E. Cuniculi is a common parasitic infection that can be found in 1 out of 2 domestic rabbits. Especially in Singapore where home/commercial breeding is poorly regulated, we won’t be surprised that every rabbit has been exposed. This parasite is spread through urine and blood and can affect the liver, kidney and central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It can cause a variety of clinical signs including eye abnormalities (uveitis, juvenile cataract), kidney disorders as well as neurological diseases (head tilt, weakness in legs, incontinence). Some of these conditions are dangerous and delayed treatment can be fatal.
As a rabbit owner, what should you do?
1) Provide a balanced diet, a clean environment and daily roaming (>2 hours) to keep your rabbit healthy.
2) Spend time with your rabbit to understand his appetite, energy level and be aware of any physical and/or behavioral change.
3) Once a year, bring your rabbit to a savvy vet for check up (~$30 for a healthy rabbit). We also recommend a blood test (~$50) to check the condition of the vital organs.
4) If your rabbit shows any clinical sign of E. cuniculi infection, they will recommend a titer test (~$250, 2 weeks turnover). Depending on condition, the vet may start treatment ahead of the titer results. This treatment is often a 28 days dose of fenbandazole (i.e. panacur).
5) If there are multiple rabbits living with the infected rabbit, all of them will need to be checked by the vet. For those that are clear, keep them in a separate space and do not cross-contaminate their litterboxes, bowls and toys.
6) After treatment, monitor your rabbit’s health with the vet to ensure he stays under control. Some rabbits may need to be on fenbandazole for life (5 days dose per month).
It is important to know that while many rabbits have been infected by E. Cuniculi, only a fraction will be affected. Typically, the signs are most obvious in older rabbits and those with compromised health (e.g. poorer immune, stress, neglected). It is very important for us to be vigilant to notice when things are not right. This is the type of disease we cannot prevent but we can manage. We hope this information can help you keep your rabbit healthy throughout its life.
Top right corner is our Bella, rescued from a breeding farm. Other photos were obtained from the internet)