Rabbit Friday #4 – Common Illnesses

Hello Everyone, welcome to Rabbit Friday #4!

Once again this is brought to you by Rachel, from mykidhaspaws.org, and myself!

Today’s topic will focus primarily on common health issues in rabbits. According to the Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health, the most common diseases for rabbits include skin disorders, respiratory infections, and digestive problems (which we touched on a bit last week).

Rabbits can have digestive disorders than are noninfectious (such as hairballs) or infectious.

Hairballs are obviously caused by increase hair chewing and hair consumption. What would cause rabbits to start chewing more of their hair? Well, the answer is low fiber content in their food (Merck/Merial 2007). Remember how last Friday we talked about how important hay was to a rabbit’s diet? This is a prime example. Hay provides the fiber content rabbits need, and if they don’t get that, they may start hair chewing which can lead to hairballs so large that they obstruct their digestive tracts (Merck/Merial 2007). A blockage will cause your rabbit to start loosing his/her appetite, and they can loose so much weight that they could die within 3-4 weeks (Merck/Merial 2007). Diagnosing the hairball can be a challenge due to hair being so hard to spot on X-ray (Merck/Merial 2007).Therefore, I want to reiterate how important hay is to a rabbit’s diet.


Description: rapidly developing and severe diarrhea. Primarily seen in young rabbits.

Signs: Owners should keep an eye out for lack of energy, a poor coat quality and staining around their hind quarters. Can cause death within 48 hours.This disease is seen less often in rabbits who are fed a high fiber (hay) diet. (Are you noticing a pattern?)

Treatment: Supportive fluid treatment (Merck/Merial 2007).

Mucoid Enteritis:

Description: diarrheal disease that causes inflammation in the large and small intestine. This is coupled with mucous build up in the intestine.

Signs: Mucous covered droppings, loss of appetite, lethargy, dehydration and sometimes a distended abdomen. Recent diet changes and extremely low or extremely high fiber diets are some of the contributors to this disease.

Treatment: Intense fluid treatment, an enema, and antibiotics (Merck/Merial 2007)


Description: nose infections, sinusitis, ear infections, conjunctivitis, pneumonia, and generalized infection of the blood, among other things.

Signs: Dizziness, disorientation, shortness of breath, excess salivation, head tilt (another dangerous disease), shaking of the head, abscess of the skin, and staining of front paws due to discharge collected when grooming

Treatment: Hydration, nutrition, warmth, and hygiene (keeping the nostrils clean) are of primary importance. Antibiotics and antimicrobials will be prescribed for eliminating the bacterial infection, and pain medications or light sedatives may be prescribed while your rabbit recovers (PetMD).

Ear, Fur, or Skin Mites:

Description: parasites that live–and sometimes burrow into– on the skin, and cause irritation. Occurs mostly in an unclean environment. (Can occur in a healthy rabbit too, so always be on the look out!) (rabbit.org)

Signs: Mild to severe flaking of the skin, patchy hair loss, and gray/brown to reddish crusts in ear canal.

Treatment: Do not use any Frontline products on rabbits or bathe rabbits–both could kill them! As with any of the above illnesses, seek vet attention ASAP! According to mybunny.org, avermectins such as ivermectin and selamectin are medications you need from your vet to treat mites.


  1. This is very interesting. I didn’t know that rabbits got hairballs. It’s also good to note that Frontline products should not be used on a rabbit. I hope people will get educated before they buy that cute little pet of any kind.

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