Rabbits stop moving,
and then die

by Michelle
(Anna, Ohio)

We have rabbits at home for 4H projects and so far have lost 3.

There are no real symptoms, they are fine and then the next day they really do not move and when you pet them it feels like their spine has dropped and it is very boney.

However when you pick them up it is not like they have a broken back. The legs will move and they will respond but they just won't move around on their own.

I have no idea what is causing this and neither does our vet. Any recommendations??

***** Karen Sez *****

As you know, I'm not a vet, however if the problem does not stem from an occult diarrhea or intestinal parasite such as coccidiosis (do you hear sloshing sounds in a bloated belly?), then this sounds suspiciously like EC - encephalitozoonosis (that's why they just call it EC).

This is a parasitic infection by a bugger called Encephalitozoon cuniculi, hence, EC. EC has several favorite places in the body it likes to go to and hang out. One of them is the kidney. The urine of infected rabbits is the way the germs spread to other rabbits; you might have a raging contagion happening.

If another rabbit dies, take a look at the rabbit's kidneys (or let the vet do it, if cutting into dead rabbits sounds like about as much fun as a root canal).

If they are pitted or wrinkled, this is diagnostic for EC.

The other place the EC germ likes to hang out is the brain. If the rabbit's immune system can't knock down the germs and eradicate the infection, then brain inflammation can kill the rabbit.

The problem with EC is that it remains infectious for several months before the germs can be cleared from the body. Therefore, all the animals in contact with the infectious rabbit also become infected.

And because some rabbits die and some rabbits seem to survive fine without symptoms (and others fall sick, and then recover), it is extremely easy to spread the germs, and very hard to recognize the problem at the time, unless rabbits start dying or showing other calamitous symptoms.

(There are lots and lots of pet rabbits with EC or are recovered from it.)

The other problem with EC is the difficulty of treating it. Some vets say there is no good treatment. The rabbit must rely on its own immune system to overcome the germ.

If you can support the overall health of the remaining rabbits with fresh excellent quality pellets, black oil sunflower seeds, and a few pesticide-free dandelions and other healthy greens regularly, then over time the rabbit may become symptom-free.

That said, other breeders and vets have tried treating with Albendazole or a related class of parasiticide, with or without ivermectin concurrently.

But until you can get a proper diagnosis, you cannot be sure that EC is the problem.

I recommend Rabbit Raising Problem Solver, which has an extensive section on diseases of rabbits in general, and also a detailed section on EC.

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