What is Tyzzer's Disease?
Although this disease is endemic in many rabbit colonies this condition is also known to affect other animals such as horses, hamsters, gerbils, rats or mice. Despite titers for this bacterium being seen in pregnant women, it is not thought to pose a zoonotic risk in humans.
This condition is fatal for up to 90% of infected rabbits, with prognosis worsened without treatment to combat dehydration caused by diarrhea, therefore prompt veterinary treatment should be sought.
Tyzzer’s disease is a condition which causes diarrhea, depression and dehydration. This disease is caused by a bacterium named clostridium piliforme which is transmitted via the fecal-oral route. Rabbits can become infected following ingestion of contaminated food or droppings. Infection is associated with risk factors such as over-crowding, stress such as change of environment, exposure to predators, and poor sanitation.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Tyzzer's Disease in Rabbits
The symptoms of Tyzzer’s disease in rabbits are severe watery diarrhea leading to staining of the hindquarters, lethargy and anorexia. The onset of this disease is sudden, with mortality occurring in as little as 1-3 days in weanling rabbits, however adult rabbits have an improved chance of survival when provided with intensive treatment. In some cases, adult rabbits will present with an infection that appears to be a wasting disease. Post-mortem signs of the disease may also include lesions in the liver, heart and gastrointestinal tract.
- Watery diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
Causes of Tyzzer's Disease in Rabbits
This condition is caused by the bacterium clostridium piliforme, this is a gram-negative, obligate intracellular spore-forming rod bacterium. The primary site of infection in this disease in the lower intestinal tract of the rabbit. Infection of this disease occurs following ingestion of the bacteria with factors such as poor sanitation, overcrowding, and stress seen as risks.
Diagnosis of Tyzzer's Disease in Rabbits
Your veterinarian will carefully examine your rabbit and discuss the onset of the symptoms and clinical history with you. The symptoms your pet is experiencing may indicate to your veterinarian that clostridium piliforme is the causative bacteria, however further tests may be performed to rule out other causes of diarrhea such as colibacillosis and proliferative enteropathy.
As culture and sensitivity tests are ineffective when testing for this disease your veterinarian may choose to perform histology or serology testing to identify the cause.
Treatment of Tyzzer's Disease in Rabbits
As the cause of morbidity following infection of this disease is dehydration due to profuse diarrhea, aggressive fluid therapy is indicated.
If your rabbit refuses food your veterinarian may recommend syringe feeding, ideal foods for this are those with high fiber to increase water absorption in the gastrointestinal tract and slow fecal motility, as well as pellets moistened with water, pureed vegetables, or banana.
Unfortunately, most antibiotics are considered ineffective in treating this disease, however oxytetracycline may provide some treatment.
Recovery of Tyzzer's Disease in Rabbits
Unfortunately, the prognosis following infection of the disease is guarded, particularly in younger rabbits, however, previously healthy rabbits may survive infection. If your pet recovers from the infection they may have permanent damage to their organs such as necrosis and fibrosis of the liver and fibrosis of the large intestine.
It is vital that your pet is encouraged to eat following the illness. Anorexia in rabbits can become dangerous in as little as 24 hours, and can lead to potentially fatal conditions such as gastric stasis, hepatic lipidosis and intestinal ileus.
Encourage high fiber and appetite stimulants such as parsley, carrot tops, and kale along with any of your rabbit’s favorite foods, hay and fresh vegetables, and pellets. Due to damage to the gastrointestinal system, highly digestible nutrition should be offered for your pet.
There is no vaccine to prevent this disease, however, to reduce the chance of reoccurrence the following steps can be taken:
- Avoiding stressors such as exposure to predators (in some cases where wildlife are present, relocation may be needed) or introduction to new cage mates
- It is important to note that as the spores caused by this bacterium are very hardy
- Ethanol, chlorhexidine and cresol are all ineffective
- Instead, thoroughly disinfect the pet’s environment with either 1% peracetic acid or 3% hypochlorite
- As spores can survive in soiled bedding and are heat resistant, disposal of bedding may be the best option
- Continue with good husbandry and prevent over-crowding
- Provide excellent nutrition to support your pet’s immune system, prebiotic and probiotic supplementation may be beneficial to support gastrointestinal health and support gut flora following infection
- Isolate affected pets during treatment and during the infectious period following
- Seek urgent treatment for any other pets who show the same symptoms