Dr Nadene Stapleton 16 Typical Rabbit Diseases (Incl. Treatment)

16 Typical Rabbit Diseases (Incl. Treatment)

There are numerous diseases that are typical for rabbits.
Knowing and especially recognizing these typical diseases can help you to help your animal quickly and safely in an emergency.
In this article we will introduce you to 16 typical rabbit diseases and also show you how prevention and treatment can proceed.

Disease 1: Abscesses

Abscesses are inflammatory swellings that are painful and red.
They can be filled with pus and, depending on their size, exert considerable pressure on the surrounding tissue.
They occur mainly in the area of the face or mouth, but can occur all over the body, for example, as a result of a bite injury.
Due to the dense fur, they are usually difficult to detect directly on the back or abdomen. A close examination is therefore essential.

How to recognize abscesses

Abscesses are often only noticed by chance.
However, possible signs are:

Sensitivity to pain and avoidance of touching a spot
loss of appetite
one-sided chewing
strong salivation
noticeable swellings or lumps
selectively warmer parts of the body
It is best to check your rabbits daily and look closely at the mouth area.
If you notice reddened and swollen areas or if your animal suddenly twitches away when touched, it could be an abscess.

What you should do about rabbit abscesses
If you notice an abscess or suspect that your rabbit is suffering from one, see a veterinarian immediately.

Because such inflammation in the mouth can both interfere with eating and drinking and can have serious underlying causes, early treatment is crucial.

Disease 2: Flatulence

Rabbits have an extremely sensitive digestive system.

They must eat many small meals and sufficient roughage, such as grasses and hay, to avoid problems. If the food is very flatulent, if there is too little fiber or too much starch, there can be disturbances that manifest themselves as painful flatulence.

The food then ferments too much and excessive amounts of gases are formed. These exert pressure and not infrequently cause a loss of appetite.

Tip: Here you can find our ultimate food list for rabbits!

How to recognize flatulence in rabbits
Rabbits that suffer from flatulence cannot burp, and farting is usually not audible to humans either.

They usually adopt a protective posture and sit hunched over. The abdomen is bloated and hard. However, a stomach overload or an intestinal obstruction can also be responsible for this.

As a layman, the causes are not distinguishable from each other.
This is what you should do in case of flatulence
Consult a veterinarian, even if you only suspect flatulence.

Clarification is crucial. Subsequently, an agent to dissolve the gas can be administered.

In addition, an antispasmodic may be used. Tea and herbs that are beneficial for digestion are also recommended. Warmth and exercise will help your rabbit feel better quickly.

Disease 3: Bladder stones and kidney stones

Rabbits have a physiological peculiarity: they absorb all minerals from food.

What is not needed or immediately consumed is excreted by the kidneys and bladder.

However, this only works if sufficient fluid is taken in and there are no diseases or a genetic predisposition to kidney stones.

If this is the case, minerals are deposited in the kidneys and urinary bladder, first becoming sludge and finally semolina. This can develop into one or even more stones over time.
How to recognize bladder stones and kidney stones
Typical signs of such problems are

your rabbit urinates frequently but only a little
blood in the urine
foul odor
changed color
increased body temperature
painful abdomen
visible urinary gravel
damp or wet fur in the genital area or on the belly
In addition, your rabbit may be very quiet and appear fatigued and weakened.

What you should do in case of bladder stones and kidney stones
If you suspect stones in the bladder or kidneys, consult a veterinarian immediately.

This is because if a stone lodges itself in front of the outlet in such a way that urine can no longer pass, life-threatening conditions can occur within a few hours.
In addition, the animal suffers considerable pain. This already requires immediate examination and treatment.

Disease 4: Chinese disease

China disease – also known as RHD – can be recognized by the extreme symptoms when it is severe.

The disease is highly contagious and can be transmitted from animal to animal but also by parasites or by remaining pathogens on objects.

Vaccination is therefore advisable in any case, as well as for myxomatosis. It is an infection caused by viruses and is accompanied by severe bleeding.

Only with mild courses and an early treatment chances of survival are given.

How to recognize RHD in rabbits
RHD is an abbreviation for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus.

This virus causes significant bleeding. This can cause your rabbit to bleed from the nose and anus. In addition, there is fever, loss of appetite and fatigue.

If you observe such symptoms in your animals, immediate action is required. Because the effects of the disease increase within a short time.

What you should do in case of Chinese disease
An immediate visit to the vet should be made even at night or on weekends, because it is an emergency.

By treating the symptoms and appropriate medication, the overall condition can be improved and the organism is strengthened. In the best case, the immune system fights the pathogens and recovery occurs.

However, it is better to have your rabbits protected by vaccination.

Disease 5: Intestinal obstruction

Intestinal obstruction is a serious problem that can lead to death within a short time. This is because the obstruction causes sections of the intestine to die, poisoning the body.

Unfortunately, however, it is not easy to detect.

Because it could be just as much a temporary constipation with reduced fecal output.

As a layman, this is not easy to recognize. Therefore, you should act quickly in any case and have an examination performed.

How to recognize an intestinal obstruction in rabbits
If your rabbit has an intestinal obstruction, it will defecate less and then not at all.

The abdomen is distended and hard.

The animal assumes a crouching posture and may appear apathetic. In addition, it no longer eats. Pain sensitivity to touch is also possible.

In case of an already existing intestinal obstruction, fever may be added.

What you should do in case of an intestinal obstruction
It is a life-threatening emergency if there is a blockage or complete intestinal obstruction.

Therefore, consult a veterinarian or a veterinary clinic immediately.
If there is only constipation, fluids and laxatives along with relaxing and antispasmodic medications may help.

In the case of intestinal obstruction, on the other hand, surgery may be required. Prompt treatment will make the difference between life and death in any case.

Disease 6: Diarrhea

Due to their sensitive digestion and often incorrect feeding, rabbits can quickly develop diarrhea.
The feces are then soft or liquid and are discharged in large quantities. Besides a too fast change of feed, laxative food can be responsible for this, as well as stress, parasites or an infection.

In the case of diarrhea, a lot of fluid, but also nutrients are lost, which can lead too quickly to a general weakening.

Especially in young, old or pre-diseased rabbits, this can cause critical and life-threatening conditions in a short time.

How do you recognize diarrhea in rabbits?
The soft to liquid feces is an obvious sign. In addition, there may be a very strong, unpleasant odor.
Blood may also be present. In addition, the fur in the area of the anus can stick together. A weakened general condition and loss of appetite often accompany diarrhea in rabbits.

What you should do in case of diarrhea
First, see a veterinarian to have the diarrhea examined and stopped.

Fluids can be added through an IV if the rabbit is already dehydrated.

In addition, the cause of the diarrhea will be clarified, which is critical if there is a parasite infestation or infection, in order to initiate the proper continued therapy.

Disease 7: E. Cuniculi – torticollis disease

E. Cuniculi is also known as torticollis disease because crooked posture is a common sign of infection.
The pathogen is carried by most rabbits.

However, an outbreak is only to be feared in the case of a weakened immune system.

In addition to a crooked neck, numerous other symptoms are found that do not always clearly indicate the disease, also known as E.C.. This makes it difficult to detect and diagnose the infection without proper examination.

How can you recognize E. Cuniculi in your rabbit?
Possible symptoms of E. Cuniculi include:
crooked head
signs of paralysis
eye disorders
disturbed coordination
shortness of breath
drooping corners of the mouth
difficulty in taking in food and water
The rabbit affected by the fungus appears clumsy in its movements and may injure itself more often. In addition, the overall condition is weakened.

What should you do about E.C.?

Go to the vet immediately, because immediate treatment with an appropriate remedy is essential.

Even then, the healing takes a long time.

However, many rabbits recover almost completely with appropriate therapy and can subsequently lead a normal life.

Disease 8: Rabbit Sniffles

Rabbit rhinitis is a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract.

The disease is not comparable to a cold or common cold in humans, because in rabbits it can be fatal.

It is therefore all the more important that you recognize rabbit colds at an early stage and have them treated. Only then is there a good chance of survival.

A therapy with antibiotics, strengthening means and if necessary even infusions against a possible dehydration are advised.

How do you recognize rabbit sniffles?
Rabbit rhinitis usually starts with dry sneezing and clear nasal discharge.
Subsequently, the frequency of sneezing may increase. In addition, the discharge changes, becoming milky and sticky. This is purulent nasal discharge, which indicates the bacterial infection. Shortness of breath, sticky and crusty fur around the nose, fever, loss of appetite and fatigue are common symptoms.

Here’s what you should do for rabbit sniffles.
Get rabbit sniffles checked out by a veterinarian at the first suspicion of it.

A nasal lavage can determine the exact pathogens. Then the best treatment can be found. You can support this with food rich in vitamins and minerals, warmth and rest.

Disease 9: Coccidiosis

Coccidia are parasites that can infect the intestines or the liver and kidneys. They can be responsible for abscesses in the body and cause food to be unable to be digested properly.
If left untreated, an infestation will result in the death of the animal within a few days.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of coccidiosis are often ambiguous, which can make diagnosis much more difficult. However, changes are found, which must be clarified in any case by a veterinarian.

How do you recognize coccidiosis in rabbits?
In intestinal coccidiosis there are considerable digestive disturbances, which can manifest themselves in flatulence and diarrhea but also in constipation.

In addition, there is a lot of appendix feces, which is normally eaten, but in coccidiosis remains lying. In both intestinal and liver coccidiosis, the following symptoms also occur:

Loss of appetite up to complete cessation of eating.
weight loss
dull coat
bloated, hard belly
Gentle posture
What do you have to do in case of coccidiosis?
The disease can only be cured with the appropriate medication and comprehensive treatment.

For this, diagnosis and therapy must be done quickly and early. The mortality rate is high if the right measures are not taken.

So act immediately if you notice the symptoms described or fear infection for any other reason.

Disease 10: Maggot infestation

Strictly speaking, a maggot infestation is not a disease, but it can be the result of an illness or injury, cause considerable damage and even lead to death.

This is because maggots can eat deep into and even through tissues, destroying muscle mass or even penetrating the abdominal cavity.

Thus, due to the rapid hatching time from the fly eggs and the large numbers, fatal conditions can occur within a few hours.
The danger is especially high in summer and in unhygienic conditions.

How to recognize a maggot infestation
In the case of wounds as well as diarrhea and thus stuck fur, flies lay eggs in the fur or directly in the open wound.

They are attracted to the odor and warmth. In warm ambient temperatures, the maggots hatch very quickly from the eggs and feed on feces and tissue. They can be observed in the fur and on the skin.

This is what you should do in case of maggot infestation
Go to a veterinarian immediately!

The wound needs to be rinsed out and all maggots read. Depending on the depth and extent of the tissue damage, additional surgical cleaning may be necessary.

In the case of very deep wounds that extend into the abdomen or have already damaged large portions of the musculature, euthanasia may also be necessary.

Disease 11: Stomach overload

Stomach overload can occur when your rabbit eats too much or eats food that swells very much – such as compressed pellets.

Foreign bodies blocking the exit to the intestines can also be responsible.

So it does not have to be a simple case of “overeating”. Nevertheless, the condition should be taken very seriously. Because organic damage and even death are possible.

Therefore, you must act quickly if you suspect a stomach overload.

How do you recognize a stomach overload in rabbits?
The abdomen is hard, greatly enlarged in circumference and may appear distended.

Also possible are cramping, relieving posture, pain and apathy.

Your rabbit will not eat any more food and may grind his teeth. These are clear indications of pain.

Despite the fat and full belly, there is hardly any defecation because the digestive tract is overloaded or there is a buildup of food in the stomach and intestines.
What do you have to do in case of a stomach overload?
Only a veterinarian who is knowledgeable and experienced with rabbits can help.

If it is a blockage, even an operation may be necessary. It is therefore better to prevent such a condition.

By feeding the right food and checking the animals daily, such problems can be avoided, the risk of them can be minimized, or at least complaints are noticed early and can be treated quickly.

Disease 12: Myxomatosis

Myxomatosis is a viral disease that is often fatal within ten to 14 days.

Preventive is a vaccination, which also rabbits in pure housing should receive in any case.

The infection shows itself very clearly in an acute course and is therefore comparatively easy to recognize.

Nevertheless, quick action is required to increase the chances of survival. This is because the chances of survival are usually low, even with appropriate therapy. However, the earlier the treatment begins, the lower the risk.

How can you recognize myxomatosis?
Typical for myxomatosis are clearly visible swellings. These occur mainly in these areas
Genital area
In addition, the affected animals are apathetic, eat little to nothing and drink. Their general condition therefore deteriorates rapidly and they become visibly weaker.

Even otherwise healthy and strong rabbits often die within about two weeks.

What do you have to do in case of myxomatosis?
Veterinary treatment is essential. The sooner this begins, the better the chances for a full recovery.

However, it is better to prevent myxomatosis.

You can do this by vaccination. Since the infection is highly contagious and can be contracted in a number of ways, even animals kept only indoors need to be protected by regular vaccinations.

Disease 13: Parasites

Parasites can infest fur and skin, biting, stinging or burrowing into the top layers of skin.

These are mites, fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and biting flies. These are also known as ectoparasites.

Endoparasites are organisms such as worms or protozoa. They infest the animal internally.

Common complaints are then problems in the area of digestion. They can thereby weaken the animal so much that extreme underweight develops.

How can parasites be recognized?
In case of an external infestation, typical symptoms are:

Flea droppings
hair loss
If, on the other hand, it is worms or protozoa, common signs are:

Weight loss
Loss of appetite
hard, bloated abdomen
The consistency, quantity, color, and odor of the feces may also change. In addition, worm eggs or segments may be visible.

What do you need to do in case of parasite infestation?
Veterinarians can ensure that the parasites are eliminated through appropriate means.

In addition, medications to build up the health condition can be useful. For parasites deterrent agents – so-called repellents – can prevent an infestation from the outset or at least reduce the risk of it.

Disease 14: Tumors

Tumors can form anywhere on and in the rabbit’s body and can be benign or malignant.

While malignant tumors can spread and grow on different organs, even benign tumors can cause a restriction of important functions.

In any case, they should be taken seriously and require rapid treatment.

Nodules and swellings under the skin can also be so-called Gr├╝tzbeutel, but the distinction is not feasible for laymen and without appropriate examination and biopsy.

How can you recognize tumors in rabbits?
Tumors on the internal organs can only be recognized by limited functions and a deteriorated general condition.

Accordingly, they are often noticed very late. This makes diagnosis and treatment more difficult.

In the case of tumors that are superficial and thus noticeable through the skin or even visible as an elevation, diagnosis is easier.

What do you have to do in case of a tumor?
Only a veterinarian can help here.

As a rule, he or she will first palpate the growth and, if necessary, perform a biopsy to determine the cell type.

If possible, the tumor may be removed directly and the cell type determined by pathology. In addition, imaging procedures are advised to exclude metastases or to be able to surgically remove them at an early stage as well.

Disease 15: Hypothermia

If rabbit fur is not only superficially damp, but soaked through to the skin, this can quickly lead to hypothermia, even at rather mild temperatures.

Wetness becomes especially dangerous in the cold seasons when your animals get caught in the rain. Then even a short time is enough to create serious problems.

Circulatory problems, a significant reduction of the immune system and even sudden death are possible. Quick drying and warming of the rabbit are essential.

How do you recognize hypothermia in rabbits?
Sign of freezing, as in humans, is shivering of the whole body. Rabbits sit crouched, trying to minimize body surface area. They are otherwise quiet and thus conserve energy.

The ears and paws feel cold.

As a result, the animals may become sleepy, going into cold shock.

What should you do in case of hypothermia?
Dry the rabbit’s fur with a towel, cellulose or a hair dryer, brushing it repeatedly. This will loosen it up and allow the warm, dry air to get through to the skin.

Raise the room temperature and provide your pet with plenty of fluids and high-energy food.

If it is severe hypothermia and your rabbit is already unresponsive, you need to see a veterinarian immediately.

Disease 16: Dental problems

Rabbits’ nail teeth grow throughout their lives. They need to be able to grind down, which is why roughage or fiber-rich food is crucial.

However, misalignment, falls, or inflammation, as well as surfaces that are too hard, can cause the teeth to break off, become too long, or become crooked and therefore dig into the gums.

A crooked position can also prevent the edges of the teeth from wearing properly. This causes several problems at once.

How can you recognize dental problems in rabbits?
The signs include:

excessive salivation / drooling
difficulty eating and drinking
Weight loss
Teeth grinding
Bleeding, bad breath, redness and swelling, and purulent nasal discharge may also indicate that there is a problem in the mouth and teeth area.
What can you do about dental problems?
If you suspect an infection, abscess, or misalignment – take your rabbit to a veterinarian immediately.

If necessary, teeth may need to be shortened or extracted to provide pain relief and prevent more severe progressions. This is because even one inflamed and suppurated tooth root is enough to destroy tissue and require a long healing process.

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