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Rabbit Diseases/Parasitic

Fungal Disease, or ringworm, is a relatively uncommon fungal disease in rabbits. It is caused by an agent similar to the one that causes athlete's foot in people. It is transmitted easily by direct contact with fun gal spores on haircoats, bedding and soil. It most commonly affects juvenile rabbits and susceptible adults, usually causing multiple hairless areas with slightly reddened skin. These hairless areas are often covered with a slight or heavy crust The patches usually occur on the head, ears and forelimbs. Spot application of topical preparations can be used to treat a few individual areas, but oral medication is required if ringworm affects much of the body. Ringworm can be transmitted to susceptible people (including children). Caution should, therefore, be exercised in handling rabbits with ringworm.

Ear Mite Infestation: Ear mite infestations cause accumulation of a light brown crusty material that nearly fills the external ear canal. The underlying tissues are usually very raw and irritated. In especially severe cases, these sores may spread to adjacent areas of the head. The infestation may be treated with ear-drops, though injectable medication has recently proven highly successful in treating this condition.

Cheyletiella Mange ('Walking Dandruff'): Most rabbit owners overlook the early signs of mange, a parasitic infestation of the skin by the Cheyletiella mange mite. As this condition worsens, however, the accumulation of dried scale and scurf ("dandruff") within the fur and limited hair loss (often in clumps) become obvious. Affected rabbits may or may not exhibit increased scratching. This parasitic problem is easy to diagnose and treat An injectable drug works very well in conjunction with a medicated shampoo to eliminate the offending mites and clear up the skin disease.

Flea Infestation: Fleas can infest pet rabbits whether or not the rabbits share the household with other pets, such as dogs and cats. Fleas suck blood and can cause anemia if present in large enough numbers and if they are not eliminated from the environment Topical flea products (powders or sprays) formulated for use on cats are generally well tolerated by rabbits. They should be used in the same manner as for cats. The manufacturers of these products have taken into consideration that cats (and rabbits) habitually lick and clean themselves and, in doing so, may swallow small amounts of the product Poisoning, therefore, is unlikely as long as a product formulated for cats is used properly. Flea collars should not be used on rabbits.

Coccidiosis, caused by a protozoan (one-celled organism) parasite, is a disease of the liver and/or intestinal tract. Rabbits become infected by eating food or consuming water contaminated with feces from an infected rabbit. Signs depend on whether the disease is localized within the liver (inappetence, diarrhea, death) or the intestinal tract (weight loss, soft to watery feces, mucus and/or blood in feces, soiled anal area, dehydration, increased thirst, possibly death). The relative severity of both types of infection depends upon the number of coccidia eaten, the age of the rabbit, the strength of its immune system, and other illness in the rabbit Occasionally, the coccidia colonize the nasal passages, resulting in respiratory disease (nasal coccidiosis). Coccidiosis may be treated with sulfa drugs. Emphasis must be placed on prevention (good husbandry and sanitation) of this disease in all rabbitries, since it can be difficult to eliminate in these situations.

Pinworm Infection: Pinworm infections are rarely detected unless routine fetal examinations are conducted. These worms reside within the large bowel and rarely cause difficulties in rabbits. Pinworm eradication is somewhat difficult because a number of treatments and follow-up fetal examinations are necessary. This parasite is not transmissible to people.

Maggot Infestation (Myiasis): Maggots often infest rabbits housed outdoors in nonscreened enclosures. Maggot infestation typically occurs in rabbits with back injuries or debilitating illness, or old rabbits with hindquarters soiled with urine or feces. Flies lay eggs on the soiled hair, and hatched maggots begin feeding on the underlying skin and flesh. In addition to removing the infesting maggots, the veterinarian must try to determine the underlying cause of the infestation. This condition is best prevented, if at all possible.

Rabbit has Flystrike: Rabbits (especially older and fatter ones) must have their bottoms checked daily in warm weather. Fly eggs laid on dirty bottoms hatch into maggots which literally eat into the rabbit. The maggots give off toxins which can kill the rabbit. Picking off visible maggots is not enough - some may have already got under the skin. If you can get to the vet within a few minutes, go there immediately. If you are more than about 10 minutes away, dunk the rabbit's hindquarters under a running Luke warm tap to get rid of the worst of the external maggots. The main priority is getting the rabbit to the vet fast. Even with antibiotics and intravenous fluids, the prognosis is fairly grim. Prevention is much better - ask your vet for advice if your rabbit is at-risk.