Rabbits, just like all other pets, are susceptible to parasites such as worms. Pinworms are the most common type of worm infecting our pet bunnies. Although we do quite commonly see patients suffering from tapeworm.
Table of contents
- How often should I worm my rabbit?
- Is there anything else we need to use preventative medicines for in rabbits?
- What should I look out for on the packaging?
- Can I do anything else to prevent my rabbit from getting worms?
- Can indoor rabbits get worms?
- What symptoms should I look out for if I suspect my rabbit has worms?
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How often should I worm my rabbit?
Because rabbits suffer from worms much less often than dogs and cats, we are trying to limit the amount we use worming products due to their negative impact on the environment. For these reasons, there is no set, regulated interval suggested to worm your pet rabbit. If you suspect your rabbit has worms, take them to your local veterinary practice for treatment. Commonly, this treatment will include a simple worming product and treating signs symptomatically. Although if your pet has stopped eating and is showing signs of systemic illness, the required treatment may be much more intense, including hospitalisation. Some worm burdens may need a prolonged period of treatment.
However, routine treatment for worms isn’t necessary or even beneficial in the vast majority of rabbits.
Is there anything else we need to use preventative medicines for in rabbits?
Historically, most vets would recommend treatment for E. cuniculi regularly (generally every 3-6 months). Many owners think of this as being “worming” Although actually, we’re using the drug for a very different purpose! However, increasingly, we’re avoiding this and using the medication in a much more targeted way. This is to minimise the use of medications that are unnecessary in most rabbits and that, most of the time, can have side effects.
The other issue is of course external parasites. And treatment against flystrike in the summer months is valuable, and essential if your rabbit is overweight, has dental or digestive disease, or has arthritis. Fleas and mites of course can cause problems at any time. So spot on treatments are often appropriate, especially if there is a flea infestation in the house.
What should I look out for on the packaging?
Before using any worming product, you should make sure you are aware of the product’s licensed use and active ingredients. Many products are not licensed for use in rabbits, mainly because they can be toxic. So never use a dog or cat wormer in a rabbit. And always check that the product is suitable for use in these more delicate pets!
You may need to weigh your bunny in order to give the correct, accurate dosage. If you struggle to do this at home, please take your rabbit to your local vets where they will be able to weigh them for you.
Can I do anything else to prevent my rabbit from getting worms?
There are many other things you can do to prevent your rabbit from getting worms, aside from medication (which as we’ve seen, isn’t usually appropriate). Preventing foxes (and if possible unwormed dogs and cats) from entering your garden helps to prevent them defecating in your garden. This is important because tapeworm is carried by other animals. Although it can not survive in the rabbit alone, it can cause cysts on their skin and liver. By picking up any faeces within your garden quickly, you reduce the risk of any infection spreading from their faeces into the ground; where your pet may consume eggs or larvae.
Related is the need to ensure any pets that have access to the same area are wormed. This mainly includes pet cats and dogs, although controlling whether other cats come onto your land is challenging.
Rotate the location of your rabbits’ enclosure within your garden to ensure they are not being exposed to the exact same pasture all the time. This helps to break the direct lifecycle of the pinworm which relies upon the rabbit eating the eggs they have passed in their faeces.
Cleaning your rabbits’ hutch and run thoroughly is essential in removing any eggs and worms from your rabbits’ environment. If your pet has a worm burden, worming products alone will usually not be sufficient in eliminating them. You will need to disinfect the entirety of your rabbits’ environment too.
Can indoor rabbits get worms?
Although it is less likely for indoor rabbits to get worms in comparison to outdoor rabbits, they can still catch worms.
What symptoms should I look out for if I suspect my rabbit has worms?
Rabbits with worms can show a myriad of symptoms; those caused by worms are not very specific to a parasitic burden. Because rabbits are prey animals, they mask any illness very well and do not display symptoms as openly as other species.
Less severe symptoms include itching, self-trauma, inflamed anus, bloating and diarrhoea.
More severe symptoms include anorexia (not eating), rectal prolapse, dehydration and lethargy.
If your pet is showing any clinical signs that may be related to worms, take your pet straight to the vets. These clinical signs are vague and worms may not be the primary cause of them. Most often, prognosis following a worm burden is good and monitoring using faecal microscopy can be sufficient in keeping the infestation under control. When handling your rabbit, wear gloves and ensure you clean your hands thoroughly before cooking or eating.
To conclude, worming your rabbit is not something we advise to do regularly. Although if you do suspect your rabbit has worms, you should seek veterinary attention immediately in order to get the condition under control.