The Pet Directory Small Animal Article - WORMS - ARE THEY A PROBLEMS FOR RABBITS?
The Truth About Feeding Your Pet Rabbit

Looking at when and if parasitic worms
are a problem in rabbits.

By Susan Batho


Many of us worry about worms in our pet rabbits. This article give us the facts about the types of worms rabbits can get, and what to do if our rabbit shows signs of worms.

Yes, your rabbit can have worms!

They are rare, but they do exist and can harm, or even kill our beloved pets,
especially those who have the freedom to graze and run outside during the day.
By all means, do not stop them from being rabbits and delighting in the sunshine
and freedom. But there are worms, and other parasites that rabbits can get and
denying their existence is putting them in potential danger.

Most domestic rabbits are raised on wire and are kept in individual cages or
hutches. Providing they have a regular cleaning regime, they seldom have problems. Also, house bunnies are even less likely to 'catch' worms but could have them in their tummy from when they were born. However, the outdoor bunny is prone to worms – round worms, pin worms, for instance, depending on their general health and who else shares the yard with them.

Rabbit Pet

Symptoms of worms in pet rabbits

What Are the Symptoms that your Bunny is Unwell?
Signs of worms in pet rabbits can include dramatically increased appetite, dull fur,
diarrhoea, cysts, and mucous or blood in the droppings. However, more often
than not, nothing will be noticed, even by the most careful owner, until the infestation has really taken hold. The first sign for me is a loss of condition in the
rabbit. You can feel this by running your hand along the backbone, and if your
bunny has a very healthy appetite, yet you can feel a pronounced backbone, and
its fur appears to be dull, then consider that there is possibly something wrong.
The vet can perform some simple tests to detect the actual presence of parasites.
Blood tests may show anaemia, x-rays or expert palpitation may show a bloated
stomach which is often a sign of a lack of digestive mobility.

Identifying rabbit parasites

If it is a Parasite, what could it be?

E. Cuniculi
This is a microscopic parasite that is believed to be spread by infected urine between mothers and babies and can live in infected areas for week, but having said that, I’ve had a random buck come down with it with no contact with a doe at
all. Symptoms can include:

  • Head tilt
  • Hind Limb weakness
  • Seizures
  • Blindness
  • Kidney Disease
    and this parasite can result in death.

Roundworms are pale white to beige in colour and are coiled like a spring. They grow to approximately 100mm in length and you may see them in your rabbit’s faeces. Rabbits pick up roundworms by eating the round worm larvae and the adult worm then develops inside the body with worms and eggs being passed out in faeces. These eggs then develop into larvae and the cycle starts again.

Tapeworms are white or pale in colour and resemble flat segments filled with moving eggs that look like grains of rice. You might see tapeworm segments in the rabbit’s faeces or near their anus. Rabbits are infected with tapeworm by swallowing fleas while grooming. Once inside the rabbit’s gut, the worm larvae carried by the flea develops into an adult worm that can grow to 5 metres in length.

Pinworms are fairly common in rabbits. Some areas seem to be very prone to them. I know that certain areas of the Blue Mountains has plagues of them every so often. If your rabbit has pinworms, be sure to wash up after treating the rabbits
or cleaning cages to make sure you don't transmit the eggs to other cages or even, in rare cases, to yourself or your family.

The first symptoms of a pinworm infestation are loss of weight or at least failure to gain properly. Pinworms are particularly dangerous for baby rabbits and can lead to "Waster Syndrome," which is a failure to thrive. Watch out for what looks like small grains of rice in the faeces. They are actually the pinworm's eggs.

How can we treat them?
Several vet websites I visited suggested that prevention is better than cure any
day and to make it a habit to “worm” your rabbit as you do your cat. They only
need a very small dose of a rabbit specific wormer every three months. It’s not
an expensive or heavy commitment for someone you love. Kitten strength
Revolution seems to be safe and effective for fleas, ear mites and intestinal
worms (with the exception of tape worms) in rabbits as well.

For breeders or show homes, invest in a litre bottle of panacur at about $57 a litre
bottle. It is given at the rate of 1.8 ml per one kilo body weight for rabbits for 7 days as a preventative dose or for 28 days if treating E. Cuniculi.
Guinea pigs are 0.2 mls daily for 10 days. I let my bunnies out each day – for an
hour or two or all day, depending on the bunny – and for me, this is a worthwhile
investment -- especially since they share the space with cats and various wild

The Panacur should be delivered by syringe to the mouth. I recommend a 2ml syringe for ease of delivery and reading the amounts. Always try to gently work the nozzle of the syringe to just behind the front teeth before delivering the dose. The quicker the better!

Preventative Measures:
In addition to treating your rabbit, you should observe some simple hygiene rules
(I’m sure we all follow these and more besides!)

  • Avoid collecting fresh greens from unknown areas where there are or could be wild rabbits and rodents
  • Regularly disinfect food bowls and water dispensers
  • Regularly disinfect tiered housing to minimise urine splash
  • Place hutches where exposure to wild rabbits and rodents is minimalised.

Some good plants in the garden for bunnies that are off-colour, or being treated
for parasites are dandelions and comfrey. Dandelion is rich in protein but poor in
fibre, and known for its curative powers. The sap stimulates the working of all
glands, including the milk glands of lactating does. The plant has both laxative
and astringent properties and regulates both diarrhoea and constipation. It's also
good for bladder infections, liver problems, osteoporosis, warts, swellings and
pneumonia. Comfrey is a digestive aid and helps with fur block and is one of the
best things you can give a bunny as it has many other uses. It should be given in
moderation as it can cause diarrhoea in excess.

Worms and parasites do exist, and in this coming season will be prevalent so it is
up to us, as responsible owners, to do our best to ensure a happy and healthy
co-existence between our furry friends and their environment.

Further reading:

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