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What is Parasitic Infection (E. cuniculi)?

Parasitic infection (E.. cuniculi) in rabbits is a microscopic parasite, found in the environment which causes the protozoal infection commonly known as Encephalitozoonosis or Encephalitozoon cuniculi (E. cuniculi) in rabbits. It is an increasingly widespread condition that is primarily observed in domesticated rabbits. However, it has also been observed in cats, dogs, foxes, guinea pigs, monkeys, goats, and sheep, as well as people that have a compromised immune system. 

E. cuniculi is considered to be a potentially serious infectious condition and one of the top causes of neurological problems in rabbits. Although it affects domesticated rabbits, it is rarely observed in wild rabbits.

Parasitic infection (E. cuniculi) in rabbits is also known as Encephalitozoon cuniculi or Nosema cuniculi. It is a single cell protozoan parasite that lives in a rabbit's kidneys and moves through the bloodstream to other vital organs. Due to this disease potentially causing neurological changes, renal failure, and possibly death, evaluation by a veterinarian is critical if you suspect your pet is ill.

Parasitic Infection (E. cuniculi) Average Cost

From 362 quotes ranging from $100 - $200

Average Cost

$150

Symptoms of Parasitic Infection (E. cuniculi) in Rabbits

Although more than half the laboratory and pet rabbit population carry E. cuniculi, many don't show any signs or symptoms of the disease. However, if your rabbit is infected with E. cuniculi he may show one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Cataracts
  • Head tilt
  • Hind limb weakness
  • Neck spasms
  • Paralysis
  • Renal failure
  • Scalding
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Collapse
  • Death

Neurological problems, renal failure, and death can occur without treatment.

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Causes of Parasitic Infection (E. cuniculi) in Rabbits

The most common cause of parasitic infection (E. cuniculi) in rabbits is the transmission from a mother rabbit to her litter through the placenta, which may be one of the reasons there are so many rabbits with this condition. However, it can also be transmitted through contaminated food and water, infected tissues, infected urine, or by rabbits grooming each other. Once it enters your rabbit's system it travels through his bloodstream and begins targeting the vital organs such as his brain, kidneys, and spine.

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Diagnosis of Parasitic Infection (E. cuniculi) in Rabbits

The diagnosis will be based on clinical signs and your pet’s recent history. Be sure to inform the veterinarian about recent exposure to other rabbits, past illnesses, dietary changes, and travel history, and provide a timeline for the symptoms you have noticed.

The veterinarian will perform a complete physical, noting neurological signs, such as head tilt or paresis, that may be present. Testing will include the ELISA blood test which may indicate serum antibody levels indicative of E. cuniculi. In addition, the PCR test looks for the parasite in a urine sample. Further blood work will rule out differential diagnoses including cancer and potential toxicities.

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Treatment of Parasitic Infection (E. cuniculi) in Rabbits

Your veterinarian may recommend treating your rabbit with fenbendazole consecutively for 28 days. NSAIDs may be used for inflammation, and if symptoms such as seizures are present, your rabbit will be given medication to control them. Some veterinarians may decide to use corticosteroids as an alternative to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Antibiotics will be prescribed for secondary infection if required.

It should be noted that there have been cases where the rabbit does not respond to treatment, or has a partial response and is left with some central nervous system changes. Those that have residual effects may show a permanent head tilt for example. In some cases, a pet owner may choose to euthanize their pet due to consistent conditions like urine scald, in cases where mobility is not recovered.

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Recovery of Parasitic Infection (E. cuniculi) in Rabbits

The prognosis of E. cuniculi in rabbits will vary greatly depending upon the severity of the condition of the individual rabbit. Pets who have other health conditions or a severe case of chronic E. cuniculi may die from effects of the illness. However, prognosis can be good for your rabbit if he is treated early and responds well to the chosen therapy. 

Disinfecting your rabbit’s environment is crucial; your veterinarian can advise you on the products to use and how to go about an efficient cleaning of your rabbit’s habitat.

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Parasitic Infection (E. cuniculi) Average Cost

From 362 quotes ranging from $100 - $200

Average Cost

$150

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Parasitic Infection (E. cuniculi) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Buddy

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Dwarf

dog-age-icon

4 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis

Hello, My rabbit Buddy has suffered from minor seizures for 2 years. Last week he had a minor seizure and developed a severe head tilt so we took him to the vet immediately. They did a blood test and started treating him for e cuniculi. He was boarded due to his condition being quite severe. His condition worsened over the next day and he is not fully paralyzed. He is able to pass urine again now and is eating when presented with food. The vet update us every day and now after 6 days of on medication he isn't showing any signs of improvement and the vet are asking us to consider euthanizing him. I went in today to visit him and he is unresponsive with his eye wandering but after I groomed him he did his usual licking of his lips which he always does. It breaks my heart to see him in this condition and I understand the vet wanting us to consider euthanizing him but I understand there are cases where symptoms have improved after a longer period on fenbendazol. Is there even a remote chance that the anti parasitic will begin to improve or am I holding onto false hope? He is also on anti inflamatory medication and muscle relaxants. I also wonder if the muscle relaxants are adding to his unresponsiveness. They claim that the relaxants are to prevent him from thrashing around. Any advice would be appreciated.

Sept. 6, 2018

Buddy's Owner

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Senua

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Silver Marten Rabbit

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9 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Paralysis
Tremors
Swollen/Runny Eyes

11 days ago my rabbit suddenly could not walk or get up, in the past she's been pretty healthy though when I got her 5 months ago she did have a cataract in her right eye and the eye was smaller then her other one (I checked with my vet about this at the time but she believed she must have had an infection as a baby or been born with it). She gave birth 3 weeks ago to a single baby bunny but it was dead, she does not have a fever though so I don't think toxicity from a late miscarriage is the cause of her condition. Currently she can eat and drink on her own and she likes to be propped into a sitting position. She's started peeing on her own again but in the past few days has developed tremors in her legs as well as some stiffness. My vet prescribed Metacam and I've been giving her vitamin e however I'm wondering if I should have a blood test done since she could possibly infected my other rabbit if it is e. cunucili

July 14, 2018

Senua's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Rabbits are quite commonly affected by the parasite, and she may benefit from treatment for it - sooner vs later would be better, as some effects can be long lasting. Testing at this time is limited, and we often treat based on signs.

July 14, 2018

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Alife

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Mini lop

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22 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hello I have already asked a question regarding E Cuniculi. Alfie. It was never confirmed he had this but was treated for it. Does the treatment kills the pastasite? As he 28 day course finished yesterday 14/6. He is fine apart from is hesitating about jumping up the step to get back in after been in the garden. As he miss judged it last week and didn't make it. Is this normal? Thanks

June 13, 2018

Alife's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

It is quite common for rabbits to be treated for this parasite without a firm diagnosis, as it is so common in rabbits. Some cases respond fully and recover, but some animals are left with permanent neurologic damage. The treatment does kill the parasite, and it just remains to be seen what effects Alfie will be left with. I hope that all goes well for him.

June 13, 2018

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Puppy: Joepie

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none

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6 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt

Hello, I'm from the Netherlands so I'm sorry that my english isn't optimal. I found this forum and I have a question about e-cuniculi in dogs. It concerns the following; My mother recently was a assigned for a puppy, now 6 weeks old. The puppy showed a torticollis with 4 weeks and seems to be behind his two littermates (they are free of complaint) in his motor development. Furthermore, there are no apparent complaints. The breed is not burdened with similar 'deviations'. The veterinarian has not been able to make a diagnosis after examining and consulting a colleague. The syndrome is asymptomatic of a middle ear inflammation. An antibiotic treatment has started, which up untill now has no visible effect. I went in search of literature studies into a possible cause. I came out on an e-cuniculi contamination in puppies, which has been studied especially in the US. I've read that torticollis is one of the symptoms in rabbits. I can not find out whether this can also be the case with dogs, but there are talk of neurological abnormalities. The owner of the mother dog is a hunter and she got fed wildlife. Do you think a contamination with E-cuniculi could be a possible diagnosis?

June 8, 2018

Puppy: Joepie's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Encephalitozoon cuniculi (more widely known for infections in rabbits) may infect dogs especially puppies with compromised immune systems; whilst there are neurological symptoms which may present, I am not aware of a head tilt being one of them. Other symptoms presenting in dogs may include stunted growth, kidney failure, blindness, paralysis, behavioural changes among other symptoms. I think Encephalitozoonosis is unlikely in this case but cannot say for certain. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 9, 2018

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Morty

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Rabbit

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Not Drinking From

Someone suggested this as my rabbit has stopped drinking from the bowl. It's clean and changed twice daily, even when fresh he won't drink. He has been happipy using the bowl since we got him for 9 months, he's now back on the bottle and drinking fine from that. Additionally his poop/pee/teeth/eyes/ears/coat/weight are all normal

June 1, 2018

Morty's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

I’m not sure why Morty isn’t drinking from the water bowl, however he is at least getting hydrated from the water bottle for now. If his mouth is otherwise healthy, I cannot think of any other possible causes. If there were a parasitic infection, we would see other accompanying symptoms. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 2, 2018

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Basil

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unknown

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3 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt
Unstable
Rolling Over
Panicky
Continuos Barrel Rolling

My rabbit Basils head began with a tilt about 3-4 days ago. We visited our vet as soon as she began to flip around and tilt her head. The vet said she must have E. Cuniculi, and prescribed these many medicines for her. We are on day 3 of medication but are not seeing any improvements, in fact she seems to be getting worse. As awful as it seems, we are considering euthanasia, as she cannot keep her balance on her own, and continues to flip around on the floor if she is not held down. We are devastated and want to know if she has any chance of recovery before we decide euthanas or not. Any comments and input would be so helpful. Thank you.

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Drew

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mini rex

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4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

My 4 year old rabbit Drew started with GI Stasis and stayed at the emergency vet from Thursday-Sunday morning. When we picked him up he was walking with his back end pretty close to the ground but we assumed it was because he was so weak from being sick. By the next day he was completely dragging his legs. On Tuesday I decided to take him back to the ER, because I couldn’t take him to his primary vet until Wednesday and since I’m from a small area there aren’t many rabbit vet options. The ER did x-rays to check for trauma to his spine, all was clear. I mentioned e. cuniculi and they basically brushed it off. When I took him to his primary vet the next day I asked her about E. Cuniculi being the cause as well and she decided to treat him for it, however she suggested further imaging to be sure. I haven’t don’t that though because I’ve already spent over $1,200 on his vet bills. He is on day 4 of fenbendazole as well as an antibiotic injection. He’s also taking meloxacam and gabapentin. He does still have feeling in his feet and pulls his legs back to his body when I pinch his toes. He’s also eating and drinking normally again. My question is, is there hope he will walk again? I’m terrified that starting treatment for e. cuniculi on the 4th day of him showing clinical signs is too late. I don’t want him to be stuck like this for life.

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Choc

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Unknow

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Weakness
Head Tilt
Limping
Lack Of Appetite
Lack Of Coordination

Chocolate was always a happy fun rabbit, he's a house rabbit so would always ask my son to play or snuggle. We put chocolate into boreding for two weeks as we went on holiday, when we picked him up we noticed massive head tilt, the shop he was at claimed that must of just happened We've seen multiple vets but the just seem to keep putting him on antibiotics, we also been giving him fenbendazole, we've noticed his head tilt turns a full 90° (completely sideways) when he's taking the fenbendazole witch means it's apparently working! It's been two weeks and sadly he's not getting any better, vet did warn us if chocolate gets worse he won't be having the quality of life, it's truly heartbreaking seeing such a beautiful happy baby become so unwell

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Nala

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Holland Lop

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6 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Red Eye

Hello! I have a rabbit about 7 months old who had a red Bloch appear in the iris of her right eye about 2mm x 2mm. I took her immediately to the vet. I suspected this might be an early possibility of EC. My rabbit has no other symptoms. the vet never seen this before and upon examination, the red mass in the iris and dilation (mydriasis) is approximately half the speed of the other eye were the only two clinical sins in my rabbit. they recommended complete removal of the eye. Did not recommend any blood tests. Now from my research, I have heard steroid eye drops and dewormer help so i’ve started the dewormer and I contacted the breeder of the rabbit for the steroid eye drops because the vet did not prescribe these to me and I want my rabbit to have a chance to keep it’s eye before jumpin to complete removal. Recommendations? I just had my rabbit spayed 3 weeks ago and upon examination, there was no EC—and my rabbit did very well in the procedure.

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Bino

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Lion head bunny

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9 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis

2 days ago my bunny started to not be able to move her hind legs.We took her to the vet the day it happened and the vet did a quick examination and watched her walk along the floor, he gave her a needle for the pain and told us to make an appointment if she doesn’t get better.I was still really worried by the next day so I called to get an appointment.I think she has e coniculi because she’s showing a lot of signs(drinking a lot of water,peeing a lot,and not being able to move her back legs)the appointment is two days from now, I’m gonna tell them about all her symptoms, hopefully we can get some medicine for her.Do you think her conditions could worsen in two days?Shes still eating and hasn’t lost her appetite, but I don’t think she’s able to control her pee, because when I picked her up she peed a lot.If she does have e coniculi and we give her medication is their a chance her hind legs will recover?

Parasitic Infection (E. cuniculi) Average Cost

From 362 quotes ranging from $100 - $200

Average Cost

$150

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