Sometimes called "inflated stomach disease", coccidiosis is extremely contagious in rabbits. Learn about the symptoms, causes and treatments here.
What is coccidiosis in rabbits?
Coccidiosis in rabbits is a parasitic illness caused by coccidian protozoa (or microscopic parasites). They either attack the liver or the intestinal system.
This illness mostly affects young rabbits aged from 5-10 weeks and can cause death in a small amount of time. Adult rabbits are less sensitive to the parasite's effects.
What are the symptoms of coccidiosis in rabbits?
Coccidiosis can present itself in two forms:
This is the more serious form of coccidiosis, and can cause rapid death in the infected animal.
At first, the animal will cease growing and weight loss will commence rapidly. Haemorrhagic diarrhoea will follow shortly after, often accompanied by a swelling of the abdomen.
Symptoms are can be difficult to detect in the first seven days of infection as they are not especially noticeable. However, after around the 10th day, the intensity of symptoms increases dramatically. Generally, the illness' cycle is around 15 days, however the rabbit may die sooner than this.
Though rare, this form of coccidiosis causes the same symptoms as intestinal coccidiosis. However, it is even harder to detect.
It is usually after the death of the animal, during the autopsy, that the disease is identified. In this case, the liver is overrun with an infecting liquid containing the eggs of the coccidiosis.
What are the causes of coccidiosis?
A rabbit can contract coccidiosis by ingesting the excrements of another contaminated rabbit. The infected rabbit ejects the parasite's eggs, which is then passed on into the digestive system of the disease-free animal.
The development of coccidiosis can be aggravated by stress, cold and humidity.
How to treat coccidiosis
Treatment against coccidiosis is essentially via an anti-coccidian medicine. However, the medicine treats the symptoms of the illness only, meaning relapse is not uncommon.
For these reasons, prevention of the disease is of utmost importance. It is very important to make sure that your rabbit is kept clean by removing excrement daily. You should also make sure that their environment in which they live is kept at the right temperature and humidity levels.
Interaction with other rabbits should be done with full knowledge of the animal's condition, and any concerns about contamination with your animal/s should be queried with your vet immediately.
Has your rabbit ever suffered from coccidiosis?