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Rabbits/Best Treatment regimen for rabbit syphilis



The question I have is about the best antibiotic regimen for cure of rabbit syphilis.  I have had one of my does to the vet for 3 injections of Benacillin (150 mg/ml procaine penicillin, 150 mg / ml benzathine penicillin, 20 mg / ml procaine hydrochloride)    She has had 3 injections 4 days apart and the vet recommends another one in about 4 days time or one dose after the resolution of all symptoms.  I have another 10 rabbits that will need treatment and so the vet has given me the AB and syringes etc to give the treatment myself.  Whilst checking the web I note that a lot of people talk about this type of long acting antibiotic being given weekly.  So I am just wanting to get a second opinion on the most effective treatment regimen for the disease as lots of these bunnies are my daughters dearest pets and I am hoping that we can  ensure a cure of this disease.
Many thanks in anticipation.

ANSWER: Dear Ros,

I agree with your vet that dual-acting penicillin should be administered every 48 hours.  A week is too long between injections to maintain adequate tissue levels of the drug.  

Be sure to never inject anywhere but *under the skin*, and draw back on the plunger once the needle is in to be sure you have not hit a blood vessel.  Dual-acting penicillin is usually very effective at curing rabbit Treponema cuniculi, and I also agree with the vet to give another injection after all physical signs are gone.

Sounds like you have a good, savvy vet!


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

QUESTION: Thank you Dana,
That is such a relief you consider my vet savvy as so much that I have been reading says weekly shots.  So you suggest one every 48 hrs (instead of the one every 4 days) and continue until one dose after all signs have gone  how many shots would you expect that to be?!  AND if the bunnies are presently symptomless (but been exposed) then how many should I give??

My next question is that I have a 3 month old little bun that will have been exposed to the bacteria from her mum ( although presently no symptoms).  At what age do you suggest she may start treatment??
I also have a nursing doe with 3 kits that are 3 weeks old I have read that nursing does shouldn't be treated until after the kits have weaned - is this your view??  Many, many thanks for your time taken to reply.

Hi, Ros

Definitely do NOT treat the nursing doe with penicillin.  The drug will enter her milk ducts and the babies will get oral penicillin, which is deadly to rabbits.  So she cannot be treated until they are completely weaned and not drinking her milks *at all*.

Pen G/Benzathine does not have any adverse effects on growth, so fairly young rabbits can safely get it.  However, if the rabbits are together and could re-infect each other, then I would wait until *all* babies are weaned until you treat anyone, unless their condition is really bad.  If they are separated, then they can be treated any time, since the bacteria are transferred via physical contact.

We find that a treatment course lasting a week is generally enough to kill the Treponema.  That means four shots. Some vets like to go five shots, and that's fine, too.  

Please also see:

I hope this helps, and that your bunnies will all be well soon!



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:

Find a rabbit vet at for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.

RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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