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Rabbits/rabbit died of clostridium


Last week i had a guinnea pig die mysterioulsly, then 5 days laster the rabbit that lived with her also died very quickly. As i have 6 more rabbits i had an autopsy done and found that he had clostridium bacteria that lead to septicemia.  
I have bleached all the housing and the vet give me a powder cleaner that you mix with water, also i have a weeks supply of baytril injections to give them.  Are the other rabbits at risk?  How is clostridium spread and is it safe for me to open up the area where the rabbit died now it has been cleaned in this way?
Many thanks

ANSWER: Hi Tania:

I'm sorry to hear of the passing of your guinea pig and bunny.  I know how difficult of an experience it is.  You were smart in having the necropsy done to learn the cause of death so you can keep your remaining rabbits healthy.

Even though guinea pigs and rabbits are not the same species (guinea pigs are mammals and rabbits are lagomorphs); Clostridium can be spread cross species (mammal to lagomorph) so your concern is valid.

The Cl. bacterium is spread through direct contact (animal to animal) or though sharing the same living environment.  If your guinea pig shared the same cage as your rabbits, grazed on the same grassy area, or ate or drank from the same bowls, then your rabbits will have the bacterial infection as well.  It's highly contagious.  The most common way it is spread is through feces; if any of your rabbits walked on the area where your guinea pig defecated, itís almost certain the rabbit would become infected and once one becomes infected, they rest follow quickly.

Bleaching the cages, bowls, and equipment is a great start.  If your rabbits have a ground area where they play or graze, you'll need to avoid that area for a while. The Cl. bacteria can live in the soil for years.  However, if you live in a climate which experiences a deep freeze in the winter - that will kill them off.  You can get a large bottle of white vinegar and saturate the area which will also kill any remaining bacteria on the ground.

Baytril is a very strong antibiotic and will take care of the infection.  However, Baytril should NEVER (ever) be given without giving a probiotic at the same time.  Something like bene-bac, pro-bios, acid-pak 4-way are all good choices.  Baytril kills ALL bacteria in the digestive system, good and bad and unless you reintroduce good bacteria through a quality probiotic, the rabbits will develop severe diarrhea and die from cecal dysbiosis. Rabbits have a very sensitive digestive system and if the quantity of healthy bacteria gets reduced, they go down hill fast. Any rabbit savvy vet knows that a rabbit cannot have antibiotics without probiotics so Iím guessing you just forgot to mention that in your post.  Be sure to continue the probiotics for at least 10 days after you stop the antibiotics.

Just to summarize:

Bleach EVERYTHING (as you already did ☺) - including feed scoops and tools.
Do not let any of the rabbits graze or walk on the area that the guinea pig had walked on.
Continue the course of Baytril plus give a STRONG dose of probiotics with every Baytril dose and continue the probiotics for at least 10 days after the antibiotics are stopped.
Even with probiotics, the Baytril is going to disrupt the healthy gut flora so they will need extra fiber for a while.  Give them all they can eat of timothy hay; first or second cut.  Be sure itís not alfalfa hay; alfalfa hay would worsen the condition.

Since rabbits are prolific groomers, you'll also need to clean all the rabbits to make sure they don't lick off and ingest any of the Cl. bacteria that may be living on them; especially their feet.  Those bad bacteria can live quite a long time between the toes.
If your rabbits are used to baths, then bathe each one as you normally do.  If not, then purchase a container of unscented baby-wipes and give each rabbit a good wipe down from head to toe and pay special attention to their feet especially between the toes.

Following all these steps should make sure the rest of your herd stays healthy.

Now that you have a successful treatment plan, the question is have you identified the cause/source of the original clostridium bacteria? That's a big part of the long-term plan to be sure it doesn't return.

Can you tell me exactly what they are eating (feed brand and formula) and how much protein and fiber is in the feed.  Also - do they get any other foods (greens, treats, etc).
Quite often a diet too high in protein without adequate fiber is the culprit.  
A diet that includes watery leafy vegetables can also cause the bacterial overgrowth.  Things such as celery, lettuce, etc.  

I'd like to help you identify the cause so you can avoid this difficult situation from happening again.  Lets start by looking at the diet and we can go forward from their.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Many thanks for your reply.  I have a large area with both inside and outside space which is all concrete, i threw away all of the tools and litter trays and got new, and bleached and used the powder liquid on all the areas which couldn-t be replaced.  At the moment, *touching wood* all of the other rabbits are fine!  

I have always fed my rabbits a quality feed and also every day they get fresh greens of cabbage, carrot, cucumber and celery.  I live in Spain so the weather is quite hot at times so they do eat more of the celery and cucumber in the Summer months!  Also, i have found the best rabbit savvy vet around but as you can probably appreciate they are not as savvy as other countries!  And of course they have free access to water and hay.

I have kept rabbits and guinnea pigs for over 20 years so this has been a bit of a shock to me.  She was my last guinnea pig and i won-t be mixing any more with my rabbits.  She was always a little bit of a runt if you excuse the term and always seemed to have a snuffle or something so maybe the problem came from her all along.  Even though she had a good quality of life!

Thankyou to you


It sounds like you've taken all the correct steps in sanitizing the environment.  
Concrete is very porous and bacteria can live deep within the pores.  You can apply a strong bleach/water mix to the concrete and allow it to air dry.  Bleach dries as harmless salt crystals so there's no need to rinse it off; just keep the bunnies away while its wet.

As long as the others are getting a probiotic dose with each antibiotic dose they should all be fine.

Mixing guinea pigs and rabbits is always risky because even though they aren't the same species, they can transmit illnesses to one another.  Guinea pigs are mammals and rabbits are lagomorphs.  An infection that might be easily treated in a mammal might be disastrous to a lagomorph.

Good luck with your herd and let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.



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Lisa L.


I was introduced to meat rabbits at the age of 3. Began working with them on my own at the age of 8 and started my own large commercial rabbitry at the age of 20. I'm 46 now and for the past 26 years I have owned a large herd of meat rabbits and have become well known as the turn-to person whenever a problem arrises.

Member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association. Member of the Rabbit Industry Council. Member of the Yahoo - Meat Rabbits Group. Member of the American Council of Animal Naturopathy. Administrators of the FaceBook "Rabbit's as meat" group. Owner of Yahoo - Raising Meat Rabbit's for maximum yield group

Yahoo Meat Rabbits Group. American Council of Animal Naturopathy FaceBook "Rabbit's as meat" group. Owner of Yahoo - Raising Meat Rabbit's for maximum yield group

There is no formal training for raising rabbits; its all hands on. I have had a steady rabbit breeding operation for 24 years and have read every book there is on raising rabbits for meat. Additionally, I am a member of several rabbit groups and associations as listed below.

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None - there are none in this field.

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I have helped countless people over the past several decades. These have been people I knew personally or those referred to me by one of the many rabbit organizations I belong to.

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