutch burn Treatment of this disease
sex organs. Lesions involving the Hutch burn often is confused seldom is effective. Prevention
nose, mouth, and ears also occur with rabbit syphilis. It is difficult can be accomplished by good
in both sexes. The lesions are
to differentiate the two diseases sanitation procedures, including
irregular in shape, tanbrown, without the use of a darkfield disinfecting cages, nest boxes,
and either edematous or dry microscope. With this micro and ancillary equipment. This
and scaly. Sometimes weeping, scope, the spirochetes of trepo disease has been diagnosed in
coalescing vesicles are found. nematosis are seen easily. Hutch humans and other animals;
Facial and other lesions usu burn affects the membranes therefore, affected rabbits should
ally are secondary and the result of the anus and genital region. be destroyed and not marketed.
of reinfection by contact with They become very red and
genitalanal lesions when the chapped. The major cause is Tularemia
animal cleans itself. All lesions wet and dirty cage floors that
show many spirochetes by spe Tularemia, sometimes called
come in contact with these
cial microscopic (darkfield) rabbit fever or deer fly fever, is an
membranes. The area soon
examination. infectious disease of wild animals
becomes secondarily infected
and humans that is caused by

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Francisella tularensis. Tularemia Sierra Nevada Mountains, and

can be carried by many wild the tip of the peninsula of Baja
and domestic animals, certain California.
birds, deer flies, and ticks. It is Transmission of the disease
an important malady of wild by mosquitoes led to the name
rabbits, but not of domestic mosquito disease. Myxoma
ranchraised rabbits. tosis also is referred to as big
Infected wild rabbits move head disease because of edema
sluggishly and are visibly sick. around the eyes, ears, lips,
Yellow or white spots on the liver and nose in the early stages of
or spleen are common lesions. infection. Figure 9.This animal, affected with
Diagnosis is made by bacterial Clinical signs include lus myxomatosis, shows heavy, pendulous
cultures of suspect lesions. terless eyes with a purulent ears and matted eyes.
Domestic rabbits are susceptible discharge and elevated body
to infection with this organism temperature. Edema of the ears Microscopic tissue examina
under laboratory conditions, but causes them to become heavy tion or virus isolation is required
the disease has not been reported and pendulous (Figure 9). As the for a definite diagnosis of myxo
to occur naturally in commercial disease progresses, edema of the matosis. Large eosinophilic
rabbitries. Tularemia might be head and anogenital region and a cytoplasmic inclusion bodies in
transmitted from rabbit tissues nasal discharge occur; death the conjunctival membranes are
to humans. follows in 1012 days. In sur observed microscopically. This
vivors, widespread subcutane finding, along with appropri
ous gelatinous tumors develop ate clinical signs, is evidence of
Viral diseases all over the body, including the myxomatosis.
Myxomatosis eyelids. The virus is spread by direct
The myxoma virus was iso Occasionally, acute outbreaks contact and by biting insects
lated first in South America of myxomatosis occur and rab such as mosquitoes and fleas,
from diseased laboratory rabbits; bits die in 2448 hours. About which act as mechanical vectors.
the virus later was found to be the only clinical signs observed Control consists of prompt iden
a widespread natural infection are a slight redness in the con tification of the disease, destruc
in wild cottontail rabbits. In junctival membranes and an tion of infected animals, and
wild brush rabbits (Sylvilagus increased body temperature reduction of mosquito popula
bachmani), it causes only mild (about 108F). tions by draining or spraying
tumors, which regress after sev Rabbits dying from myxo breeding areas. Screen enclosure
eral weeks; the disease is fatal matosis exhibit no characteristic of the entire rabbitry is an effec
only in the very young. In con gross visual changes by which tive but costly solution. Antibi
trast, the disease can completely the infection can be diagnosed otics are not effective in treating
wipe out some susceptible popu definitely. Usually, there is con sick animals. An attenuated
lations of domestic rabbits. gestion and consolidation of the vaccine is used for preventing
Confirmed cases of myxoma lungs, and the spleen is enlarged, myxomatosis in Europe, but the
tosis follow the geographical dis dark red, and pulpy. The cut sur vaccine is not approved for use
tribution of the California brush face of each edematous subcuta in the United States. The only
rabbit, which is limited by the neous tissue is white, gelatinous, effective measures available for
Pacific Ocean, the Columbia and glistening; when pressed, use in California and Oregon are
River in Oregon, the Cascade clear fluid exudes. test and slaughter. Check rectal

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temperature of suspect rabbits on the other hand, develop Another herpes virus that may
and immediately kill sick rabbits small, subcutaneous nodules to be responsible for producing
with a temperature greater than diffuse indurations involving lymphoid tumors in cottontail
104F. Bury or burn the car muscle and tendon. The exter rabbits recently has been isolated
casses. This method, along with nal genitalia become red and from these rabbits.
implementing a control program swollen. Death is frequent in
for flying insects, has been suc unweaned young. Rabbit papilloma
cessful in stopping several major The cut surfaces of the nod
outbreaks in large rabbitries. Rabbit papilloma virus has
ules are pale and glistening and been identified as the causative
may have radiating white streaks. agent of wartlike growth on the
Rabbit pox In young animals, the tumors skin of cottontail rabbits
This rare disease can occur are more widely spread over the (Figure 10). Domestic rabbits
with or without manifestation body and often coalesce. There and jackrabbits are susceptible to
of clinical disease. In either case, may be involvement of the kid experimental infection. The virus
the lesions include lymphadeni neys, liver, intestinal tract, bone can be recovered from lesions on
tis, papular nodules on the marrow, and mesentery. cottontail rabbits, but not from
mucous membranes, and orchi The role of mosquitoes and papillomas on domestic rabbits.
tis. Mortality is highest among other insects as vectors of rabbit Naturally occurring papilloma
the unweaned young and may fibroma virus has been estab tosis has been found in domestic
reach 75 percent. Rabbit pox lished. Given the proper envi rabbits in southern California,
virus rarely is a cause of epizoot ronment (such as an epizootic in but the virus produces no evi
ics, but usually is very serious wild cottontail rabbits) and an dence of a generalized illness.
when it does occur. Vaccination adequate mosquito population,
The most common sites for
with vaccinia virus confers this viral disease could result
papillomas are the ears and eye
immunity. in significant economic loss of
lids, and the growths vary in size
young domestic rabbits.
and conformity. The growths are
Fibroma well keratinized, and the upper
Rabbit fibroma virus was Herpes virus infection surfaces are irregular and often
isolated from nodules beneath Virus III or Herpesvirus cunic- split. The lower portions of the
the skin of wild cottontail rab uli of rabbits exists as a latent growth are pinkish and fleshy to
bits. These viral fibromas (firm infection in some stock lines of the touch. As the warts become
growths) were transmitted to domestic rabbits. The virus does older, they increase in size,
domestic rabbits. It once was not produce a natural disease, become more cornified, and are
believed that fibroma virus nor are other species of animals hard to the touch. At this stage,
infected only wild cottontail rab susceptible. A virus with char they are easily scratched off by
bits; however, an outbreak has acteristics of the herpes group the rabbit or knocked off when
been reported in a commercial has been recovered from rabbits handled. Papillomas removed
rabbitry. with respiratory signs. Its role in this way leave a freebleeding
as a pathogen has not been elu surface, which heals without
In the cottontail rabbit, complications.
fibroma virus causes a benign cidated, but its association with
tumor that regresses within a few respiratory disease may be Rabbit papilloma virus prob
weeks. Young domestic rabbits, important. ably is spread by freeflying
insects such as mosquitoes; there

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is no virus multiplication in
insect tissue. Transmission of the
virus from lesions of cottontail
rabbits to domestic rabbits is
most likely.

Oral papilloma
Wartlike growths in the
mouth, especially on the lower
surface of the tongue, are
caused by a virus (one of the
papovaviruses) different from
the rabbit papilloma virus. Sev
eral spontaneous outbreaks of
this disease have occurred, all in
New York and Massachusetts.
The growths on the tongue
usually regress without specific

Viral enteric diseases

During the past decade, sev
eral viruses have been isolated
from rabbits with diarrhea. Figure 10.Rabbit papilloma. Scaly growths on the ear were caused by
Rotovirus, coronavirus, and papilloma virus.
adenovirus all have been incrimi
nated in enteritis outbreaks. The Viral hemorrhagic the body organs such as the
clinical signs and pathology of lungs, liver, heart, spleen, and
the viral enteric diseases are very
mucous membranes. The liver is
similar to those described under Viral hemorrhagic disease
extremely swollen and brownish
the section on bacterial diseases. (VHD) first was reported in
It is not clear whether viruses China in 1984. Since then, it has
occurred in many European rab Although the disease is very
act as the primary agent (with rare in the United States, ani
pathogenic bacteria as secondary bit-raising countries, in Mexico,
and in the United States. Rab mal health authorities keep a
invaders) or whether natural out vigilant eye on imported rabbits
breaks of enteritis can be caused bits with the disease show inco
ordination, convulsions, and and rabbit meat. The disease has
by these viral entities alone. A escaped from quarantine centers
great deal of work currently is evidence of severe pain. There
usually is a bloody nasal dis in Australia and New Zealand
being done to answer the ques and is decimating wild Oryctol
tions of viral pathogenicity and charge. Mortality rate of affected
animals is very high. lagus rabbit populations in those
immunology. countries.
Postmortem examination
reveals hemorrhages throughout

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Fungal diseases y ellow, dry crusts (Figure 11).

The hairs may be broken close
culture. Examination under
Woods (ultraviolet) light may
Two main groups of fungi, to the skin surface and become indicate Microsporum but not
Trichophyton and Microsporum, matted. The name ringworm is Trichophyton.
are found on rabbits and pro suggested by the circular lesion
duce disease of the skin and Infection of young rabbits
that often develops from the probably occurs in the nest box.
fur under certain conditions. outward growth of the fungi.
Not only can rabbits serve as The nestbox material becomes
Lesions usually are found on contaminated with fungus
reservoirs for human infection, the nose, ears, eyelids, and feet.
but humans can transmit their from the adult, and minor skin
Their size varies, and in severe abrasions allow the fungus
fungus infection to rabbits. cases whole areas of the body
Because they produce a similar to become established on the
may be involved. The infection young. When nursing, the young
disease known as ringworm, usually is most severe in nurs
the two organisms are discussed are in direct contact with skin
ing young; single small lesions and fur around the does teats,
together in this section. are more likely found in adults. and the fungus is easily trans
Fungus infections cause Diagnosis of fungus infection ferred to the mouth and nose
patchy areas of hair loss and depends on finding fungi in regions of the infants. These
thickened skin covered with skin and hair scrapings and by same fungal organisms are found
on dogs, cats, domestic livestock,
and wild rodents around farm
Fungal infections must be dif
ferentiated from other types of
skin problems, such as mite
infestations, hair pulling, fight
wounds, molting, and vitamin
deficiencies. If ringworm is sus
pected after an evaluation of the
lesions and clinical history, a skin
scraping should be performed.
The scraping should be taken
from the periphery of the
lesions, treated with 10 percent
potassium hydroxide, and exam
ined under a light microscope
with reduced illumination. Fun
gal forms are identified easily by
trained personnel.
When small numbers of ani
mals are involved, a topical
antifungal medication may be
applied directly to affected areas.
Figure 11.Ringworm infection showing loss of fur and scaling of skin on the In larger outbreaks, an oral or
ears (arrow).

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systemic medication is preferred. Prevention and control rabbits rarely are infested with
Griseofulvin, an antifungal drug, Prevention of parasite infec parasites in significant numbers.
is the medication of choice. Each tion is far cheaper and preferable Modern pens are constructed so
animal should receive 12mil to treatment. The best preventive that they can be kept clean and
ligrams (mg) per pound of measures are sanitation, good free from the infective forms
body weight per day for at least housing, adequate food ration, of parasites. Proper cleaning of
15days. Dissolve the drug in and an understanding of poten cages and use of good disinfec
water and administer to the rab tial parasite problems. Where tants, together with a good diet,
bit by gastric intubation. During good husbandry is the rule, are the keys to parasite control.
treatment, add a fungicidal dust
such as sulfur to the nestbox
Griseofulvin can be added to
the feed at the rate of 370 mg
per pound of feed and fed to all
rabbits in the herd for a period
of 2 weeks. While this is an
extremely effective and easy way
to treat ringworm, it presents
a problem: The drug has never
been cleared for use in rabbit
feed in the United States and,
therefore, cannot be added to the
feed by a commercial feed com
pany. This situation may be
resolved in the near future.

Parasitic diseases
Rabbits are susceptible to a
number of parasites, but only a
few are of economic importance.
The problems caused by all of
these parasites are greatly influ
enced by methods of feeding,
handling, and housing. If these
are satisfactory, and if recently
acquired animals are quaran
tined for a few days and checked
for disease, most economically
important parasitisms can be
Figure 12.Treating ear mites with a cotton swab soaked in medicated oil.

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External parasites Place oil-based preparations (two examined microscopically for

or three drops) in both ears of all evidence of mites and eggs. To
Ear mites adult and potential replacement treat fur mites in a few rabbits,
Psoroptes cuniculi, the com rabbits in the herd. Massaging apply a cat flea powder at weekly
mon ear mite of rabbits, causes the base of the ear after adminis intervals for several treatments.
ear mange or canker. This condi tering the medication distributes If a fur mite infestation becomes
tion is a very common parasitic the drug throughout the sur a herd problem, treat with injec
disease in commercial rabbitries. face of the ear canal. If rabbits tions of ivermectin or dip rabbits
The mites live in the ear canal are severely infected and have (wear gloves) in a 0.5percent
and damage the skin lining this a large amount of debris in the malathion solution at 10day
area. An exudate of brown, waxy ear canal, soften the debris with intervals for two treatments.
material soon covers the inner mineral oil and remove it with Cuterebrid flies
ear (Figure 12). This dark cotton-tipped applicators and
encrustation consists of cellular tweezers before drug application. Larvae of Cuterebra flies are
debris, keratin, dried blood, Treat rabbits with noticeable ear common subcutaneous parasites
and mites in varying stages of mite infestations every day for of wild rabbits but infrequent
development. three treatments, every other parasites of domestic rabbits.
day for three treatments, and The adult fly appears wherever
The complete life cycle of the populations of wild rabbits exist.
mite takes less than 3 weeks, and then weekly for three treatments.
Treat rabbits without notice Rabbits are infected when the fly
a severely infested ear can con deposits eggs on the fur. Grub
tain as many as 10,000 mites. In able ear mites monthly for three
treatments. Ivermectin is given worms hatch from these eggs
severe cases, the entire inner and burrow into the skin to form
surface of the pinna may be two or three times at 2-week
intervals. warbles. The larvae grow under
involved, as well as the side of the skin and may get as long as
the head, the neck, and even Fur mites threequarters of an inch
the chin and shoulders. Severely Cheyletiella parasitovorax and (Figure 13). When full-grown,
affected rabbits lose flesh, fail to Listrophus gibbus are two com the grubs leave the skin, drop
reproduce, and succumb to sec mon mites inhabiting the skin to the ground, and develop into
ondary infections. of rabbits. In healthy, wellfed adult flies. The warbles cause
Treatment of ear mite infesta rabbits these mites seldom cause
tions requires a plan and perse a problem and rarely are noticed.
verance. If ear mites are detected If a rabbit becomes sick or is
in one rabbit, they likely are in underfed, alopecia, sores, or
others in the herd also. To rid the scabs may develop in the neck
herd of this bothersome para or dorsal trunk areas. Intense
site, treat all rabbits in the herd itching may occur, which causes
regardless of whether ear mites constant scratching with the
are detected. Treating just the hind legs and the consequent
one rabbit will result in continu loss of hair and injury to the
ally treating one or two rabbits a skin.
week. Diagnosis of fur mites is best
Most mineraloilbased ear accomplished by scraping the
mite medications containing a skin of the affected area with a
Figure 13.Cuterebra larva. An
parasiticide are effective, as are scalpel blade dipped in mineral eraser on a pencil is shown for size
treatments using ivermectin. oil. The resulting debris then is comparison.

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little trouble when they are larvae then form pupae from parasite of wild rabbits, but
found in small numbers. The which adult fleas emerge. rarely is found on domestic rab
larvae can be removed by enlarg Control is aimed at killing the bits because their housing is not
ing the opening in the skin and adults on the host and the compatible with the life cycle of
drawing them out gently with immature forms in the nest box. the tick; however, this tick is one
tweezers. Paint the wound with To destroy adult fleas, dust rab of the reservoirs of tularemia,
an antiseptic. bits with a commercial prepara a serious human disease. Take
Fleas and ticks tion of pyrethrum or rotenone. care to ensure that wild rabbits
Rabbits are not commonly Repeat several times during a are not allowed access to areas in
infested with fleas; however, the 2week period. Control imma which domestic rabbits are being
rabbit flea, Spilopsyllus cuniculi, ture forms by burning old raised.
and the dog and cat fleas, Cteno- nestbox litter and scrubbing
cephalides canis and C. felis, occa nest boxes with hot water and Internal parasites
sionally have been reported on household bleach. More modern
rabbits. There are four stages in drugs for preventing and treat Coccidiosis
the life cycle of these fleasegg, ing ectoparasitism in dogs and Coccidiosis is a prevalent
larva, pupa, and adult. The eggs cats may be used in rabbits also. parasitic disease of domestic rab
are deposited on bedding and in Consult a veterinarian. bits. It is caused by a microscopic
cracks of nest boxes and develop The rabbit tick, Haemaphysa- protozoal parasite that invades
into larvae in a short time. These lis leporispalustris, is a common the intestine or liver. In these
locations, the parasite multiplies
extensively and then sheds eggs
in the feces. At least four species
or types of coccidia live in the
intestine, and one species grows
in the liver.
Not all species of coccidia are
equally harmful, and rabbits
tolerate moderate numbers of
some without displaying illness.
The most dangerous of the intes
tinal forms are Eimeria magna,
E. media, E. perforans, and
E. irresidua. These produce diar
rhea, poor appetite, weight loss,
and sometimes death. E. irre-
sidua evokes the most severe
tissue damage. In some cases,
patches of epithelium die and
slough away from the intestinal
The diagnosis of coccidiosis
depends on the finding of the
oocysts (eggs) in the feces or
Figure 14.Life cycle of coccidia.
intestinal contents. However,

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experience is needed to judge

whether sufficient numbers of
parasites are present to account
for the disease signs, because
other disorders may produce
similar signs.
Control of intestinal coccid
iosis depends largely on manage
ment practices that minimize the
danger of fecal contamination
of feed, water, and hutch floors.
Wirebottom floors greatly Figure 15.Livers of rabbits affected with hepatic coccidiosis.
reduce the hazard presented by
solid floors or slots. However, treatment is not suggested unless Liver coccidiosis is acquired
brush wire floors daily with a clinical disease appears. Meat in the same manner as intes
wire brush to ensure that fecal rabbits so treated must be held tinal coccidiosis. The control
material falls through the wires. for at least 10 days following measures also are similar; how
This breaks the life cycle of the cessation of treatment to allow ever, liver coccidiosis can be
organism. Design feeders so that breakdown of antimicrobial resi controlled more easily by proper
fecal contamination is held to a due in muscle tissue. management. When the disease
minimum. An automatic water does occur, feed containing
Eimeria stiedae, the one spe
system is recommended. Oocysts 0.025 percent sulfaquinoxaline is
cies that multiplies in the liver, is
passed out in the feces require an effective treatment. It can be
considered to be the most patho
moisture and warmth to sporu fed at this level for 3 weeks; use
genic coccidium of rabbits. Like
late and become infective it only until management con
the other forms, it enters the
(Figure 14). Dry wire floors and trol measures can be introduced.
intestinal wall, but it migrates
automatic water systems hin
to the bile ducts, where it repro Encephalitozoonosis
der sporulation of the parasite.
duces. Infections lasting more Encephalitozoon cuniculi (a
Oocytes persist in the environ
than 16 days can be recognized protozoan parasite) is the cause
ment and are difficult to kill
by white circular nodules on the of a mild but long-standing dis
with most common sanitizing
liver (Figure 15). The parasite ease in rabbits. The condition
multiplies in the epithelial cells was first described as a chronic
Treatment has only a tempo of the bile ducts, which become
rary effect during the early stages encephalitis, sometimes with
thickened and tortuous and con clinical signs such as a spontane
of intestinal coccidiosis, but it tain a vast number of oocysts.
may be useful in controlling ous paralytic disease. A chronic
In the early stages of infection, nephritis caused by the parasite
outbreaks. When indicated, a there are no unusual symp
ration containing 0.025 percent was overlooked for many years,
toms. Then appetite decreases, but current studies indicate that
sulfaquinoxaline may be fed for a potbelly develops, and death
2 to 3 weeks to reduce the num many apparently healthy ani
sometimes follows. In moderate mals have kidney lesions related
bers of parasites to a level where infections, there is no mortality,
control can be accomplished by to this infection. These lesions
but disfigurement of the liver vary from cortical scarring
proper management. Intestinal makes it unmarketable; hence
coccidia develop a tolerance to with multiple small, indented,
this type of coccidiosis always is gray areas on the surface to
the drug if used continuously, so of economic significance.

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a granulomatous nephritis also in screening rabbits to point At necropsy, the lesions of this
(Figure16). The scars extend out possible carriers or infected disease vary. In the acute form,
from the cortical surface to the animals. there is extensive necrosis of the
medulla. Toxoplasmosis lymph nodes, liver, spleen, and
Encephalitozoonosis is a con lungs. This generally is observed
Toxoplasmosis is an uncom histologically, but grossly the
tagious, colony infection. The mon protozoal disease of rabbits
organisms are passed in the urine organs may be swollen, and
caused by Toxoplasma gondii. necrotic small white foci may be
and transmitted when there is The disease has been reported
urinary contamination of feed observed. The parasitic organ
worldwide in both domestic ism often is found with the aid
or water. A diseased doe also can and wild rabbits. The disease
transmit the disease to unborn of a microscope in these necrotic
probably is more common than foci. In the chronic form, there
rabbits in the uterus. The disease reported, as antibody tests on
can be controlled by providing may be microscopic lesions but
rabbit herds have shown that no apparent gross lesions, and
good sanitation and preventing as many as 50 percent of clini
contamination of food and organisms often are confined to
cally normal rabbits have been the central nervous system.
water by urine. No treatment is exposed.
available. Diagnosis of toxoplasmosis
There are two forms of the generally is accomplished at
Diagnosis of encephalito- disease. In the acute form, the
zoonosis in a rabbit herd is necropsy by observation of his
rabbit develops anorexia, fever, tologic lesions and organisms.
difficult. It usually is done at
lethargy, and (in a few days) cen Various serological tests also
necropsy by observing histo
tral nervous symptoms ranging might be useful. Treatment in
pathologic lesions typical of the
from ataxia or posterior paraly most cases is not practical, and
disease. Recently, several diag
sis to generalized convulsions. the emphasis should be on pre
nostic tests have been developed
Death usually occurs about a vention. Cats, the primary
that will help with the diagnosis
week after symptoms are first carrier of this organism, should
in live rabbits. An Encephalito-
noted. In the chronic form, be kept out of rabbitries or at
zoon infection can be detected by
the disease occurs over a much least away from feed storage
an indirect fluorescent antibody
longer period of time. In fact, it areas. Take precautions to ensure
test, a skin test, or by a carbon
may be latent, with onset stimu that feed and water are not con
immunoassay utilizing India
lated by stress. With the chronic taminated with toxoplasma
ink. These tests may be helpful
form, either no symptoms are oocysts.
in antemortem diagnosis and
observed or there is a progressive
emaciation that might end in Roundworms
posterior paralysis and death. Only one roundworm pres
Transmission of the disease ents a problem in domestic
may occur in two ways. Cats can rabbits. Several more have been
shed the parasite in their stool reported in wild rabbits, but
and thereby contaminate stored these rarely occur in domestic
rabbit feed; then the contami rabbits. The pinworm, Passalurus
nated feed is ingested by rabbits. ambiguus, is a very common
The parasite also can be trans parasite of domestic rabbits, but
mitted through the placenta of a it does not affect other animals
Figure 16.Halves of kidneys from two or people.
rabbits showing pitting of the surface
pregnant doe to her offspring.
caused by Encephalitozoon cuniculi

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These pinworms are glisten

ing white, and 12 inch long. They
often are seen on the surface of
freshly passed feces or through
the wall of the cecum when rab
bits are slaughtered. Ordinarily,
pinworms do little harm. As the
mature worms become inactive,
they are passed out of the cecum
as fecal pellets are formed. These
parasites are spread from ani
mal to animal by ingesting feed
and water contaminated by the
droppings of infected animals.
Management methods used to
control coccidiosis are effective
against pinworms. When treat
ment is necessary, piperazine
citrate is effective when admin
istered at 100 mg/100 milliliters
(ml) drinking water for 1 day.
Reinfection occurs readily. Figure 18.Life cycle of the dog tapewarm.
Tapeworms occur in rabbits The rabbit tapeworm Cit- tapeworm segments and eggs
as adults in the intestine and as totaenia variablis is uncommon from the feces of dogs.
larval forms in the liver and in domestic rabbits. It is flat, The young larvae then are
abdominal cavity. The ribbonshaped, and made up released from the eggs, penetrate
adult forms are very rare in of numerous segments. It has the digestive tract, and migrate
hutchraised rabbits, but larval a head with four suckers with to the liver. They migrate within
forms occasionally are observed. which the worm attaches to the the liver, leaving white streaks
lining of the intestine. Rabbits behind, then leave the liver and
harboring a few tapeworms show enter the abdominal cavity. They
no signs of the disease. When form small, fluidfilled cysts (cys
many tapeworms are present, ticerci), which may be attached
diarrhea and emaciation might to the membranes holding the
occur. Control is readily intestinal tract or may exist free
accomplished by good in the abdominal cavity
sanitation. (Figure 17). Each cyst contains
The larval forms of tapeworm an embryonic tapeworm that,
most often found are those of when consumed by a dog, will
Figure 17.Rabbit liver with several Taenia pisiformis. They are found develop into a mature tapeworm.
cysticerci attached (arrow). in the abdominal cavity and in By excluding dogs from the
the liver. Rabbits acquire these rabbitry, transmission of tape
tapeworms by ingesting contam worm eggs can be prevented
inated feed and water containing (Figure 18). Dogs kept on

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premises where rabbits are raised c ontaining glucose may reverse g estation period. When maternal
should not be allowed to eat the breakdown of body fats blood levels fall below 20 micro
any part of a raw rabbit carcass. and halt production of ketones. grams (ug) per 100 ml serum,
Treatment for larval stages in the Junior does should not be too fat hydrocephalus appears in a large
rabbit is not practical, so con when bred for the first litter. percentage of the young. Com
trol must be accomplished by mercial diets, in general, supply
management. Vitamin A deficiency adequate levels of vitamin A;
however, the vitamin does dete
Lowgrade vitamin A defi riorate after prolonged storage of
Nutritional ciency adversely affects the alfalfa hay.
diseases reproductive performance of
females, often before other signs It has been shown by workers
at Oregon State Universitys Rab
Pregnancy toxemia are noted. Premature degenera
bit Research Center that
tion of the ovum and reduced
Also known as ketosis, this excess levels of vitamin A can
numbers of fertilized ova result.
disease is a toxemia of pregnancy cause the same signs and symp
Resorption of the fetus or abor
that is most common in first toms as deficiency of the vitamin.
tion during late gestation also is
litter females. Signs of ketosis are Low fertility, abortions, resorp
dullness of the eyes, sluggishness, tion, and hydrocephalus were
respiratory distress, prostration, Rabbits born to females fed a seen in does given excessive vita
and death after 1 to 4 days. The diet deficient in vitamin A may min A in the diet. Excess vitamin
disease occurs in the last week be hydrocephalic at birth. A may be a problem if a vitamin
of pregnancy and is much more Hydrocephalus, or water on premix is added to rabbit diets
prevalent in obese animals. The the brain, is characterized by containing high levels of alfalfa.
probable major cause is starva distention of the portion of the
tion with subsequent metabolic skull that covers the brain. Cases
effects on the doe and young. may not be apparent because Vitamin E deficiency
For some reason, there is a loss of the young die soon after birth or Infant mortality, character
appetite and failure to eat. This are born dead. Animals that live ized by death of entire litters
may be the result of minor diges show signs of nervous system at 3 to 10days of age without
tive upset (hairballs in the stom involvement. Wryneck, loss of clinical signs prior to death, has
ach are common), an abrupt equilibrium, and incoordination been associated with vitamin E
reduction in exercise, or a ration persist for several days or weeks. deficiency. Affected infants do
containing too little digestible Impaired coordination may pre not reveal any gross lesions of
carbohydrate. When carbohy vent animals from eating, and diagnostic significance. Produc
drate energy declines, body fat is eventually they die of starva ing females become less fertile
mobilized for energy, and ketone tion. Enlargement of the head as the deficiency progresses.
bodies are produced and enter is caused by increased pressure The problem can be treated
the bloodstream. The liver within the brain. On cut section, because adequate supplementa
becomes fatty and appears brown the ventricles (cavities) of the tion of vitamin E will stop infant
and soft. brain are greatly enlarged and mortality and correct infertility.
filled with a clear, colorless fluid. Alfalfa hay is a suitable source of
Birth of the litter or abortion
Hydrocephalus is caused vitamin E in commercial rations,
is apt to be curative if either
by low maternal blood levels and 89 mg/100 grams (g) feed
occurs shortly after the onset
of vitamin A throughout the is adequate.
of signs. Injections of fluids

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problems in rabbit colonies. The misalignment, which also results

dental formula of the rabbit is: in malocclusion. This type of
incisors 2/1, canines 0/0, premo malocclusion is difficult to dif
lars 3/2, and molars 3/3. Con ferentiate from inherited maloc
stant chewing and gnawing keep clusion. Therefore, the best
the teeth ground down to proper solution is to regard all maloc
length and size. When the lower clusion as inherited. The reces
jaw is shorter or longer than the sive malocclusion genes can be
upper jaw or teeth are damaged, eliminated from a breeding herd
malocclusion of the incisors by selective breeding.
Figure 19.Malocclusion. might result in overgrowth
(Figure 19). The cheek teeth
Hereditary (premolars and molars) meet and
Splay leg and ataxia
Splay leg in rabbits is due to
diseases grind evenly in normal animals.
These teeth continue to grow one or more recessive genetic
Glaucoma and depend on constant grind factors. The condition might
ing against opposing teeth to be similar to the hip dysplasia
Glaucoma (buphthalmia) found in certain breeds of dogs.
occurs in both laboratory and maintain their shape. If there is
commercial rabbit colonies. This a malposition of the jaw, broken The disease is characterized
condition is of interest to oph teeth, or malformation, over by an inability to put weight on
thalmologists because of its simi growth will occur in the cheek one or both hind legs, and might
larity to congenital glaucoma in teeth similar to that which even involve all four limbs. The
humans, and rabbits may serve occurs in the incisors. limbs are twisted so the animals
as a useful animal model. Signs of malocclusion are have a double-jointed posture.
gradual loss of appetite and Affected animals are not para
Glaucoma appears first as a lyzed. They eat normally, seem
light bluish cloudiness on the weight. Both sides of the mouth
may become stained with saliva. to be well, and move by wrig
cornea. One or both eyes may be gling along on their belly and
affected. Progressive opacity fol Animals become progressively
listless, dehydrated, and unable chest. The pathologic effects are
lows, and protrusion of the eye limited to the hip and shoulder.
ball becomes noticeable. Corneal to chew properly. Complications
opacity may lead to blindness. are abscessed teeth, growth of Ataxia (muscle incoordina
teeth into the upper jaw, and tion) resembles splay leg in some
Glaucoma probably is the death from starvation. respects. It is, however, a lethal
result of an abnormal drainage recessive genetic factor. The dis
mechanism and the inability to Malocclusion of the incisors
can be corrected temporarily ease usually appears when the
maintain normal fluid relation animal is 2 to 3 months of age
ships in the eye. It is a semilethal by cutting back the teeth so the
animals can eat and attain good and runs its course in 30 days. In
defect that is transmitted as a ataxia, the nervous system is
recessive trait. condition before slaughter.
However, never use these ani involved, and at first the animal
mals as breeding stock because might not be able to use its hind
Malocclusion many types of malocclusion are legs effectively. Later the animal
Malocclusion and tooth over inherited. Young rabbits occa cannot move, and its body tem
growth, or wolf teeth, have sionally pull on cage wires or perature drops below normal
long been recognized as common feeders with their teeth and cause until death ensues.

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Miscellaneous Draining water lines or crocks

and refilling with cold water for
distended. Paralyzed animals
have a displaced or slipped verte
Cannibalism immediate consumption aid in bra. Malposition of the vertebra
Most cases of cannibalism reducing rabbits body tempera compresses and damages the spi
are the result of a diet that is ture. It is also helpful to change nal cord with resulting paralysis.
inadequate in either quality or breeding schedules to reduce Injury to the vertebra may be
quantity, injury or abnormality the number of latepregnancy caused by improper handling,
in a baby rabbit, or disturbance does in the hottest part of the use of a tattoo box too short for
of the doe following kindling. summer. the animal, or injury. Many inju
Proper feeding and seclusion ries occur at night when predator
at kindling usually prevent the animals invade the rabbitry. In
tendency. A valuable doe that
Broken back
an effort to evade the predator
destroys her first litter should be This condition is character and protect the young, the adult
given another chance. If she con ized by sudden paralysis with no stamps firmly with its hind
tinues to kill young, she should apparent cause. Paralysis extends feet. As a result, a vertebra
be culled from the breeding posterior from the middle of becomes displaced, and the spi
population. the back and may be complete nal cord is damaged.
or partial (paresis). The animal
moves with its front legs and Adult rabbits have been
Heat prostration observed to cause a luxation
drags the hindquarters. The uri
of the vertebrae by sudden
Heat prostration results from nary bladder may become greatly
prolonged exposure to excessive
heat. Losses may be high in
females due to kindle or in baby
rabbits if nest boxes are poorly
ventilated. Just before dying, ani
mals breathe rapidly and become
Provide relief to adult animals
suffering from the heat by spray
ing them with water or placing a
wet burlap feed sack on the cage
floor for them to rest on.
Remove some bedding and fur
from nest boxes to improve cir
culation of air around kits.
In locations subject to high
temperatures, overhead water
sprinklers help to reduce the
airs temperature by evaporation.
Aluminumroofed sheds reflect
the heat, and burlap sacks soaked
in water can be hung from the
edges of the roofs to shade and
cool the air. Figure 20.Sore hocks.

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ovements when startled by

m animal seldom is useful as a Fur eating and
a person entering the rabbitry. breeder. The best method of hairballs
This is especially true if back treatment is prevention. Preven
Several rabbits in a hutch
ground noise (such as a radio) is tion is accomplished in three
may eat body fur, eyelashes, and
not available and the person is a ways. First, cull all affected
whiskers. Single rabbits eat fur
stranger. breeders from the breeding herd
on their sides, back, and rump.
If a rabbit is completely because of a genetic predilection
The cause generally is a defi
paralyzed, it generally is killed. for sore hocks (thickness of the
ciency of dietary fiber and gastric
However, some success has been foot pad). Second, clean cage
atony. Diets high in cereal grains
observed in does with paresis floors daily and never allow
and low in alfalfa often have a
(some motor function or sensory manure to hang on cage floors.
low fiber content. Because the
capability) by putting the rabbit Third, inspect cage floors
rabbits digestive system is
in a small cage for 30 to 60days. frequently for rough spots or
designed for handling large
The smaller cage limits the rab rusty areas.
amounts of fiber, a deficiency in
bits activity and allows time for the diet causes the animal to seek
repair of the injury. Tumors another source of fiber, and hair
Spontaneous tumors in rabbits chewing begins. Increasing fiber
Sore hocks rarely are reported because the in the diet almost always elimi
Sore hocks are inflamed bare animals are slaughtered before nates the problem. Overcrowd
spots, devoid of fur, found on they reach the age at which ing in a cage also can cause hair
the bottom surface of the hind tumors are most apt to occur. loss, mainly from fighting.
legs (Figure 20). In severely With the increasing use of Rabbits also eat small amounts
affected cases, secondary infec rabbits as laboratory animals, of hair by licking or grooming
tions with Staphylococcus occur. interest in these growths can be themselves. The hair may accu
Both front and hind feet might expected. Tumors have been mulate in the stomach and form
become involved. As the hocks observed in the uterus, kidneys, hairballs. These usually cause no
of the hind feet become painful, blood, lymph nodes, bones, disease, but they may obstruct
the animal throws more weight testicles, skin, and other organs. the stomach. When obstruction
to the front feet, adding stress to Adenocarcinomas of the uteri are occurs, the rabbit quits eating,
the front feet and causing them not uncommon in does over loses weight, and may die.
to become affected. Wet, dirty 2 years of age. Usually they are If a hairball is suspected,
hutch floors and the irritating multiple and occur in both uteri. parenteral fluids, gastric muscle
action of urine salts are predis Most cases of lymphosarcoma stimulation, massage of the
posing factors. The breed also (tumors of cells from lymph (delicate) stomach, and, perhaps,
is a factor in the development nodes) occur in mature females. administration of 10 ml of pine
of sore hocks; the disease is seen Neoplastic cells are found in apple juice by stomach tube or
more often in large breeds than numerous body organs, but the medicine dropper 3 days in a
in smaller breeds. Rex rabbits are most outstanding lesions are row might help. An enzyme in
prone to the disease because of in the kidneys. Another tumor the juice might help break up
thin foot pads. originates from embryonic the hairball and allow it to pass
Treatment of sore hocks often cells in the kidneys (embryonal through the digestive system.
is nonproductive. Even if treat nephroma) and is observed with Surgery might be needed in
ment is successful, the lesion some frequency in domestic some cases.
almost always returns, and the rabbits.

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Coprophagy yellow fat. Plant pigments also

affect urine color
How to pack and
Rabbits take soft fecal pellets
from the vent and swallow them
ship specimens
intact. This is a natural physi Winter breeding for laboratory
ological process for rabbits and
should not be misinterpreted
depression diagnosis
A very common occurrence in The best way to obtain an
as a nutritional condition or rabbitries in cold climates is a
depraved appetite. Coprophagy accurate diagnosis is to take dead
decrease in productivity during animals or two or three sick ani
is practiced at night by tame rab the winter. The syndrome usu
bits and during the day by wild mals showing typical signs to the
ally has these common elements: nearest animal diagnostic labora
rabbits in their burrows. Fermen small litters, abortions, weak
tation of the feces in the large tory and supply any additional
litters that cant nurse, does that information the pathologist may
intestine supplies an abundance dont have enough milk, and
of certain B vitamins to the fecal need. If delivery in person is not
does that will not breed. All of convenient, the dead animals can
pellets, probably improves the these factors lead to a decreased
quality of the protein in the soft be shipped.
number of fryers toward the end
pellets, and improves fiber break of the winter. Although many
down by bacterial action. By per causes for this syndrome have Shipping dead animals
mitting a second passage of food been postulated, the basic prob If you cannot take your rab
through the digestive tract, the lem is inadequate nutrition. bits to a diagnostic laboratory
rabbit gains additional nutritive because of distance, the next best
value from the food. Breeding does (and sometimes
bucks) require more energy in thing is to send the dead rabbits
cold weather to keep warm. If to the laboratory.
Yellow fat you use a restricted feeding pro Because it is against postal reg
Yellow body fat is an inher gram (rabbits are not fed all they ulations to send frozen carcasses
ited condition in rabbits. It is want), increase the amount of of diseased animals through the
included here only to prevent feed in cold weather. Otherwise, mail, shipment must be made by
misunderstanding or association the doe will not have enough bus or air express. United Parcel
with a disease condition (jaun food calories to provide body Service will not accept carcasses.
dice). Yellow fat is a genetic heat and energy for the repro Label the outside of the box
trait determined by a recessive duction process. Reproduction Biological specimen, Rush,
gene. Alfalfa and other green will be suspended until adequate and Keep in a cool place.
feeds contain xanthophyll, a nutrition is available, which usu If the carcass is to be shipped
fatsoluble compound that is yel ally occurs as warmer weather a short distance, chill (but never
low in color. Animals with the arrives. freeze) it thoroughly and place
yellow fat gene lack an enzyme The treatment for this syn it in the center of a box contain
that reduces (changes) the xan drome is either to increase ing sawdust or shavings. For
thophyll pigment to a colorless gradually the amount of feed long-distance shipments, place
product. Therefore, the xantho (usually to about double) or to dry ice around the carcass, then
phyll is deposited in the body increase the amount of energy pack it as indicated above. Never
fat, making it yellow. White fat in the diet by increasing the put dry ice in an airtight jar or
in meat rabbits is preferred to amount of carbohydrate or fat. can. If the gas cannot escape, it
may cause an explosion. Properly

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used, dry ice will prevent spoil

age for 2 or 3 days. Use pesticides safely!
Many specimens decompose
When you use any pesticide, observe these rules:
after arriving at the laboratory
because no one is available to Wear protective clothing and safety devices as recom
take care of them promptly. mended on the label. Bathe or shower after each use.
With this in mind, do not send Read the pesticide labeleven if youve used the pesticide
fresh specimens that will arrive before. Follow closely the instructions on the label (and any
on a weekend; most laboratories other directions you have).
do not operate on Saturday or Be cautious when you apply pesticides. Know your legal
Sunday. Address the package to responsibility as a pesticide applicator. You may be liable for
the laboratory itself, not to an injury or damage resulting from pesticide use.
individual employee. This will
ensure more immediate atten
tion. Do not send carcasses that
have started to decompose. It Dates of first losses and subse
is better to kill an animal or quent losses
two that show typical signs, or Incidence of infection
to ship them alive if there is a (whether it is in just one
chance they may reach their des house or pen, or scattered
tination before death. throughout the rabbitry)
What treatment, if any, has
Accompanying been given
information Type and brand of feed and
Letters that do not contain feeding methods used for the
sufficient information are a prob past 6 months
lem to the pathologist. In some Type of housing (whether the
diseases, a complete history is rabbits are kept on wire or
more useful than the carcass. The solid floors)
accompanying letter should con Any other information
tain the following information: that might help explain the
Number of rabbits on the outbreak
ranch It is best to telephone the lab
Number of sick or dead oratory so the staff can be alerted
animals to the arrival of the specimen. If
Age and sex of affected they need further information,
animals they can ask at that time.
Description of the disease as
you observed it. For example,
Rabbits develop watery diar
rhea, quit eating and drinking,
and die in 1 or 2 days.

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2008 Oregon State University

Pacific Northwest Extension publications are jointly produced by the three Pacific Northwest statesOregon, Wash-
ington, and Idaho. Similar crops, climate, and topography create a natural geographic unit that crosses state lines. Since
1949 the PNW program has published more than 500 titles. Joint writing, editing, and production have prevented
duplication of effort, broadened the availability of faculty specialists, and substantially reduced the costs for
participating states.
Published and distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the Oregon State
University Extension Service, Washington State University Cooperative Extension, the University of Idaho Cooperative
Extension System, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.
The three participating Extension Services offer educational programs, activities, and materialswithout regard to age,
color, disability, gender identity or expression, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or
veterans statusas required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972,
and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Oregon State University Extension Service, Washington State
University Cooperative Extension, and the University of Idaho Cooperative Extension System are Equal Opportunity
Published September 1986. Revised January 2008.