What are Coccidiosis?
This disease is caused by the transmission of the sporulated oocysts, this is usually due to ingestion of contaminated feed or water. Although many rabbits may be carriers of this parasite, in severe cases symptoms such as weight loss and depression may be seen leading to the deterioration of the pet. As the chance of successful management increases greatly for pets who are treated promptly, it is vital that if you suspect your pet may be suffering from this condition you contact your veterinarian.
Coccidiosis is a common and worldwide sporozoan disease of rabbits caused by the protozoan parasite Eimeria ep. Up to 25 species of coccidian have been observed in rabbits, with two main forms seen, hepatic and intestinal.
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Symptoms of Coccidiosis in Rabbits
Often pets show no symptoms of this disease until severe infection has occurred. Symptoms may include:
- Signs of pain such as hunching
- Pale mucous membranes
- Blood or mucous in the feces
- Poor coat condition
- Weight loss or poor weight gainor growth
- In severe cases of intestinal coccidiosis intussusception, convulsions or paralysis or fatality may occur
- In severe cases of hepatic coccidiosis weakness, liver damage, and bile duct damage may occur, followed by coma
This condition can occur even in rabbits who receive excellent care and good sanitation. This affects younger rabbits from a few weeks old to 5 months, particularly newly weaned kits. Risk factors include stress and immunosuppression.
This condition is known to have poor sanitation as a risk factor for transmission. This liver form of the disease is known to affect rabbits of all ages. It can lead to distention of the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts. In some cases, secondary bacterial infections may occur.
Causes of Coccidiosis in Rabbits
There are up to 25 different species that can cause this condition in the rabbit. Although many rabbits can carry the protozoa without symptoms, in some cases, the parasite may cause trauma and illness for the pet. The spore enters the intestinal wall of the rabbit following ingestion, this is often through food or water sources infected with fecal matter containing oocytes.
Diagnosis of Coccidiosis in Rabbits
Your veterinarian will carefully examine your pet, and discuss his history with you. Although this disease often causes changes in the liver and gastrointestinal systems seen on gross examination, diagnosis is often difficult. Your veterinarian may choose to take a fecal sample from your pet and examine this under light microscopy. This examination may reveal oocysts. These can be difficult to differentiate from normal, nonpathogenic yeast (Cyniclomyces guttulatus or Saccharomycopsis guttulatus ), which are commonly seen in fecal examinations. If a severe infection is suspected, radiographs may be taken which may show liver or intestinal blockages or fluid build up.
Treatment of Coccidiosis in Rabbits
If your veterinarian diagnoses your pet with this condition the aim of treatment will be management of the condition, rather than cure. If your rabbit is suffering from severe dehydration intravenous fluid therapy may be considered.
For hepatic coccidiosis, oral doses of antiprotozoal agents such as sulfaquinoxaline administered into either the drinking water for 30 days or in the feed for 20 days, may reduce clinical signs. This may decrease symptoms but may not prevent the lesions from forming.
For intestinal coccidiosis, treatment is similar to that for hepatic coccidiosis. Sulfaquinoxaline is given in the drinking water for 7 days and then repeated after a 7-day interval. Other medications that may be considered are amprolium, salinomycin, diclazuril, and toltrazuril.
Antibiotic therapy may also be offered to your pet, This does not rid your pet of the parasite but allows your rabbit to develop his immunity system while the protozoa is controlled. Your pet may develop a life long immunity against the species of coccidiosis. Your rabbit may require repeated treatments with regular intervals.
Recovery of Coccidiosis in Rabbits
The prognosis for rabbits with coccidiosis is good when caught early. For pets with severe infections or who present with signs of liver failure, the prognosis may be guarded.
In order to give your rabbit the best chance of a successful recovery, excellent sanitation and husbandry is essential. Ideally, putting a sanitation program into place prior to infection is the best method to prevent your pet suffering from rabbit coccidiosis.
- Regularly clean your rabbit’s environment
- The hutch should be kept dry, with the floor, feed hoppers and water crocks kept clear of feces; the wire bottoms should be regularly brushed
- The cage should be routinely disinfected with a solution that is lethal to oocysts such as ammonia (10%)
- Provide your rabbit with a nutritionally complete diet that supports his digestive system
- Unlimited, quality timothy hay should be offered
- Reduce stressors for your pet by ensuring overcrowding does not occur and by ensuring he is not exposed to predators or environmental changes
- When choosing your pet make sure he comes from a reputable breeder that has allowed the rabbit to stay with the doe for up to ten weeks of age as this provides the young with the essential nutrition to form a healthy gut and immune system
Coccidiosis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My rabbit went limp today,no loose stool in the cage. No paralysis as would move very slightly when I syringed the water. 40 min later convulsed and passed away. 11 weeks old, healthy and happy this morning. Dead by lunch. Only got hay today. Got stressed yesterday when doe charged at him and screamed. No bites as they divided. Worried about other rabbits if it's contagious
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Hi, we have a rabbit who was diagnosed with coccidiosis about 6 months ago. He was treated twice (antibiotic but I cannot remember the name) and the symptopms have decreased significantly. He is no longer upset, he eats and drinks, he's lively and curious although I am quite sure he still has coccidiosis as some of the mucus still appears in his feces every now and then. The vet does not seem worried as the rabbit looks healthy and is not losing weight.
We are considering adopting another rabbit (adult) and I was wondering if they could live in the same cage if there's a risk of the new rabbit getting infected? We haven't got enough space for another cage plus we do want them both to play together when we are away at work.
Treat with corrid, 1 tsp per gallon of water for 7 days, then off 7 days, and then back on for 7 days. This will knock out any cycle of coccidia. It generally hits young rabbits between 6 weeks and 5 months. I would be more concerned about the 2 rabbits being thrown together. Make sure the introduction is slow and both rabbits are fixed, or else you could have a mess on your hands
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Adult rabbit, no signs, but was bonding with two baby bunnies (started at 8 weeks, babies in same cage, adult in her own), however were allowed to mingle between cages while supervised. First died with diarrhea piles in the cage, no signs of anything, I woke up to her laying there. Put the remaining on Panacure and Ditrim.
Got another baby rabbit. Second baby died 13 days later, same way, but watched her die. Diarrhea as well. Was slow..
Worried about the 3rd baby now. If the 3rd was infected by the 2nd's feces, we have about 12 days.
Vet isn't sure it's coccidia, but believes Ditrim will help, breeder and I aren't sure. Vet is also discussing with other colleagues.
Was suggested by the breeder to use Corid (1tsp/Gal of water) and Ponazuril. Vet is worried about using Ponazuril, and never heard of Corid.
Think we'd be ok giving Corid regardless, or could it react negatively with any of the other meds given, or even just negative side effects?
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Hello, I have a rabbit who has over a week pooping very different. His poop is small in shape. It is also smelly, dark, and moist. He has unlimited hay and water and will eat and drink water as well as run. However, his poop concerns me. I'm afraid he might be in pain.
If the faeces are stuck together they may be cecotropes which are the first passage of faeces which a rabbit normally eats. Other problems may be due to parasites, infections or transit problems of digesta. It would be best to take a fresh sample to your local Veterinary Clinic just to rule out certain usual suspected and to determine if the faeces are cecotropes or something more concerning. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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