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Diseases caused by bacteria

Pasteurellosis (Snuffles, pneumonia)

The Pasteurella species cause various diseases in rabbits. The most common organisms are Pasteurella haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida. Pasteurella haemolytica infection in rabbits is associated with chronic rhinitis (colds), pneumonia or death. Pasteurella multocida causes chronic rhinitis, colds, snuffles, pneumonia, peritonitis and septicemia.

Transmission: Pasteurella organisms are found in the environment and in mucous membranes of healthy animals particularly in the respiratory tract mucosa. There are some predisposing factors involved with susceptibility of Pasteurella infection in rabbits including avitaminosis, inadequate diet, poor husbandry and hygiene, fungal and parasitic infections. The most common source of infection is contact with other infected rabbits and usually, an animal is infected through the respiratory tract. The organism can also be spread from contaminated equipment and cages.

Antemortem findings:

Chronic rhinitis (Colds):

  1. Sneezing
  2. Clear, watery or thick-yellow nasal discharge
  3. Soiled discoloured fur on the inner side of the front legs
  4. Muzzle covered with discharge

Rabbits usually do not recover from this infection and may have periodic flare-ups of the cold. The colds may lead to classically described snuffles and further to pneumonia.

Snuffles (Contagious catarrh): This is a chronic and destructive form of cold in rabbits.

  1. Frequent “snuffles” and forceful loud sneezing in rabbits
  2. Mucoid to cream coloured purulent nasal discharge
  3. Purulent conjunctivitis and cloudy eyes
  4. Death due to weakness and secondary pneumonia or septicemic infection


  1. Elevated temperature
  2. Dullness and noisy forceful breathing
  3. Bluish ears and eyes
  4. Death anywhere from 12 hours to 4 days. The survivors may be stunted.


  1. High temperature
  2. Fast and shallow breathing
  3. Reluctance to move due to sore abdomen


  1. A dead rabbit may be the first sign
  2. Extreme weakness and high temperature
  3. Difficult (heavy) breathing
  4. Bluish discoloration of the ears and skin
  5. Abortion in breeding does


  1. Abscesses on the neck, dewlaps, ribs and back
  2. Abscesses in the mammary gland of a doe

Eye and middle ear infection:

  1. Partial or complete blindness
  2. Pronounced head tilt (may fall over easily)
  3. Inability to right themselves

Mastitis: Swollen, bluish glands in lactating does. Ulceration and sloughing may occur with discharge of pus from diseased tissue.


  1. White discharge from the vulva
  2. Abortion with poor breeding success

Arthritis: Enlarged, painful swollen joints

Postmortem findings:

Snuffles: Inflammation and necrosis of nasal passages which contain mucoid to white purulent material


  1. Consolidated inflamed area in the lungs. Deep red, sharply demarcated lung lesion and whitish purulent material in the bronchi
  2. Cheesy material (fibrin) on the pleura
  3. Inflammation of the pericardium and trachea
  4. Death caused by inflammation of pleura and collapsed lungs


  1. Yellow-white deposits (fibrin) on the peritoneum and abdominal cavity (Fig. 211)
  2. Abdominal organs adherent to the peritoneum and with one another


  1. Haemorrhages on body fat and heart muscles
  2. Enlarged body organs
  3. Bluish discoloration of body tissues

Abscesses: Walled off abscesses containing white creamy cheesy pus.

Eye and middle ear infection:

  1. Normal eye structure is obliterated by white or yellow puss
  2. White pus in one or both middle ears with rare extension to the brain

Mastitis: Swollen mammary gland with red to blue discoloration and congestion. White abscesses may be observed in the gland.

Metritis: Distended uterus contains white pus.

Arthritis: Cloudy fluid and pus present in the leg joints

fig 211

Fig. 211: Pasteurellosis. Yellowish-white fibrinous deposits in the abdominal cavity.

Judgement : Carcass of the animal is condemned.

A mild form of the disease showing colds, snuffles, middle ear infection, mastitis or metritis, which do not affect the wholesomeness of the meat or cause systemic changes, may have a favourable judgement of the carcass. A few well off abscesses may also render meat fit for human consumption although the carcass may be judged inferior due to mutilation caused by removing of abscesses. Consumer should be made aware of this defect by the controlling authority.

Differential diagnosis : Salmonellosis and coccidiosis. Bacteria such as E. coli, Pseudomonas, Listeria and Proteus may cause metritis in rabbits. Staphylococcus aureus has been cultured from mastitis, metritis and arthritis cases. Staphylococcus and Bordetella have been isolated from the respiratory lesions and Streptococcus spp and Actinomyces pyogenes from abscesses.

Parasitic diseases

Diseases caused by helminths

Tape worm larvae in rabbits

Tape worm infection in rabbits (intermediate host) and dogs and cats (definitive host) is relatively harmless. However, in its severe form may cause chronic inflammation of the intestine, emaciation or intestinal obstruction. Infection in rabbits is of greater importance because the larval stages of the parasite develop in different organs and the musculature and often cause decreased food utilization and wasting of the host. The carcass or portion of the carcass may also be unfit for human consumption in severe cases which further contributes to the economic loss.

Cysticercus pisiformis is the cystic stage of Taenia pisiformis which occurs in dogs and rarely in cats. The larval stage develops in rodents, particularly rabbit and hare. The mature larvae are found in the peritoneal cavity and frequently in the mesentery of rabbits (Fig. 212). The cysts are the size of a pea, hence the name C. pisiformis. They are filled with clear fluid in early stages. There is formation of pus in older lesions.

fig 212

Fig. 212: Tapeworm larvae in rabbits. Cysticercus pisiformis in the mesentery of rabbit.

Cysticercus fasciolaris is the cystic stage of Taenia taeniaeformis, known as the cat tapeworm. This parasite can be recognized by the lack of a neck and the bell-shaped posterior segments. The intermediate host are the rabbit, rat, mouse and other rodents. Cysticercus fasciolaris is 2.5 cm long and develops in the liver.

Coenurus serialis is the intermediate stage of Taenia serialis, a tapeworm of the dog and fox. Coenurus serialis is almost fatal to hares, rabbits and other related rodents. It is passed into the connective tissue of the lumbar muscles, hind leg muscles and rarely into the jaw muscles. Coenurus serialis may also occur accidentally in the brain and muscle tissue of humans. The mature cyst in rabbits is ovoid or round, approximately 5 cm in diameter and has scolices the size of a rice grain. It may have as many as forty scolices. Sometimes these Coenuri behave like hydatids by budding off new cysts internally or externally. These internal cysts are frequently fertile. The external cysts are attached by stalks and are often sterile. They resemble a bunch of grapes.

Judgement: Rabbit carcases with extensive Cysticercus pisiformis infestation associated with cheesy material in older lesions and accompanied with emaciation are condemned. Slight or moderate infestation in which cysts contain straw coloured fluid, may have a favourable judgement. In Coenurus serialis infestation, the rabbit carcass is approved if only few cysts are present in the musculature. In extensive infestation the carcass is condemned.

Diseases caused by protozoa


Coccidiosis is the most common parasitic disease of rabbits which occurs in hepatic and intestinal forms. Liver coccidiosis is caused by Eimeria stiedae and intestinal coccidiosis by E. magna, E. perforans and E. irresidua.

Transmission: Faecal contamination of water and food containing oocysts. Humid, dirty and overcrowded rabbit houses predispose rabbits to the infection.

Antemortem findings:

  1. Loss of appetite and emaciation
  2. Anaemia
  3. Diarrhoea in terminal stage
  4. Dry fur, pot belly and death

Postmortem findings:

  1. Small greyish white nodules in the liver in E. stiedae infections (Fig. 213)
  2. Older lesions coalesce and form cheesy masses
  3. In intestinal coccidiosis the contents of the intestine are soft and the lesions pinhead size.
  4. Greyish white flakes in the intestinal wall
  5. Thickened and pale intestinal wall in more advanced cases
  6. Oocysts present in the intestinal content

Judgement: Carcass in good flesh is approved. If the disease is associated with emaciation, the carcass is condemned.

Differential diagnosis : Pasteurellosis, tuberculosis, pseudotuberculosis, listeriosis and salmonellosis.

fig 213

Fig. 213: Coccidiosis. Enlarged liver with multifocal greyish-white coalescing lesions and yellowish liquid pus caused by E. stidae.



1Animal breeding: selected articles from the World Animal Review, 1977 (C E F S)
2Eradication of hog cholera and African swine fever, 1976 (E F S)
3Insecticides and application equipment for tsetse control, 1977 (E F)
4New feed resources, 1977 (E/F/S)
5Bibliography of the criollo cattle of the Americas, 1977 (E/S)
6Mediterranean cattle and sheep in crossbreeding, 1977 (E F)
7The environmental impact of tsetse control operations, 1977 (E F)
7 Rev. 1The environmental impact of tsetse control operations, 1980 (E F)
8Declining breeds of Mediterranean sheep, 1978 (E F)
9Slaughterhouse and slaughterslab design and construction, 1978 (E F S)
10Treating straw for animal feeding, 1978 (C E F S)
11Packaging, storage and distribution of processed milk, 1978 (E)
12Ruminant nutrition: selected articles from the World Animal Review, 1978 (C E F S)
13Buffalo reproduction and artificial insemination, 1979 (E*)
14The African trypanosomiases, 1979 (E F)
15Establishment of diary training centres, 1979 (E)
16Open yard housing for young cattle, 1981 (Ar E F S)
17Prolific tropical sheep, 1980 (E F S)
18Feed from animal wastes: state of knowledge, 1980 (C E)
19East Coast fever and related tick-borne diseases, 1980 (E)
20/1Trypanotolerant livestock in West and Central Africa — Vol. 1. General study, 1980 (E F)
20/2Trypanotolerant livestock in West and Central Africa - Vol. 2. Country studies, 1980 (E F)
20/3Le bétail trypanotolérant en Afrique occidentale et centrale - Vol. 3. Bilan d'une décennie, 1988 (F)
21Guideline for dairy accouting, 1980 (E)
22Recursos genéticos animales en América Latina, 1981 (S)
23Disease control in semen and embryos, 1981 (C E F S)
24Animal genetic resources - conservation and management, 1981 (C E)
25Reproductive efficiency in cattle, 1982 (C E F S)
26Camels and camel milk, 1982 (E)
27Deer farming, 1982 (E)
28Feed from animal wastes: feeding manual, 1982 (C E)
29Echinococcosis/hydatidosis surveillance, prevention and control FAO/UNEP/WHO guidelines, 1982 (E)
30Sheep and goat breeds of India, 1982 (E)
31Hormones in animal production, 1982 (E)
32Crop residues and agro-industrial by-products in animal feeding, 1982 (E/F)
33Haemorrhagic septicaemia, 1982 (E F)
34Breeding plans for ruminant livestock in the trophics, 1982 (E F S)
35Off-tastes in raw and reconstituted milk, 1983 (Ar E F S)
36Ticks and tick—borne diseases: selected articles from the World Animal Review, 1983 (E F S)
37African animal trypanosomiasis: selected articles from the World Animal Review, 1983 (E F)
38Diagnosis and vaccination for the control of brucellosis in the Near East, 1982 (Ar E)
39Solar energy in small-scale milk collection and processing, 1983 (E F)
40Intensive sheep production in the Near East, 1983 (Ar E)
41Integrating crops and livestock in West Africa, 1983 (E F)
42Animal energy in agriculture in Africa and Asia, 1984 (E/F S)
43Olive by-products for animal feed, 1985 (Ar E F S)
44/1Animal genetic resources conservation by management, data banks and training, 1984 (E)
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45Maintenance systems for the dairy plant, 1984 (E)
46Livestock breeds of China, 1984 (E F S)
47Réfrigération du lait à la ferme et organisation des transports, 1985 (F)
48La fromagerie et les variétés de fromages du bassin méterranéen, 1985 (F)
49Manual for the slaughter of small ruminants in developing countries, 1985 (E)
50Better utilization of crop residues and by-products in animal feeding: research guidelines - 1. State of knowledge, 1985 (E)
50/2Better utilization of crop residues and by-products in animal feeding: research guidelines - 2. A practical manual for research workers, 1986 (E)
51Dried salted meats: charque and carne-de-sol, 1985 (E)
52Small-scale sausage production, 1985 (E)
53Slaughterhouse cleaning and sanitation, 1985 (E)
54Small ruminants in the Near East - Vol. I. Selected papers presented for the Expert Consultation on Small Ruminant Research and Development in the Near East (Tunis, 1985), 1987 (E)
55Small ruminants in the Near East - Vol. II. Selected articles from World Animal Review 1972–1986, 1987 (Ar E)
56Sheep and goats in Pakistan, 1985 (E)
57The Awassi sheep with special reference to the improved dairy type, 1985 (E)
58Small ruminant production in the developing countries, 1986 (E)
59/1Animal genetic resources data banks - 1. Computer systems study for regional data banks, 1986 (E)
59/2Animal genetic resources data banks - 2. Descriptor lists for cattle, buffalo, pigs, sheep and goats, 1986 (E F S)
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60Sheep and goats in Turkey, 1986 (E)
61The Przewalski horse and restoration to its natural habitat in Mongolia, 1986 (E)
62Milk and dairy products: production and processing costs, 1988 (E F S)
63Proceedings of the FAO expert consultation on the substitution of imported concentrate feeds in animal production systems in developing countries, 1987 (C E)
64Poultry management and diseases in the Near East, 1987 (Ar)
65Animal genetic resources of the USSR, 1989 (E)
66Animal genetic resources - strategics for improved use and conservation, 1987 (E)
67/1Trypanotolerant cattle and livestock development in West and Central Africa - Vol. I, 1987 (E)
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68Crossbreeding Bos indicus and Bos taurus for milk production in the tropics, 1987 (E)
69Village milk processing, 1988 (E F S)
70Sheep and goat meat production in the humid tropics of West Africa, 1989 (E/F)
71The development of village-based sheep production in West Africa, 1988 (Ar E F S) (Published as Training manual for extension workers, M/S5840E)
72Sugarcane as feed, 1988 (E/S)
73Standard design for small-scale modular slaughterhouses, 1988 (E)
74Small ruminants in the Near East - Vol. III. North Africa, 1989 (E)
75The eradication of ticks, 1989 (E/S)
76Ex situ cryoconservation of genomes and genes of endangered cattle breeds by means of modern biotechnological methods, 1989 (E)
77Training manual for embryo transfer in cattle, 1991 (E)
78Milking, milk production hygiene and udder health, 1989 (E)
79Manual of simple methods of meat preservation, 1990 (E)
80Animal genetic resources - a global programme for sustainable development, 1990 (E)
81Veterinary diagnostic bacteriology - a manual of laboratory procedures of selected diseases of livestock, 1990 (E F)
82Reproduction in camels - a review, 1990 (E)
83Training manual on artificial insemination in sheep and goats, 1991 (E F)
84Training manual for embryo transfer in water buffaloes, 1991 (E)
85The technology of traditional milk products in developing countries, 1990 (E)
86Feeding dairy cows in the tropics, 1991 (E)
87Manual for the production of anthrax and blackleg vaccines, 1991 (E F)
88Small ruminant production and the small ruminant genetic resource in tropical Africa, 1991 (E)
89Manual for the production of Marek's disease, Gumboro disease and inactivated Newcastle disease vaccines, 1991 (E F)
90Application of biotechnology to nutrition of animals in developing countries 1991 (E F)
91Guidelines for slaughtering, meat cutting and further processing, 1991 (E)
92Manual on meat cold store operation and management, 1991 (E)
93Utilization of renewable energy sources and energy-saving technologies by small-scale milk plants and collection centres, 1992 (E)
94Proceedings of the FAO expert consultation on the genetic aspects of trypanotolerance, 1992 (E)
95Roots, tubers, plantains and bananas in animal feeding, 1992 (E)
96Distribution and impact of helminth diseases of livestock in developing countries, 1992 (E)
97Construction and operation of medium-sized abattoirs in developing countries, 1992 (E)
98Small—scale poultry processing, 1992 (E)
99In situ conservation of livestock and poultry, 1992 (E)
100Programme for the control of African animal trypanosomiasis and related development, 1992 (E)
101Genetic improvement of hair sheep in the tropics, 1992 (E)
102Legume trees and other fodder trees as protein sources for livestock, 1992 (E)
103Improving sheep reproduction in the Near East, 1992 (Ar)
104The management of global animal genetic resources, 1992 (E)
105Sustainable livestock production in the mountain agro-ecosystem of Nepal, 1992 (E)
106Sustainable animal production from small farm systems in South-East Asia, 1993 (E)
107Strategies for sustainable animal agriculture in developing countries, 1993 (E)
108Evaluation of breeds and crosses of domestic animals, 1993 (E)
109Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, 1993 (E)
110L'amélioration génétique des bovins en Afrique de l'Ouest, 1993 (F)
111L'utilización sostenible de hembras F1 en la productión del ganado lechero tropical, 1993 (S)
112Physiologie de la reproduction des bovins trypanotolérants, 1993 (F)
113La technologie des fromages au lait de dromadaire (Camelus dromedarius), 1993 (F)
114Food losses due to non-infectious and production diseases in developing countries, 1993 (E)
115Manuel de formation pratique pour la transplantation embryonnaire chez la brebis et la chèvre, 1993 (F)
116Quality control of veterinary vaccines in developing countries, 1993 (E)
117L'hygiène dans l'industrie alimentaire, 1993 - Les produits et l'aplication de l'hygiène, 1993 (F)
118Quality control testing of rinderpest cell culture vaccine, 1994 (E)
119Manual on meat inspection for developing countries, 1994 (E)

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