What are Listeriosis?
This condition has a sudden onset of symptoms that often result in death or abortion of an unborn rabbit. The disease causes severe symptoms that are often not treatable and therefore is very serious. There are four ways in which this disorder presents itself.
Due to the symptoms coming on suddenly, your rabbit may be fine one day, and the next, have severe and debilitating symptoms without warning. He may appear to have paralysis, eye inflammation or walking in circles. If your rabbit is pregnant and aborts her fetus or gives birth to a stillborn, it may not be recognized right away that there is something going on.
Listeriosis is a bacterial blood infection can be found in soil, water and mud. It is a widespread bacteria (Listeria) and can be passed to humans.
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Symptoms of Listeriosis in Rabbits
- Listlessness – You may notice an overall lack of energy and movement
- Weight loss – Your rabbit may lose his appetite and stop eating
- Coordination issues – Difficulty standing up, moving and he may collapse and be unable to get back up
- Drooling – Due to the paralysis, your rabbit may begin to salivate excessively
- Paralysis – Your rabbit may begin to develop paralysis of one side of his face; this can include his eye, nostrils, mouth and ear drooping
- Circling – You may notice your rabbit walking or hopping in a circle only going one way
- Disorientation – Your rabbit may corner himself and have difficulty figuring out where he is or how to move out of his space
- Loss of fetus – This may be an abortion or birth to a stillborn
- Respiratory problems – Including a cough or breathing concerns
There are four ways in which this disease presents itself: encephalitis, septicemia, abortion and perinatal deaths, and mastitis.
- Happens in older adults
- This is an inflammation of your rabbit’s brain caused by the bacteria
- This is an infection of multiple organs in your rabbit
- Rabbits are more susceptible to this presentation
- Rarely will your rabbit present with symptoms
- Often the animal is found already deceased
Abortion or Perinatal Death
- There are typically no other symptoms besides the loss of fetus
- Most common towards the end of pregnancy
- Very rare
- Only affect ¼ of all cases
- Antibiotics will not help in these cases
Causes of Listeriosis in Rabbits
The causes are based on how your rabbit comes into contact with the bacteria:
- Listeria is found worldwide
- If your rabbit were to eat any of the following that is contaminated - Soil, plants, mud, streams
- Poor quality silage results in most contamination
- Can be passed on by your rabbit coming into contact with infected feces
- Typically presents at high times of stress
- Found in younger animals, 1-3 years of age more often
Diagnosis of Listeriosis in Rabbits
If you suspect your rabbit may have listeriosis, it will be important to get him to his veterinarian as soon as possible. Definitive diagnosing only happens with a tissue sample testing for the listeria bacteria. This is often done on an aborted placenta, fetus or brain tissue.
However, other bodily fluids and tissue samples can be taken to test for the bacteria. Your veterinarian will need to know where your rabbit came from and if he came into contact with any ill animals to your knowledge.
Treatment of Listeriosis in Rabbits
Once your veterinarian has identified listeriosis, treatment options are available. The treatment of choice is antibiotics. However, treatment needs to be implemented early in the disease or the success is not as great. There is not much information on which antibiotics are used to treat this disease due to the fact that often this disease is found after an animal has died.
Recovery of Listeriosis in Rabbits
If antibiotics are successful in treating the disease, follow up appointments will be necessary to monitor any long-term damage done. Your veterinarian will discuss these needs with you once you bring him in. Changes made to your rabbit’s environment will include keeping him away from other animals who may be infected with the disease to minimize contamination.
Prevention is the best policy for this bacterium. Preventing your rabbit from eating any hay or feed that has spoiled and providing him with clean, non-contaminated water will help slow down the spread of the bacteria. You can also keep your rabbit away from areas that you are not sure are clean and free of the bacteria as well.