Rabbit Diseases: Encephalitozoon Cuniculi

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Vet examining a rabbit for Encephalitozoon Cuniculi

Encephalitozoon cuniculi is otherwise known as e. cuniculi. It is a very small parasite which infects rabbits and other mammals and in some rare instances has also infected humans (with problems affecting their immune system). This disease attacks the central nervous system.

How Do Rabbits Catch E. Cuniculi?

Most rabbits suffering from e.cuniculi have caught it from their mother whilst in the nest. If a female rabbit has this disease she can pass it onto her babies via contaminated urine. Once a rabbit has been infected for one month, they will start producing spores of the virus, which they can easily pass onto other rabbits. The rabbit ingests contaminated spores (usually in food), and the disease is then absorbed and travels through to the brain and other internal organs.

Symptoms of Encaphalitozoon Cuniculi

Not all rabbits with this disease display symptoms. Many rabbits with e. cuniculi have a normal life However some do display more severe symptoms of the disease. Due to the affects of the disease on the central nervous system, the following symptoms can occur:

  • Dramatic head tilt
  • Severe weight loss due to kidney problems
  • Convulsions
  • Eye problems.
  • Loss of balance
  • Weakness of the back legs
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Fatality

Any of these problems could be an indication of e. cuniculi, however they could also be an indication of other problems, therefore veterinary advice should be obtained should any of these symptoms occur.

Is There Any Treatment For Encephalitozoon Cuniculi?

Possibly, however it is difficult to give a definite diagnosis of the disease. The antibodies of the disease can be detected by a simple blood test. However these tests cannot always tell if the rabbit has had the disease in the past and is now recovered, or if the rabbit currently has the disease.

Frequently the disease is diagnosed too late for treatment and fatality occurs. Over the last few year vets in the USA have been treating rabbits with e. cuniculi using fenbendazole or albendazole with good results, however these medications are not yet licensed in the United Kingdom.

Even though fenbendazole and albendazole can be effective in killing the e. cuiculi parasite, the affects that they have had on the central nervous system are irreversible. It is thought that weaning baby rabbits from their mother early can reduce the risk of the disease spreading.

If a rabbit displays any symptoms which may be an indication of e.cuniculi, please consult a vet immediately.

Image source: Bigstock.com

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