Internal Diseases

Mucoid enteritis is a disease of young rabbits, just beyond weaning age (7-14 weeks). Mortality is common. One of the biggest killers of rabbits, pasteurellosis is the disease of overcrowded rabbitries and is rarely seen in house rabbits. It is a very contagious disease affecting rabbits of all ages. Good sanitation practices and high quality diet will help to protect your rabbits from these life-threatening diseases.

Mucoid Enteritis

Mucoid enteritis affects rabbits of 7-14 weeks of age. Pasteurellosis is a very contagious disease affecting rabbits of all ages. The exact cause of mucoid enteritis is unknown, but it is similar to that of weaning enteritis. Recent works suggest that a dysautonomia (abnormal functioning of the autonomic nervous system, equivalent to "grass sickness" in horses) may be responsible for this disease. It is caused by changes of cecal pH that are associated with disruption of the normal cecal flora (portion of large intestine). In up to 60% of cases there may be an accompanying pneumonia. Death is primarily due to dehydration. In older rabbits an enteritis associated with mucus production is more likely to be part of the "enteritis complex" rather than classic "mucoid" enteritis and mortality is lower. Mucoid enteritis is rarely seen in rabbitries that feed a high fiber diet and avoid excess of grains, proteins and fats.

Clinical signs include loss of appetite, lethargy, weight loss, diarrhea, excessive thirst, possible gritting and grinding of teeth, rough coat, bloat (sloshing belly), constipation and passing of jelly-like mucoid material from the bowels. Great pain is exhibited through sitting humped up, sometimes over the water crock and grinding of teeth. Temperature is lower than normal.

Wild baby rabbit

Treatment includes fluid replacement either by injection under skin or orally with an electrolyte solution such as Lectade. Withholding solid food for 24 hours is usually recommended, then feeding stemmy alfalfa hay or similar roughage instead of pellets. Vegetable baby food can be given by syringe or orally. Drugs such as Metoclopramide and Cisapride are sometimes given.

Prevention of mucoid enteritis is achieved by providing a high-fiber diet and a gradual introduction to the pelleted ration at weaning. A probiotic such as Avipro can be dissolved in the drinking water at this vulnerable time.


Common signs include white or yellow nasal discharge, sneezing, and matting inside front legs. It is caused by the Pasteurella multocida bacterium, which is normally in balance within the body of a healthy rabbit. When the balance is upset through extreme stress, poor management or excessive exposure to the disease, the bacteria run rampant throughout the body. The disease sometimes results in pneumonia.

Pasteurellosis can manifest itself in many ways, such as metritis (infection of the uterus), orchitis (infection of the testicles), mastitis (infection of the mammary glands), conjunctivitis (infection of the eye), sinusitis or snuffles (infection of the sinuses), inner ear infection causing "head tilt", tooth root abscesses and skin abscesses.

There is no such thing as common cold in rabbits. Pasteurellosis is a very contagious bacterial disease, and very few rabbits are cured. It grows like a cancer and is resistant to most antibiotics. Antibiotics are frequently needed to stabilize infected rabbits for as long as 6 months or even 1 year. Usually medications will curb the disease temporarily, but signs will reappear under stressful conditions such as transport or extreme weather changes. Supportive treatment includes fluids, vitamin C and constant environmental temperature of about 60°F.

New stock coming into the rabbitry or rabbits coming back from shows should be placed in a quarantine section downwind and away from the rabbitry for 35 days. With regard of the disease, there are some animals that have the clinical signs, and some that are carriers without any signs. Good diet is very important: quality hay and fresh greens will protect against infection by improving the rabbit's immune system.


By screening rabbits with enterocolitis or enteritis complex and asymptomatic rabbits, a novel astrovirus was identified. Similar viruses were identified from several mammalian and avian species including bats and aquatic mammals. AstV infection is associated with gastroenteritis in most animal species and humans. AstVs are regarded as the second or third most common cause of viral diarrhea in children. Avian AstVs have also been associated with extraintestinal diseases, such as nephritis in chickens and hepatitis in ducks. Even more notably, recently AstVs have been detected in the nervous tissues of minks with shaking disease and in the central nervous system of a child with encephalitis.


  1. Astroviruses in Rabbits


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