Wednesday, April 7, 2010
The Easter Bunny Comes To The Clinic

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Follow Dr. Murray's biweekly blog about his interesting experiences as an exotic small animal veterinarian.

Click image to enlarge
BamBam the ferret and the Easter Bunny
Never leave a rabbit unsupervised with a predator pet, such as a ferret, cat or dog.
Photos Courtesy Jerry Murray, DVM

Although the rabbit's owner originally thought trauma had caused this problem, a veterinary diagnosis proved otherwise.

This is my first blog entry. With the Easter holiday comes a lot of new pet bunnies, so I will start with some of the need-to-know information about pet rabbits and end with a recent rabbit case.

Rabbits can make wonderful pets for the right owner. They are playful, quiet, friendly and mostly odor free. They also do a very entertaining happy bunny dance that some owners refer to as the binky dance.

It is important to feed an appropriate diet to a bunny to prevent gastrointestinal diseases and obesity. Rabbits have a sweet tooth and enjoy foods with molasses and sucrose — however, they need a high-fiber diet. Fresh grass, timothy or other grass hay, and fresh vegetables should be the major part of the diet and a commercial rabbit pelleted diet should make up the rest of the diet.

Pet bunnies should also be spayed or neutered when they are young. Female rabbits (does) are very prone to developing a fatal cancer of the uterus and mammary (breast) cancer. Spaying the doe prevents uterine cancer and may lower the risk for breast cancer. Male rabbits (bucks) can become aggressive and territorial when they reach sexual maturity, but neutering them prevents this bad behavior.

One other thing to remember — rabbits are prey animals, so please closely supervise any playtime with any of the predator pets, such as dogs, cats and ferrets.

Now for a recent rabbit case. I had a rabbit arrive at the clinic at the end of March 2010. As you can see by the photo, the bunny had some obvious skin problems around his eyes and lips. The owner thought there had been some trauma to the rabbit from the owner’s dog. Apparently the dog and rabbit play together without any supervision.

Close inspection did not reveal any bite wounds or any other lesions that would have been from a traumatic event. This looked more like a case of rabbit spirochetosis, which is commonly called rabbit syphilis by veterinarians and vent disease by rabbit owners. It is caused by a bacterium called Treponema paraluis cuniculi, which is very closely related to Treponema pallidum, the bacterium that causes syphilis in humans.

Fortunately, rabbit syphilis is not a disease that can spread to people and responds very well to treatment with penicillin injections.

I hope you enjoyed my first blog and will return in two weeks for my next one!

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The Easter Bunny Comes To The Clinic

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Reader Comments
Question regarding the Penicillin injections, a specialist told my vet that will destroy the digestive flora and to use some compound of meds. Do you have any suggestions on the possible "mixture", and we now can't get the specialist to return a call.
Jessica, Elizabethtown, KY
Posted: 8/22/2014 2:07:36 PM
Wow - You are doing a good job! Yes, you are right - NEVER LEAVE A FERRET WITH A RABBIT! The results are ABSALOUTELY yucky!
see ya!
love your blogs
Emily, Hudson, WI
Posted: 5/9/2010 4:21:19 PM
Welcome Dr Jerry!!
Good start:)
Joan, Upper Darby, PA
Posted: 4/19/2010 5:56:45 PM
Mike, Columbia, TN
Posted: 4/19/2010 3:24:41 PM
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