Rabbits seem robust – but are sensitive to diseases. Some of these diseases can be prevented with good husbandry. When the animals are not well, they show it mainly by becoming apathetic. As a matter of principle, owners should take their rabbit to the vet if it behaves strangely. The most common diseases at a glance:
1. Dental problems
They are among the most common diseases that plague rabbits. Often the wrong food is to blame, says astrid behr from the federal association of practicing veterinarians in frankfurt, germany. In rabbits, the teeth continue to grow. "Especially grass, hay and herbs make the teeth rub off." many keepers feed their animals with concentrated feed made from cereal pellets, which is not sufficient for this purpose. Then the teeth become too long and injure the mouth. Dental problems can be recognized by the fact that the animals do not eat anymore. "This leads to dangerous intestinal problems in rabbits", warns behr. Rabbits digest by constantly feeding food into their intestines. If the animals don't eat, they can't digest – and that can quickly become life-threatening. In such a case, one should immediately go to the vet.
2. Maggot infestation
Infestation with fly maggots occurs mainly in summer. It can occur in unfavorable conditions but also at other times of the year. Flies lay their eggs on the skin of animals contaminated with feces. The maggots bore into the body and eat the rabbit formally from the inside. "Such animals can only be saved if the infestation is detected at a very early stage," said, warns behr. One cause of maggot infestation is poor husbandry: "if the animals are given the wrong food and no exercise, they quickly become obese and unclean", explains rabbit expert behr.
Certain pathogens can cause snuffles in rabbits. "The main signs of a rabbit cold are sneezing attacks, watery eyes and a lot of saliva", says anja schade, second chairwoman of the rabbit protection association in taunusstein, hesse. With such an animal one should go in any case to the veterinary surgeon and let it be treated with antibiotics. The best prevention is good husbandry, where the animals get plenty of fresh air and the right food. In addition, the toilet area should be cleaned regularly, because the urine of the animals contains ammonia, which additionally irritates the respiratory tract.
4. Wryneck disease
The so-called torticollis disease is caused by the parasite E. Cuniculi caused. It has its name because affected animals tend to hold their heads at an angle. The disease breaks out mainly when the animals are exposed to stress. The pathogen attacks the nervous system and causes lameness, which is why the animals hold their heads up. "Sometimes a treatment with vitamin B and a lot of rest helps the affected animals", says schade.
5. RHD and myxomatosis
Max Bastian from the friedrich-loeffler-institute in greifswald points out that only vaccinations protect rabbits against certain diseases that otherwise kill them in almost all cases. These diseases include myxomatosis and RHD, also known as chinasellosis.
For some time now, an aggressive RHD variant called RHDV-2 has been circulating in germany. A vaccine against the disease has been licensed in germany since march.