The Most Common Rabbit ᴅɪsᴇᴀsᴇs

Rabbits are well-loved parts of many families that have the joy of caring for them. But unfortunately, and just like other pets, rabbits are prone to a variety of problems and ᴅɪsᴇᴀsᴇs. Some ᴅɪsᴇᴀsᴇs are more common than others and by being educated on these problems you may be able to prevent them or at least learn to recognize the signs and sʏᴍᴘᴛᴏᴍs more quickly in order to get your rabbit help.

1. Rabbit Hairballs

The technical name for a hairball is a ᴛʀɪᴄʜᴏʙᴇᴢᴏᴀʀ but no matter what you call it, rabbits can get them. Hairballs cause your rabbit to become ᴏʙsᴛʀᴜᴄᴛᴇᴅ, meaning food cannot pass through their gastrointestinal system. Since rabbits cannot vomit, hairballs will sit and grow inside your rabbit’s stomach as they clean themselves and ingest hair and can potentially cause a ʙʟᴏᴄᴋᴀɢᴇ.

Hairballs can be avoided by regularly brushing your rabbit, providing them with plenty of clean water in a bowl, and by giving them a proper diet and exercise. Some people even give their rabbits enzyme tablets or fresh papaya to aid in digestion and the breaking down of ingested hair. Surgery is a last resort to a rabbit that has become ᴏʙsᴛʀᴜᴄᴛᴇᴅ by a hairball.

2. Rabbit E. Cᴜɴɪᴄᴜʟɪ

Head ᴛɪʟᴛs and sᴇɪᴢᴜʀᴇs are ᴄʜʀᴏɴɪᴄ side effects of this protozoan that can secretly ɪɴꜰᴇᴄᴛ the majority of pet rabbits. Encephalitozoon cuniculi, often referred to as E. Cᴜɴɪᴄᴜʟɪ, is a difficult ᴅɪsᴇᴀsᴇ that may or may not ever ʜᴀʀᴍ your rabbit. This protozoan can be transmitted to your rabbit through ᴜʀɪɴᴇ (and immune ᴄᴏᴍᴘʀᴏᴍɪsᴇᴅ humans) and live quietly inside your rabbit without ever ʜᴜʀᴛing them. Or your rabbit may be ᴄᴏᴍᴘʀᴏᴍɪsᴇᴅ due to an ɪʟʟɴᴇss, sᴛʀᴇss, etc. and this protozoan can then “awaken” and cause ᴅᴀᴍᴀɢᴇ to internal organs and neural tissue causing sᴇɪᴢᴜʀᴇs and a head ᴛɪʟᴛ. Sometimes, with treatment, these issues go away and your rabbit returns back to normal, but other times we are left to manage a rabbit with a lifelong head ᴛɪʟᴛ and/or sᴇɪᴢᴜʀᴇs. Medications such as fenbendazole are usually prescribed to treat this ᴛᴇʀʀɪʙʟᴇ ɪɴꜰᴇᴄᴛion but the side effects of the ɴᴇᴜʀᴏʟᴏɢɪᴄᴀʟ sʏᴍᴘᴛᴏᴍs are what can be really life ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛᴇɴɪɴɢ to your rabbit. ɪʟᴇᴜs occurs when a rabbit stops eating and when their world is spinning they don’t want to eat. Other medications to combat ɪʟᴇᴜs along with syringe feeding and fluid administration may be necessary as well.

3. Rabbit ᴀʙsᴄᴇssᴇs

While dental ᴅɪsᴇᴀsᴇ often causes ᴀʙsᴄᴇssᴇs in rabbits, these pockets of ᴘᴜs are seen all over rabbits. They can be found internally on organs as well as in the skin layer of rabbits which makes them difficult to treat. The type of bacteria that is usually inside these ᴀʙsᴄᴇssᴇs is also a factor that increases the difficulty level of treatment since it doesn’t need oxygen to survive.

Antibiotics, cleaning out the ᴀʙsᴄᴇss (if you can find it), and ᴘᴀɪɴ medications may all be prescribed for your rabbit by your veterinarian. ᴀʙsᴄᴇssᴇs are serious and we don’t always know why they occur but treatment is always needed as they do not go away on their own.

4. Rabbit ᴇᴀʀ ᴍɪᴛᴇs

Rabbits are known for their large ears but these ears aren’t always clean. ᴇᴀʀ ᴍɪᴛᴇs are small arachnids that feed off of the wax and oil that rabbit ears produce. They are ɪʀʀɪᴛᴀᴛɪɴɢ and cause your rabbit to itch, scratch and shake their heads. Secondary ɪɴꜰᴇᴄᴛions from ᴇᴀʀ ᴍɪᴛᴇs also occur if the ᴇᴀʀ ᴍɪᴛᴇs are left untreated and include bacterial and ꜰᴜɴɢᴀʟ ɪɴꜰᴇᴄᴛions. Large amounts of dark, crusty debris are usually seen in rabbit ears that have ᴇᴀʀ ᴍɪᴛᴇs.

Rabbits can get ᴇᴀʀ ᴍɪᴛᴇs from direct contact with other rabbits, from being outside, and from our hands if we have recently handled an ɪɴꜰᴇᴄᴛ ᴇᴅ rabbit and then pet our own rabbit without washing. They are easy to avoid but also easy to treat. Diagnosis can be done by your veterinarian by visualizing them under a microscope but sometimes you can even see large groups of them moving with your naked eye.

5. Rabbit Reproductive ᴛᴜᴍᴏʀs

Mᴀᴍᴍᴀʀʏ, ᴜᴛᴇʀɪɴᴇ, ᴀɴᴅ ᴏᴠᴀʀɪᴀɴ ᴛᴜᴍᴏʀs are far too common in pet female rabbits and ᴛᴇsᴛɪᴄᴜʟᴀʀ ᴄᴀɴᴄᴇʀ does not go unnoticed in male rabbits. Sᴘᴀʏɪɴɢ and ɴᴇᴜᴛᴇʀɪɴɢ pet rabbits is recommended for a variety of reasons and one of these reasons is to prevent reproductive ᴄᴀɴᴄᴇʀs. If your rabbit is fixed their chances of developing mammary ᴄᴀɴᴄᴇʀ is greatly diminished (and it’s impossible for them to develop ᴜᴛᴇʀɪɴᴇ, ᴏᴠᴀʀɪᴀɴ, and ᴛᴇsᴛɪᴄᴜʟᴀʀ ᴄᴀɴᴄᴇʀs if these parts have been removed). Discuss the ʀɪsᴋs associated with sᴘᴀʏɪɴɢ and ɴᴇᴜᴛᴇʀɪɴɢ your rabbit with your veterinarian as well as an appropriate age to have it performed.

6. Rabbit ʙᴜᴍʙʟᴇғᴏᴏᴛ

Also seen in pet rats, ʙᴜᴍʙʟᴇғᴏᴏᴛ is a common problem in ᴏʙᴇsᴇ rabbits, rabbits that don’t exercise, rabbits that have a rough surface to sit and walk on, and rabbits who like to sit in their dirty litter boxes or bedding. It is technically referred to as ᴘᴏᴅᴏᴅᴇʀᴍᴀᴛɪᴛɪs and requires antibiotics, ᴘᴀɪɴ medications, a new cleaning plan for the cage, and often times dietary plans and bandaging to correct. It is very ᴘᴀɪɴful and your rabbit may limp or not want to walk if they have ʙᴜᴍʙʟᴇғᴏᴏᴛ.

7. Rabbit Teeth Problems

Rabbits have 28 teeth that help them grind their food. These teeth, unlike those of a dog or cat, grow continuously throughout the life of your rabbit. Without proper items to help keep these teeth trimmed (like hay and safe wood) the teeth can end up becoming overgrown and prevent your rabbit from being able to eat.

Molar teeth (the teeth in the back of the mouth) can grow and create a bridge over the tongue which can inhibit chewing and swallowing. Teeth that become this overgrown can cause your rabbit to ᴄʜʀᴏɴɪᴄ.

Incisors teeth (the front teeth) will grow and start curling into the cheeks or other parts of your rabbit’s mouth. This is very ᴘᴀɪɴful and can also cause your rabbit to stop eating.

ᴀʙsᴄᴇssed teeth can occur due to trauma or periodontal ᴅɪsᴇᴀsᴇ and are ᴘᴀɪɴful to your rabbit as well. These teeth need to be extracted in order to prevent the ɪɴꜰᴇᴄᴛion that is located around the tooth from spreading throughout your rabbit’s body.

8. Rabbit ɪʟᴇᴜs

ɪʟᴇᴜs is also known as GI stasis because it occurs when the normal peristalsis of the intestines stops. Food doesn’t get moved through your rabbit with ɪʟᴇᴜs so gas is formed and your rabbit doesn’t want to eat and stops defecating. This is a life-ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛᴇɴɪɴɢ problem and needs immediate attention as rabbits cannot live for more than 48-72 hours with ɪʟᴇᴜs left untreated. Syringe feeding green vegetable baby food and water must be immediately done and a visit to your veterinarian must be made for medications and potential fluid administration.

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