If a worm infestation occurs in your rabbit, quick treatment is necessary. This is because such an infestation with parasites can have an impact on the overall health and poses considerable risks.
How you can recognize worms in your rabbit, what you can do and how you can prevent a worm infestation, we tell you in this article.
Symptoms of a worm infestation
The signs of a worm infestation are varied. Typical symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- increased susceptibility to infection due to a weakened immune system
- weight loss
- hair loss up to bald patches
The symptoms do not all have to occur at the same time.
However, if one or more of these signs apply, you should consult a veterinarian in any case. The signs are not conclusive of a worm infestation. Other diseases or digestive disorders caused by incorrect feeding may also be responsible.
In the case of hair loss, parasites such as mites and fleas or hair lice are also possible. Likewise it can be an allergy.
A veterinary clarification must therefore take place urgently, in order to be able to carry out the appropriate treatment.
A clear sign is a change in the feces: In the case of an extreme worm infestation, this may contain worm eggs that are visible as white dots.
It may also contain larvae or sections of worms, which are also visible to the naked eye. A slimy coating around the feces and changes in consistency are also possible.
Are worms dangerous to rabbits?
Yes, just like coccidia – single-celled parasites – and the triggers of E. cuniculi, worms can cause significant damage to health.
Not only do they reside in the intestines, and disrupt digestion here. They also cause, among other things, that not enough nutrients are absorbed and the immune system is weakened.
Vital processes can thus no longer run normally.
Susceptibility to disease increases, wounds heal more poorly, and there is a risk of life-threatening conditions occurring due to the impaired digestion.
Treatment should therefore be carried out quickly in any case.
In addition, the eggs of the worms can spread throughout the body. They encapsulate and grow into larvae. On the one hand, tissue is destroyed in the process. On the other hand, inflammations can occur.
In order not to be recognized by the body’s own defenses as a foreign body, the larvae produce a secretion that protects them but burdens the rabbit’s organism. Since they also use the rabbit’s organs to feed on nutrients, this can lead to weakening and weight loss.
Especially in very small, young or already weakened rabbits, a worm infestation can thus represent a severe burden and even lead to death.
Thanks to modern preparations, however, it is possible to kill and excrete the parasites. However, treatment must be carried out at an early stage in order to avoid consequential damage or to keep it as low as possible.
If you suspect worms, you should therefore not waste any time, but have the necessary examinations carried out immediately.
Worm infestation: This is how the diagnosis works
Worm eggs, larvae or worm segments in the feces are clear indications of a worm infestation.
However, this symptom does not occur in every case.
A comprehensive diagnosis is therefore essential. Before the veterinarian can reach a conclusion, several steps must be taken. These are:
The anamnesis in case of worm infestation.
Here, important questions are first asked to record the symptoms and narrow down the possible cause.
Important are for example:
Type of feeding
Duration of the symptoms
Origin of the feed
Contact with other animals
Free running in the garden or on the balcony
The more accurate you can give this information, the better it is for a quick diagnosis.
The amount, type and origin of the food play a decisive role, especially in the case of suspected worms, but also in the case of other digestive disorders.
When the signs first appeared, whether they have worsened or are accompanied by other problems, you should also indicate.
The physical examination
During the physical examination, all areas are checked that can give an indication of the cause and clarify the extent of the symptoms. Checked are:
Mouth and teeth
The veterinarian will palpate and visually inspect your pet, as well as take a temperature and weigh your rabbit.
If bald patches exist or the fur has generally become thin, an examination of the skin may also take place and skin cells may be scraped off to rule out parasites in that area.
Examination of feces and blood
If the results are still inconclusive after history and initial physical examination, a blood draw and fecal examination may be necessary.
For the fecal examination, you can collect feces over three days and take fresh feces separately, securely packaged, to the veterinarian on the day of the examination.
The feces or diarrhea will be checked for signs of worms and other parasites, as well as bacteria and fungi, if any. This step is very important as it not only detects worms, but also determines the exact species.
In addition, other pathogens or a disturbed intestinal flora are noticed, which is also crucial for an adapted treatment.
If the symptoms are very severe, a blood test is still necessary and useful. Because worms weaken the entire organism, it is not uncommon that other diseases exist in parallel, that inflammation levels are elevated or that the function of various organs is impaired.
Drug treatment may therefore be necessary for these areas as well.
The treatment if your rabbit is infested with worms
Treatment for a worm infestation usually consists of administering worming medication over several days.
This is also known as rabbit worming.
The medication comes in the form of a paste or liquid that you apply directly into your rabbit’s mouth.
Which medication is used depends on the type of worm. Panacur is very well known and often used because of its good efficacy.
Rintal and Telmin can be used as well.
It is important that you follow the instructions of the veterinarian. The medication must be administered at regular intervals and for the estimated duration. An early discontinuation can lead to an immediate recurrence of the worm infestation, since eggs and larvae are still present and the organism is still weakened.
However, there is more to the treatment of a worm infestation than just administering the appropriate medication. By taking additional measures, you can significantly influence the healing process.
You will find out what these are in the next chapter!
3 tips: Positively support healing in case of worm infestation
Despite the worming treatment, eggs and larvae can still be found in the litter, on the food and on other furnishings of the cage.
You must therefore clean everything thoroughly and replace if necessary.
The use of animal-friendly disinfectants and a steam cleaner is a good way to achieve a high level of cleanliness and hygiene.
In addition, you can use cellulose instead of bedding during worming, as long as your rabbit does not eat it. This will make daily cleaning much easier.
2: Treat other animals as well
If you keep your rabbit species-appropriate, i.e. with several conspecifics, you must treat all animals. This is because the rabbits share food, water and bedding, clean each other if necessary and sometimes also eat the appendix excrement of another animal.
Thus, they are permanently exposed to the worm eggs and larvae and ingest them as well.
Therefore, to prevent re-infection or recurrent infection between rabbits, they must all receive a worming treatment at the same time.
3: Build up immune system and intestinal flora
After infestation and therapy, as well as symptomatic treatment, the body’s immune system and intestinal flora are weakened or attacked, respectively. This means that your rabbit will continue to be susceptible to disease and may suffer from digestive problems.
To solve these problems and keep the discomfort as low as possible, you should specifically build up the immune system and the intestinal flora.
You can achieve this by
special remedies for building up the intestinal flora such as Petvital Darm-Gel or Rodicare akut
Gentle diet with easily digestible and non-flatulent foods
offering chamomile tea or fennel tea
Moro’s carrot soup
avoidance of stress
light but regular exercise
Cleanliness in the cage
Depending on how much your rabbit was weakened by the worm infestation, rebuilding and refeeding may take a longer time.
However, the targeted measures will ensure that there is less risk of setbacks and your pet will feel right again sooner.
Prevention against worms
Worm infestation cannot be prevented one hundred percent. However, you can significantly reduce the risk of worms by paying attention to the following points:
Do not collect food
Refrain from collecting green fodder on roadsides or in areas where other animals can get to it.
The droppings and urine of rabbits, hares, martens, foxes, raccoons, cats and dogs, and birds can contaminate the food and carry other parasites as well as worm eggs or be contaminated with insecticides and pesticides.
Rinse green fodder and fresh fodder well
Herbs, vegetables, fruits and other fresh or green food should be cleaned well before feeding. This is necessary at least if you have not grown it yourself and as safely as possible.
Grow your own food
Even if you don’t have a garden, you can grow herbs and other plants such as dandelions, grass, vegetables and fruit on the balcony or in the apartment.
In the garden, you can secure the plants with a raised bed or protect them from other animals with grids and nets. In addition, here there is no risk that the food is contaminated by insecticides, fertilizers, fungicides or other agents.
Plenty of green food, hay and water form the basis of a balanced diet for rabbits. You can enrich this with vegetables and fruit. Twigs are a good choice for gnawing.
Exercise and workout
Unfortunately, rabbits often do not get enough exercise.
Commercial cages and hutches are far too small for sufficient exercise. The possibilities for foraging and playing are missing. Therefore, give your animals as much free run as possible in the apartment or an outdoor enclosure.
Loud noises, hectic movements, the presence of predators or constant conflicts between rabbits create stress. This has a negative effect on the immune system and can thus promote an infestation or the spread of worms in the body.
Pay attention to cleanliness
Dirty bedding increases the stress on the immune system.
Dirty or stagnant water and spoiled food are also negative factors to avoid.
Examine your rabbit regularly.
Changes such as a bloated belly, white segments in the feces, fur loss and weight loss will be noticed more quickly and can be treated early.
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