Coccidiosis is one of the most important parasitic diseases in rabbits. Especially for young animals, the infection can be fatal if it is not recognized and treated in time. What coccidia are, how the symptoms of coccidiosis manifest themselves and what you can do against it, you will learn here.
Brief overview: Coccidia in rabbits.
-> Everything you need to know about coccidia in rabbits explained in 30 seconds:
Explanation: Coccidia are common single-celled endoparasites found in rabbits. They can cause diarrheal disease.
Transmission: Animals become infected by ingesting coccidial oocysts with contaminated water or food. Often the pathogens are already transmitted from the dam to the young.
Symptoms: Diseased rabbits may exhibit watery to bloody diarrhea, apathy and weight loss, among other symptoms.
Diagnosis: The veterinarian makes the diagnosis by microscopic detection of coccidial oocysts in the feces.
Treatment: The veterinarian will initiate administration of medications (such as antiparasitic or stabilizing infusions) and sanitation measures.
Prophylaxis: Hygiene is especially important. A healthy diet and adequate exercise will also keep the animal healthy. Contact with wild rabbits should be avoided at all costs.
Explanation: What are coccidia in rabbits actually?
Coccidia are unicellular endoparasites of the genus Eimeria. There are several types of coccidia in rabbits. Rabbits often carry the host-specific parasites unnoticed without becoming ill.
The so-called coccidiosis is considered one of the most common parasitic diseases in rabbits, which is widespread in breeding flocks but also in private husbandry. The outbreak occurs mainly in young or old rabbits. The unicellular parasites multiply in the gastrointestinal tract of the rabbit and damage the intestinal tract with their development cycle.
Many rabbits carry the coccidia and excrete the pathogens without becoming ill themselves. However, coccidia can multiply abruptly in stressful situations or as a result of an illness of the rabbit and trigger coccidiosis.
What are the different forms of coccidiosis in rabbits?
Basically, two groups of coccidiosis are distinguished:
In liver coccidiosis, parasites multiply in the bile ducts of the liver. Parasite stages are released via the bile into the intestine and from here into the feces. Affected animals are apathetic, emaciate and show increased activity of liver enzymes in blood values. If this serious disease is not treated quickly, the rabbit may die within a few days. Liver coccidiosis usually affects older rabbits.
In intestinal coccidiosis, the intestinal mucosa of rabbits becomes inflamed. The rabbits can no longer process food properly. Their general condition is disturbed and they often show watery to bloody diarrhea. In severe cases, they can become life-threatening dehydrated. Young animals aged six to eight weeks in particular contract intestinal coccidiosis. The pathogens are excreted in the feces.
Transmission and risk factors: How do rabbits get coccidiosis?
Especially rabbits from mass breeding (small animal markets, pet shops) are often affected by coccidia. Often they become infected as young animals from their mother, through contact with other rabbits or in the pet shop. Infected wild rabbits can also contaminate food or shared pastures.
There are risk factors that favor an outbreak of coccidiosis. These include:
TIP: When you buy a new rabbit, have the vet check a fecal sample for coccidia before allowing it to join the other animals.
What stress factors increase the risk of a coccidiosis outbreak?
Stress can cause previously symptomless infected animals to suddenly become ill and the coccidia to multiply greatly. The animals show symptoms mentioned above such as diarrhea and bloated abdomen.
Unharmonious rabbit groups
Not handling the animal in a manner appropriate to the species (for example, frequent picking up and carrying around)
Little contact with conspecifics (solitary confinement)
Too little space (keeping in a cage or hutch)
Why can the wrong diet promote coccidiosis?
Another risk factor, which can favor the outbreak of coccidia, is an incorrect diet. Feeding should consist mainly of green fodder (including hay) and not dry fodder, treats and too much tuber vegetables and fruit. Feed rich in crude fiber is important for healthy dentition, gastric emptying and microbial digestion. Commercial dry food mixes often have too little crude fiber and are too high in energy. The physiological intestinal flora is disturbed, coccidia can multiply faster.
Why does proper hygiene help prevent coccidiosis?
Hygiene is an important factor in controlling coccidia. Food placed on the floor promotes coccidial infestation in your animals, as it quickly becomes contaminated through fecal contact there. Therefore, you should properly clean the rabbit cage or hutch on a regular basis.
Daily cleaning of water and food containers is essential to keep the risk of coccidiosis as low as possible.
Hay and grass are best offered through rabbit hayracks and other food through cleaned rabbit food bowls. Water is best presented to your animals at all times via rabbit drinkers.
If the rabbit is allowed to frolic in a well-vegetated, green meadow, coccidia is usually not an issue. If, on the other hand, it has to make do with muddy and earthy areas, it can more easily contract coccidia. Overcrowded pastures, poor hygiene, and unsanitary enclosure surfaces should be avoided at all costs.
TIP: Change the meadow areas regularly to avoid poor hygiene conditions on the pasture!
ATTENTION: If wild rabbits have access to the meadow, they can also infect the domestic rabbit with coccidia.
Other diseases, medications, anesthesia or too early separation from the mother also favor the outbreak of coccidiosis. They weaken the rabbit’s immune system and the coccidia multiply. In young animals, it is not uncommon for coccidia to break out for no reason at all.
Other risk factors for the spread of coccidia include a damp and poor barn climate or damp bedding.
Symptoms: How do I recognize coccidiosis in my rabbits?
To recognize coccidiosis, you need to look closely. Rabbits tend to suffer silently and hide their symptoms. The sooner you notice the infestation, the better their chances of recovery.
The following symptoms indicate an infestation of coccidia:
The rabbits are getting leaner and leaner.
The animals no longer want to eat.
The abdomen is distended.
The rabbits have diarrhea and possibly constipation.
There is more appendicitis in the hutch.
The animals show a poor general condition.
Severely affected rabbits become apathetic.
In liver coccidiosis, the coat often becomes dull.
Diagnosis: How do you diagnose coccidiosis in rabbits?
If you suspect that one of your pets is suffering from coccidiosis, you need to take them to the vet as soon as possible. The veterinarian will determine if your pet has coccidia by detecting oocysts in the feces under the microscope. Often a native smear is sufficient. Sometimes a flotation procedure is used, for which pooled fecal samples are examined.
Liver coccidiosis is diagnosed by the veterinarian on the basis of a physical examination and an ultrasound of the liver and bile ducts. The feces are also examined. If the veterinarian also takes a blood sample, he or she may be able to detect elevated liver and inflammation levels.
Treatment (medications): What can I do for coccidia in my rabbit?
If your rabbit is diagnosed with coccidiosis, the veterinarian will take the necessary steps for treatment and administer various medications. Even if your pet is asymptomatic, but parasites have been detected in the feces, you will need to treat it. The therapy starts at different levels.
What are remedies against coccidia?
In the first important step of treatment, your four-legged friend will receive a medication from the vet against the parasites over a few days. Toltrazuril, for example, is an active ingredient that can be used successfully against an infestation of coccidia.
If your rabbit also has bacterial or yeast infections, he will be given other medications such as antibiotics or antifungals.
To counteract fluid and electrolyte loss due to diarrhea, the animal will also receive appropriate infusions.
Your veterinarian will advise you in detail on hygienic measures in the event of a coccidiosis case. If your rabbit is infected with coccidia, you should do the following:
You must dispose of enclosures or enclosure elements made of wood, as you cannot disinfect them sufficiently.
Smooth surfaces in the rabbit hutch or enclosure should be cleaned with boiling hot water or disinfectant.
If you keep your rabbit outside, you should scorch slabbed flooring.
It is not possible to disinfect an earth floor in an outdoor enclosure. You would have to dig it up and dispose of it. To keep the parasite load as low as possible in this case, it is recommended that you treat the rabbits regularly and take consistent preventative measures.
Prevention: How do I prevent coccidiosis in my rabbits?
Finally, we have compiled tips on how to avoid coccidiosis in general:
In principle, you should always have the feces of the new pet checked for coccidia before socializing and treat it if necessary.
Also, make sure that your pet rabbits do not have contact with wild rabbits.
Don’t keep your rabbit on surfaces you can’t disinfect (such as wood).
Thoroughly clean the rabbit hutch or cage regularly.
You should clean water and food bowls daily. You must clean feces-soiled food troughs to break the coccidia development cycle.
Your rabbit loves fresh food from green areas. But be careful. Make sure that this fresh food does not come from green areas to which wild rabbits have access.
In general, it is important that you feed them a suitable diet to support your rabbit’s intestinal flora. Feeding too much carbohydrate (e.g., in compound feed and pellets) and too little green forage and hay will negatively impact the healthy composition of bacteria in the gut and promote the spread of coccidia.
Rabbits need covered and dry retreats.
In addition, animals need sufficient exercise and exercise to ensure healthy digestion and thus prevent coccidiosis.
Which means do I use to disinfect my rabbit’s coccidia?
Boiling water when cleaning the cage kills the oocysts reliably. It is cheap and you can use it without any risks for the animals.
The of disinfectants for animal husbandry, cresols are mentioned as active ingredients against parasitic protozoa such as coccidia. It is best to ask your veterinarian how to apply them, as they can be dangerous for the animals.
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