4 Common Diseases of Rabbits
Fri, December 3, 2021

4 Common Diseases of Rabbits

Rabbits make wonderful pets, but like any other animal, your bunny must be adequately cared for to prevent it from getting serious health complications / Photo by: Santiago Nunez Iniguez via 123RF


Rabbits make wonderful pets, but like any other animal, your bunny must be adequately cared for to prevent it from getting serious health complications. 

There are common diseases and conditions that rabbits can suffer from. Fortunately, these can be prevented if you know the signs of a healthy rabbit and notice even the subtle symptoms of a sick pet, said VetWest, a veterinary care and services provider in Perth, Australia. It added that it’s important to bear in mind that your pet bunny is closely related to wild rabbits. 

Wild rabbits tend to hide their symptoms wells unless they become extremely sick. It’s a defensive mechanism as they belong to the low end of the food chain. They do this because weakness makes them more attractive to predators in the wild.

Make sure that your pet rabbit’s vaccinations are up to date. Additionally, regular consultations with your veterinarian and a healthy diet can go a long way in ensuring your rabbit’s vitality and happiness.


Signs of an Unhealthy Rabbit

Observe your pet rabbit more closely and look for these warning signs:

1. Lethargy and poor appetite

If you see that your rabbit is not active or is eating poorly, these may be vague indications of any number of illnesses. Be sure to keep track of your pet’s food and water intake as this will help you tell if your rabbit is suffering from any health issue. 

2. Cold symptoms

An upper respiratory tract disease is a serious illness for rabbits as they can only breathe through their noses. If you think your pet is suffering from a cold, look for such symptoms such as sneezing, nasal discharge, breathing problems, coughing, and open-mouth breathing. Take your rabbit to the vet as soon as possible.

3. Head tilt

Your pet may be suffering from head tilt if it has poor coordination and if its head is “listing to one side.” Head tilt refers to a dysfunction of the system that controls your rabbit’s balance. 

If you see that your rabbit is not active or is eating poorly, these may be vague indications of any number of illnesses / Photo by: melpomen via 123RF


Common Diseases of Rabbits

Now that you know what to watch out for, here are some of the most common illnesses that might be causing those symptoms in your rabbit.

Myxomatosis – This is caused by the myxoma virus that commonly affects wild rabbits. Your pet can still be infected even if it did not come into direct contact with wild animals as myxomatosis can be spread by flies, fur mites, fleas, and mosquitoes. It can also be contracted through injuries caused by contaminated thorns or thistles or by direct contact with an infected rabbit. 

The incubation period occurs in one to three days and symptoms include puffy eyelids, lethargy, purulent (pus-producing) conjunctivitis, and subcutaneous (under the skin) swelling around the genital region, eyes, and ears. Swelling could progress to troubled breathing, skin hemorrhages, fever, decreased to no appetite, fever, and skin tumors. Rabbits die one to two weeks after being infected by the virus. Vaccinating your rabbit may provide temporary protection, but this particular vaccine is not available in some countries.  

Viral Hemorrhagic Disease – It is caused by a calicivirus. Its incubation is up to three days and animals can die without exhibiting any clinical symptom. The disease is transmitted by direct contact with infected rabbits, rodents, and rabbit products as well as contaminated cages, clothing, and dishes. It is also transmitted through moist air, albeit over short distances. 

Symptoms include foaming, fever, decreased to no appetite, bloody nasal discharge. Your rabbit may collapse or experience convulsions or coma. If you live in an area where the viral hemorrhagic disease is rampant, it is recommended to have your rabbit vaccinated each year. 

Encephalitozoonosis – Encephalitozoon cuniculi is a parasitic organism that needs to live in a cell to thrive. It is spread in rabbits from mother to offspring in the uterus as well as from one rabbit to another through infected urine. It is usually a latent condition in rabbits, so many infected animals show no signs of the disease. An infected rabbit may develop white cataracts in one or both eyes, a head tilt, decreased appetite, tremors, seizures, and breathing problems. It needs to be administered with anti-inflammatory and anti-parasitic drugs for several weeks. It also involves syringe feeding and motion sickness medication. Presently, there are no drugs that are guaranteed to eliminate encephalitozoonosis. In fact, many rabbits still show signs of this disease after undergoing treatment. 

4. Pasteurellosis/Snuffles – The Pasteurella multocida bacterium can be transmitted by an infected. All rabbits carry the Pasteurella organisms, although only a few manifest the disease. Snuffles can affect the eyes, nose, tear ducts, and ears. Symptoms may include nasal or ocular discharge, redness in the eye, squinting, or sneezing. Snuffles can also result in a head tilt, abscesses, and uterine infections. 

Stress and overcrowding may trigger symptoms. Hence, it is best to isolate new rabbits for one month before they are introduced to existing pets. Antibiotics may be prescribed by your vet, and surgery is necessary when your rabbit has abscesses. 

Lethargy or loss of appetite, for instance, can be symptoms of a number of illnesses. Don’t wait until the symptoms escalate. If you feel that your rabbit is acting peculiarly, consult a veterinarian for accurate diagnosis at once. And remember, prevention is the key. Keep your rabbit’s cage clean, don’t let it near other animals that could be sick, and don’t forget to provide your pet with a healthy diet.

Myxomatosis is caused by the myxoma virus that commonly affects wild rabbits / Photo by: Laurent Renault via 123RF