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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.

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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

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Roger

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French Lop

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18 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Redness

We got our rabbit from a pet store. He never showed any symptoms, but to board him, we were required to test for e. caniculi. Our vet was shocked we didn’t get him off the streets since his count was one of the highest for e. caniculi she had ever seen. We completed the 28 days of Pancur, still hasn’t shown any issues. He’s 1.5 years old now, 6 months after treatment, and he has some redness in the corner of his eye with mucous. We got fenzbendazole drops, but they are about the same after 1 month. Is it possible the e. caniculi didn’t go away, and he needs another round of treatment? Thanks!

May 18, 2018

Roger's Owner

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0 Recommendations

A positive test shows that a rabbit was exposed to E. cuniculi and doesn’t necessarily mean there is an active infection; the second blood test should show a decrease in numbers which would indicate a recovery from an infection. The decision to treat with another course of fenbendazole would be down to your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.dechra.co.uk/therapy-areas/companion-animal/exotics/antiparasitics-antifungals/disease-information/e-cuniculi

May 18, 2018

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Alfie

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Mini lop

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22 Months

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Unsteady

I have had my rabbit to the vets now twice, second visit they suspect e cuniculi or pasteurella. The medication he has been given Baytril and panacur. He has had this for two days . There seems to be no improvement, he is not eating much and I am giving him water from a syringe. He still looks glossy eyes just unsteady on his feet. I am devastated seeing him like this, will he improve?

May 16, 2018

Alfie's Owner


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1 Recommendations

Two days is still early in treatment to say whether or not the treatment is working, depending on the severity of the infection you may need to wait a week or so before any improvement is seen. Continue with the treatment prescribed by your Veterinarian and continue to monitor for improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 17, 2018

Thank you. Any tips on how to coax him to eat more?Hes is still very alert apart from the unsteady and not eating as normal.

May 17, 2018

Alfie's Owner


Alfie has improved so much . Back in his food and not stumbling,back at vets for 7 day check up on Tuesday. Still not sure if he has e cuniculi or an ear infection.

May 20, 2018

Alfie's Owner

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Parasitic Infection (E. cuniculi) Average Cost

From 362 quotes ranging from $100 - $200

Average Cost

$150

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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