QUESTION: Hello! Thank you for taking the time to help answer my question!
I have been raising rabbits for almost 4 years now. We participate in about 3 shows a year and have approx. 20 litters per year.
I have 100% wire cages that are on 2x4 wood frames (off the ground). All rabbits are housed separately except for at breeding and young fryers. But there are never more than 3 rabbits per cage, and usually for just a short time at that.
My problem, I believe, is Coccidiosis. When a litter is weaned - one bunny at a time suddenly shows sign of bloat and lethargy. Usually around 8-10weeks of age. One at a time, the bunnies show symptoms and die. And every couple of months I have an adult rabbit also show symptoms, but slightly different. The adults first show abnormal behavior by not being friendly, sulking in the corner, and not coming to meet me when I bring feed to their cage. Over the next 2-3 days, they dramatically lose weight and die.
I did some research and assumed it was cocci based on what I have read. I have treated ALL rabbits with terramycin and probios in their water daily for 1 week each month. I have also given an injection of Liquimycin x3days if I notice a rabbit acting questionable. I have also added alfalfa cubes as a treat and a hay-stretcher pellet as a supplement to their pellet rabbit feed. (which they do not like) They all have wood block for chewing and a wood nest box in their cage (even bucks). I use an all natural disinfectant from Melaleuca Wellness Company to spray the corners of the cages where the wire meets the wood frames. The barn has cement floor which is shoveled and swept clean 2x a week - except in winter because it gets so cold here that it freezes too fast and makes cleaning impossible.
Even with antibiotics, probiotics, and good housekeeping I have seen deaths. What am I missing?
I do not have any vets in my area that even treat rabbits. My horse vet has been some help, but what I have tried has failed. With litters due in March, I want to get a jump on this problem. What is your opinion on diagnosis/treatment? Thank you!
ANSWER: Hi Kristine,
Sounds like you have a serious problem,I will do my best to offer some help.
how large are your cages? is the food or hay ever spoiled or moldy,,even the smallest spore of bacteria or mold can be disastrous for a herd of rabbits. Is there sneezing or any discharge from nostrils or eyes? Is the water clean,and changed daily? after weaning,is the feeding gradual to the pellets?(start feeding pellets when they are still feeding from the doe). is there sufficient ventilation in the building? What are the heat sources during the cold months?
Please answer these questions,and I may be of some more help.
I advise strongly against any medications for rabbits unless it's absolutely life and death. Meds can cause so many internal upsets and problems within their system,I use only natural remedies to treat my rabbits...maybe you can find a more natural source for them as well...
A healthy rabbit will never need any medication throughout it's entire life. We need to get to the root of the problem,then go from there,,
I also recommend separating all or any animal that may show signs of having cocci..If it is in fact that disease,then the risk of spreading is high. If the pregnant doe's have it,and are infected,they will surely pass it on to their young. Extreme hygiene is the #1 factor and needs to be practiced.
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QUESTION: Thank you for helping, I have answered your additional questions below:
How large are your cages?
Single rabbit cages are 24"x32"x24"tall. Cages housing 2-3 weanlings are each 36"x36"x24"tall. The weanlings are sold around 10weeks, those that are kept are moved into their own cage. (I have mini rex.)
Is the food or hay ever spoiled or moldy,,even the smallest spore of bacteria or mold can be disastrous for a herd of rabbits.
No, all my hay is in pellet or mini cube form and kept in dry metal feed barrels with lids. Feed does not set out at all. I buy feed on a weekly basis so that it does not sit in any type of storage prior to feeding. I also have horses, so I am very conscience of mold in my feed.
Is there sneezing or any discharge from nostrils or eyes?
No. I have the occasional sneezer in summer, but my rabbit barn is actually a remodeled corn crib. So it does get a breeze through the slatted walls and this stirs up dust sometimes.
Is the water clean,and changed daily?
Yes, I water them by hand daily. I do not have any type of water storage system. I fill 5gallon buckets from my outdoor faucet every day, then use a cup to fill each rabbit's water bowl from the 5gallon bucket. All water bowls are dumped before refilling. No old water is reused.
After weaning,is the feeding gradual to the pellets?(start feeding pellets when they are still feeding from the doe).
Yes, I leave the babies with the mother until they are eating her pellets consistently. They usually venture out of the nest box at 2weeks and start nibbling pellets pretty quickly. I remove the nest box at week 3-4 depending on how the babies are doing. By week 5 they are probably fully weaned, but I leave them with the doe until week 6-8 depending on their size, eating habits, and how many are in one cage. If a doe has several kits, I will either move them to one of my bigger cages, or I do have a couple of does who will take another doe's babies.
Is there sufficient ventilation in the building? What are the heat sources during the cold months?
As I mentioned, my barn is a remodeled corn crib. So the walls have about 1/2-3/4" gaps between each piece of wood siding. This allows a breeze in summer and I also have 2 fans in the breezeway. I tarp the walls in the winter. I do not have heat in the building, but as long as I block the wind, they seem to be more content in the cold months than in the summer. I am saving to have insulation sheets and vinyl siding put on the exterior this summer. Each rabbit has their own wood next box from Oct-March which has 3 1/2 sides with a full top and solid bottom.
As far as symptoms, it seems to be sporadic. I have only had one litter in 4 years that was wholly affected. I lost every kit but 1, and it was at age 10weeks that they started showing symptoms. All were dead within 4 days, while being treated with terramycin and probios. Other losses have been one rabbit at a time, but all the same symptoms.
I have just recently read about giving organic apple cider vinegar in their water. I have stopped using terramycin and have started using the ACV this last week. (I lost one adult doe this week before the change.) This is my 1st loss since Sept, but still - all the same symptoms. This doe was 2nd generation and had never been out of my barn or with any rabbit other than litter mates.
I am at such a frustrated point :(
Thank you so much for your help!
Well,you absolutely know what you're doing! I am impressed with your system and knowledge on the right way of raising rabbits :)
I agree with the building being ventilated and lot's of fresh air coming in..I think your set up is perfect.
The weaning and feed is perfect to,,you're doing everything right,so I understand your frustration.
I guess doing your best to keep them separated,,till you know the illness is gone,might be your only option. Until you know what you're dealing with for certain,,and bring a fecal test to your closest veterinarian..
Is there diarrhea in the ill ones who have died?