Enterotoxemia is a severe intestinal disease that causes diarrhea in rabbits. Here are four things you need to know about it.
What causes enterotoxemia?
Enterotoxemia is caused by clostridium spiroforme bacteria. It's not known how this virus spreads from rabbit to rabbit, but researchers assume that this bacteria is naturally present in rabbits and isn't dangerous at low levels. It's possible that the bacteria gets the chance to spread and cause disease when an infected rabbit's immune system is compromised and is no longer able to keep the bacteria in check. Stress, poor nutrition, or other illnesses may be the trigger.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of enterotoxemia is sudden, severe diarrhea. This diarrhea tends to be watery and either brown or green-brown. The diarrhea may contain blood or mucus.
In addition to the diarrhea, rabbits with enterotoxemia may have swollen stomachs. They will also be in pain; clues that your rabbit is in pain include grinding their teeth or hunching forwards.
In the later stages of the disease, rabbits suffer from dehydration due to diarrhea-related fluid loss. Dehydrated rabbits look depressed, lethargic, and thinner than usual. Dehydration can lead to shock, and later, death.
If you notice these signs, you need to take your rabbit to an emergency vet immediately. The disease moves very quickly and in some cases can kill rabbits overnight, so you don't have time to wait for your regular vet's office to open.
How do vets treat it?
Antibiotics aren't generally helpful for this condition, so the main treatments are supportive and aim to keep your rabbit comfortable while their immune system fights off the bacteria.
Vets treat enterotoxemia by replenishing the fluids that your rabbit has lost through their diarrhea. This is accomplished by giving fluids intravenously. Your vet may also give your rabbit painkillers to make them more comfortable. Your rabbit may also be fed high-fiber foods through a syringe.
Can you catch enterotoxemia from your rabbit?
Fortunately, clostridium spiroforme usually only affects rabbits. There has only been one human case report involving this bacteria, and the person in question suffered from diarrhea. While it's unlikely that you will get sick, you should still take precautions, just in case. Make sure to wear gloves while handling and caring for your rabbit, and after removing the gloves, remember to wash your hands.
If your rabbit has diarrhea, take them to an emergency vet right away. They could have enterotoxemia, a life-threatening disease.