Now you have your pet rabbit at home, he’s got a lovely outdoor run, indoor areas and plenty of space to relax in the shade. You are starting to handle him regularly to get him used to being picked up, checked over and even groomed, which makes identifying when he is unwell much easier. But wait, can you catch diseases from your pet? And if so what signs should you be looking for?
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Rabbits like any pet can catch diseases and become unwell. Ones that can be passed between animals and humans are known as Zoonotic diseases. There are zoonotic diseases that come from various animals, such of which you may have heard of. But zoonotic diseases from rabbits are talked about far less. Humans that have a compromised immune system, are on chemotherapy or have certain chronic illnesses may be more at risk of contracting these diseases. We will discuss some of these below. And what to do if you think your rabbit is displaying signs of them.
This is not a worm as the name suggests. But actually a fungal infection that affects the skin of rabbits, other animals and humans. It can look like red ring type lesions with fur loss and scaly patches. This is often how it looks in humans too. It is highly infectious so strict hygiene is very important. It is transmitted by direct contact through the skin. If you are not sure if your rabbit has ringworm please seek veterinary advice. It can often be identified or suspected by an examination or testing.
Rabbits with Pasturella multocida (a bacterial infection) may not show any signs. Or may have respiratory signs such as breathing issues or nasal or eye discharge. Often rabbits may be considered “snuffly” when they are affected, as the bacteria lives in the mouth and nasal passages. In humans this bacteria can be transmitted through an infected bite and causes swelling of the area. Quite often, an abscess may form and lead to infection of the local area. If a bite from your rabbit occurs make sure it is kept clean. If it is not healing please seek medical attention. In general a rabbit bite is less likely to become infected compared to a cat bite and they tend to heal well.
E. cuniculi is an internal parasite that is common amongst rabbits with more than 50% suspected to have it and can cause various signs. It can cause eye problems, neurological problems or even gastrointestinal issues. It can affect humans but is unlikely too unless you have a compromised immune system or an illness making you predisposed.
Rabbits can carry fleas and other external parasites, which can usually be identified by your vet on a skin scrape or other skin testing. These can cause small bites in humans or mild skin reactions, but it is important to recognise when there is a problem with these and treat accordingly. A product licensed for use in rabbits is essential as some other products are toxic to them, please speak to your vet for further information.
Minimising the risks
The common way that these zoonotic diseases are spread is through direct contact, whether that is through handling your pet rabbit or it’s bedding/stools. It is important to recognise problems early and to contact your vet. Hygiene and good handling will reduce or even eliminate many problems. It is important that small children are aware to wash their hands after touching your pet rabbit to prevent any problems. #
If you notice yourself displaying any signs that you are concerned about, then we advise you to seek medical attention.