Crescent Valley Rabbitry


Diseases and Treatment

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Rabbit Diseases and Treatment

Every rabbit owner should become familiar with the symptoms and treatments of the most common rabbit diseases.


It's a good idea to create a small medical kit and stock it with some of the most frequently used items for treating minor rabbit ailments.


I suggest: Q-tips, Cottonballs, nail-clipper, eye-dropper, eye ointment, rubbing alcohol & a rectal thermometer. You may want to purchase a stethoscope. Rabbit medications can be purchased from a feed store or through catalogs.





    Many breeders believe that all rabbits carry the Pasteurella multocidia organism in their respiratory tract. This is not true! Though some may indeed carry the infection, there are many which do not. {This is why I breed toward disease resistance. If any rabbit shows signs of infection they are culled] Pasturella manifests itself in many forms. The most common is what is referred to as snuffles. This is a purulent discharge from the nose. Should you see matting on the inside front paws you can most assuredly blame Pasteurella.




    The first signs of the disease are sneezing and discharge from the nose and or eyes. Not every sneeze is indicative of the presents of Pasteurella. A rabbit may sneeze when it gets water up it's nose while drinking, or it may have an allergy to something in the area. Hay dust, colognes etc. These sneezes will have a clear watery discharge or none at all. If there is persistant sneezing with matting of the inside of the front paws and a colored discharge from the nose or eyes it is safe to assume the rabbit has a Pasteurella infection.. This is an extremely contagious disease for which there is NO CURE! There are treatments which will mask the symptoms but the rabbit remains contagious. Any rabbit which you treat places your whole herd at risk of infection. The Pasteurella germ can be carried on your clothing and person. It is of extreme importance that you change your clothes and wash theroughly before going near any other rabbits. Isolate any sick rabbit immediately and care for the herd first and the isolated animal last. Disinfect it's cage and any other equipment the rabbit came in contact with.




    Rabbits can be treated with a number of antibiotics but to this point none have been successful in bringing about a cure. The best treatment for Pasteurella is prevention. Through A.R.B.A. [American Rabbit Breeders Association] they are trying to develop a cure for snuffles, but it is still a long way off. For now, strict sanitation, good ventilation and culling will go a long way in helping to prevent the spread of this dreaded disease.




    Ventilation is important in snuffles control since both humidity an ammonia are involved in the spread and growth of this condition. Ammonia is present in rabbit urine, having it build up in the atmosphere has a bad effect on both humans and rabbits. If you can smell it while walking through your rabbitry, think how it is effecting your rabbits. By removing the urine and feces from the rabbitry you are decreasing the amount of ammonia in the surrounding area.




    There are two types of Coccidiosis Intestinal and Live Form. The disease is caused by a protozoan parasite which attacks the bile duct or the intestinal tract. There are ten different species of the genus Eimeria which may infect the intestine. Generally these are not of much concern, unless a case of enteritis makes an apperance. This can lead to enterotoxemia and or Mucoid enteropathy, although enterotoxemia has been reported in rabbits which are free of Coccidiosis. Liver Coccidiosis is a problem as it causes white spots on the liver which renders the rabbit uneatable.




    Include lack of apetite, rough coat, loss of weight, poor weight gain, potbelly, listlessness and diarrhea. All of which often lead to death.




    The best treatment is the use of sulfaquinoxyline in the drinking water as the only available water for 5 days on, 5 days off then 5 days on again.. [one teaspoon per gallon of water] Repeat the treatment in 30 days to get any hatchlings. DO NOT use the treated rabbit[s] as a food source for at least 30 days after the last treatment.




    Brush the cling-ons from the cage floor within 24 hours. This will aid greatly in preventing the spread of Coccidiosis. Do not allow fecal contamination of the feed or water.



    Are caused by the parasite Psoroptes Cuniculi which is a mite that likes to make it's home in the rabbit's ear canal. They irritate the rabbit to the point that the scratching can lead to infection.




    Shaking of the head, scratching the ears, and a brown waxy crusty substance will appear after awhile if not attended to.




    Place a few drops of any type of oil in the ears and massage the base of the ear gently to work the oil in. The oil will drown the mites. Treat one to three times a day for three days. repeat in ten days to get hatchlings.




    Will look like flakes of dandruff. It is caused by: Chyletiella Parasitivorax and Listrophorus Gibbus. They occur most commomly on the back of the neck. An over-population may cause Dermatitis.




    An unthrifty coat, loss of fur around the face , neck and back.




    A good Cat flea powder, Listerine mouthwash rubbed into the infected area will make short order of the Mites. You can also use a droplet the size of a small green-pea of Ivermectine/Zimectrine Horse Paste Wormer. Repeat treatment in ten days. Do NOT use treated animal as a meat source for at least 30 days after last treatment.




    Is caused by Staphylococcus or P. multocidia which is the most common cause. You will see inflamation of the conjunctiva. There is often a history of respiratory infections and or snuffles. It could also be caused by a blocked tear duct.




    You will take notice of matted fur in the corner of the rabbits eye[s] and under the lower lid. Also look for any discharge or wetness from the eyes.




    Many breeders use neomycin eye ointment three times a day for three or four days. The drug of choice is Penicillin G injectable used as eye drops.




    This is usually noticed when checking the kits in the nestbox or soon after they come out of the box. Mostoften due to some irritant in the box, hay dust or some other foreign matter.




    Eyelids are stuck shut and fail to open on the tenth day. The area beneath the lower eyelid exudes a purulent milky white discharge.




    Use a clean damp cottonbal to gently coax the eye open. Use more cottonballs to clean away the pus. then start treatment with an antibiotic eye ointment. Treat three times a day for up to four days. Also change nestbox litter if/when it is dirty. If caught early mostcases of nest-box eye are curable.




    Sore-Hocks is agenetic problem. The condition is easily noticed by the open wounds on the footpads of the afflicted rabbit. Part of the cause is poorly furred footpads and long often uncut toenails.




    Noticed by the open sores on the feet which can rapidly lead to secondary infections. Often the rabbit sits in the corner and for the most part is inactive.



    You should breedtoward well furred footpads. Use of Preperation H will help heal the sores. Place a board or piece of drywall large enough for the rabbit to sit on. Do not allow it to get dirty or it will become a source of infection. Change or clean it often.




    Is caused by the rabbit ingesting too much fur during the cleaning process.




    Rabbit fails to eat and becomes listless. The stomach becomes taut, firm to the touch as the condition worsens. A quick responce is essential if you are to save the rabbit.




    Regular grooming of normal furred rabbit and shearing of the wool on all fiber animals will go far in helping to prevent this condition. You can use Cat hairball remedys. You can also use the enzyme papain or bromelain which is found inPineapple and Papaya. Use the fresh fruit as the caning process kills the enzyme. You can also use Adolph's meat tenderizer [same enzyme] mixed with enough water to feed with a needless syringe.Give one to three times a day untill rabbit returns to normal.




    you should provide grasshay to the rabbits diet on a regular basis. At least two to three times a week.The long fiber keeps the hindgut working properly. You should see string of pearls [cling-ons] hanging from the cage floor. This is a sure sign that the hay [long-fiber] is doing it's job. Brush the cling-ons from the wire within twenty-four hours to aid in the prevention of coccidiosis.


  • MALOCCLUSION Is wnen the rabbits teeth are overgrown, This can be a genetic problem or can be caused by the rabbits yanking it's teeth out of alignment by pulling on the cage wire. For teeth which are not a genetic problem one can resort to clipping the teeth on a regular basis to allow the rabbit to properly masticate it's food. A genetic problem is best handled by removing the rabbit permanently.

  • HUTCH-BURN Is caused when a rabbit suffers from incountinence. The urine stains and burns its skin.



    This is really not a disease, it has to do with the diet which is not much of a problem at all.



    Red urine does not actually contain blood at all. It is normal, rabbits urine can manifest itself in a veritable rainbow of colors without it being problematic. Red urine is caused by alkaline. Some feeds like Alfalfa can produce red urine. The red color comes from Phenolic compounds [tannins] which are found in forages and feed ingredients. Calcium is also excreted in the urine on occasion.



    THERE IS NONE! As it is not a disease.



    Most commonly found in rabbits which are on a high Legume hay diet.




    This is caused by the Doe dragging her dewlap through her water crock. This is most often observed in the warmer weather.




    You will observe wet fur on the Does dewlap with changing color of the skin to a dark green. A distinct odor is associated with this condition.




    Clip the wet fur from the affected area and apply antibiotic cream or ointment to that area.




    Raise the water crock up off the floor 4 to 5 inches to aid in preventing the Does dragging her dewlap through the water bowl. Place a small rubber ball into the crock to force the rabbit to drink from the edge of the bowl/crock.




    You will see a bluish color to the lips, tongue and ears due to lack of oxygen.



    There is little chance of survival for the rabbit stricken with pneumonia. Many broad spectrum drugs have been tried to no avail. Prevent the possibility of heat stress. The use of fans to create air movement through the rabbitry helps. Try to house your rabbits in an area where they get some shade in the warmer months, or create a shaded area to protect from the suns heat creating rays. Treat your rabbits immediately at the first signs of heat stress.< p>



    Stress can greatly affect your rabbits health. It is something you should always be aware of. Conditions which can cause stress are; 1. A long day away from familiar surroundings. 2. A radical change in temperature. 3. Fright and loud noises. 4. The birthing process. If you know your rabbit will be going through one of these ordeals or one has just occured unexpectedly you can use one of these remedies: You can mix one part Gatorade to four parts water and give as drinking water. This will add electroytes or you can add one or two teaspoons of Tang to a gallon of drinking water.


    Heat stress occurs during extremes of hot weather especially if there is not enough air circulation through the rabbitry. If you notice your rabbit getting wet around the face and or breathing hard; dip the rabbit in a bucket of tepid water. In an emergency extreme measures must be taken if there is to be any chance at all of saving the rabbit. Don't be afraid to spray cool water on a rabbit or in an emergency dip the rabbit into a bucket of tepid water not ice water. Keeping the rabbits nose and mouth above water. During warmer months you can freeze soda bottles or milk jugs half full of water. Place these in the cage with your rabbit[s] when temperatures exceed 80 to 85degrees. They will lie against them to cool themselves.




    Take immediate action at the first sign of diarrhea. This could be a life and death situation for any rabbit especially the very young. STOP ALL treats as they are the most likely cause of the problem. Feed plenty of long-fiber grass-hay and oats will work well. You may even want to stop the pelleted feed. when the stools return to normal slowly add the pelleted feed back to the diet while continuing to give grasshay on a regular basis. Two to three times a week if not more often.

  • Pregnancy Toxemia

    Pregnancy Toxemia is a general problem with rabbits and some are more prone to it than others. Some of the more common reasons are overweight Does, hairball blockage and stress, brought on by high heat and humidity.The symptoms most often appear a few days before the Doe kindles or right after. The problem is associated with a combination of high nutritional demandand conditions that limit intake. The Dam can not meet it's energy demands as she is unable to matabolize properly. As a result of this inability to matabolize the fat reserves accumulate in the liver and cause the problem. If not treated the rabbit goes into a coma and will die.


    Because of the inadaquate energy supply, the blood glucose level is depleted. A sub-Q injection of Glucose or Dextrose is an effective treatment. Give a small breed two 3cc sub-q injections under the skin at the neck area between and behind the ears., [one in the AM & one in the PM] It will take three or four injections for the larger breeds.


    Sub-Q injections may actually pull the skin away from the injection site. You must treat and they heal very nicely. As a follow up, feed with a curved tip feeding syringe either Karo syrup or molasses. 1cc every four hours until they start eating pelleted feed again. While they remain off pellets, mix 1-2 teaspoons of baby oatmeal or high protein cereal, 1cc syrup, 1tblsp nutrical and feed with curved tip syringe.


Some tips for keeping your rabbits healthy

  • Build a rabbit hutch [cage] which can be easily cleaned and will keep your rabbit safe from the elements of weather. Build a roomy and comfortable hutch or cage. Your rabbit must remain dry and free of drafts. Place the hutch in an area where it will avoid dampness and excessive heat.
  • Keep all your hutches and equipment clean. This will help you to avoid most infectious diseases and injuries.
  • Learn to recognize rabbit diseases and treat at the first sign of illness should it become necessary.
  • Isolate ALL new arrivals for two to four weeks. Water and feed them after the rest of the herd has been cared for.
  • Beware of lending or borrowing rabbits for breeding. This is a good way to bring disease to your herd.