It’s time to continue our rabbit health information series. This week we turn our focus to E.cuniculi which is a disease in rabbits leading to mobility and balance issues.
What is E.cuniculi?
E.cuniculi or Encephalitozoon cuniculi is a very small parasite which can affect a rabbit’s brain or kidneys. Rabbits may carry the parasite without any symptoms whereas others might be severely affected.
Who does it affect?
Any rabbit has the potential to be infected from their mother but it can also be passed on when a rabbit is mixed with an infected new rabbit or by sharing grazing.
Is it serious?
E.cuniculi can be serious in some cases. Usual signs are a loss of balance, head tilt and flickering eyes from side to side. Other symptoms may include paralysis, cataracts, deafness, seizures, behavioural changes or increased drinking or urinating due to kidney failure. The main reason that the disease can be fatal in rabbits is due to secondary issues such as disorientation leading to not eating or not passing faeces.
It is not easy to test for the disease in rabbits and treatment is mainly started when symptoms are seen. Many rabbits may be exposed to the parasite but this does not always mean that the rabbit will show symptoms of the disease. Bloods can show exposure but will not alone confirm the disease. Biopsy of affected tissues is also possible.
Is there any treatment?
Treatment of E.cuniculi consists of a 28 day course of fenbendazole which is a worming product for rabbits given as an oral paste. Symptoms may improve but will not always completely resolve and affected rabbits may be left with a mild head tilt. If symptoms do not improve, euthanasia may need to be considered on welfare grounds.
What can I do to prevent it?
Routine worming treatments in rabbits are not recommended, unlike our other species. Instead we recommend treating when there are symptoms or discussing specific worming treatment with your vet when there may be a higher risk period.
Before Treatment… Nancy with a severe head tilt leading to difficult eating, drinking and moving.
After 28 days of Treatment… Nancy will always have a slight head tilt but can live a normal happy life.
Next week, we discuss Myxomatosis. Luckily we don’t see this as much nowadays due to routine vaccination but it’s a rabbit disease to know about and hopefully avoid in your pets.