Encephalozoonosis. a parasitic infection that is not well known to rabbit owners is dangerous and can lead to significant health problems, torticollis, and even death.
This is not such an exotic parasitic disease as it might seem at first, and it is common not only among rabbits, but also among other animals. rats, hamsters and dogs. The causative agent affects the nervous system and internal organs, especially the kidneys. It is transmitted orally (through food) from sick animals to healthy ones, and is excreted in urine and feces, contaminating water, litter, and feed.
What is encephalozoonosis?
The disease is caused by the simplest unicellular parasite Encephalitozoon Cuniculi, on whose behalf the name of the disease occurred. The smallest parasite affects not only rabbits, but also many other mammals and birds.
British experts believe that up to 52% of rabbits have been ill or exposed to E. cuniculi, although the exact numbers are very difficult to establish, as some rabbits may show limited or no signs of infection.
How do rabbits get encephalozoonosis?
Studies show that invasive infection rabbit encephalozoonosis tolerated by spores that are excreted in the urine. It is likely that most rabbits get the parasite at a very early age from the rabbit when eating food contaminated with spores.
A month after infection, the rabbit himself will begin to secrete spores, continuing to infect the space around him for about three months and, possibly, all his life. It has been found that spores survive in the environment for more than a month.
How does encephalozoonosis develop?
When a rabbit becomes infected by swallowing a spore, the parasite first begins its development in the intestine. Then, having penetrated into the cells of the mucous membrane of the intestinal tract, it spreads throughout the body, affecting other organs and systems, especially often localized in the tissues of the brain and kidneys.
Granulomas are formed in these organs. focal growths of tissues in the form of nodules. With such a complex mechanism of the development of the disease, affecting the entire body, it is surprising that rabbits can be asymptomatic. However, this is so, and in many cases, the owners do not even realize that their rabbit suffered from this invasion. But if the disease manifests itself, the consequences can be fatal for the rabbit, and the most striking symptom of encephalozoonosis. torticollis of varying severity.
Strong torticollis in a rabbit after encephalozoonosis
Signs of rabbit encephalozoonosis
Granulomas that can occur in rabbit kidneys are usually harmless, but can sometimes cause chronic renal failure, which will result in increased thirst and weight loss. Nevertheless, the main danger and problem in the development of such an invasion as encephalozoonosis is brain damage, which leads to serious neurological disorders.
These symptoms include:
- cramps, trembling;
- wryneck. constantly holding the tilt of the head;
- ataxia. weakness of the hind limbs;
- urinary incontinence, which causes damage to the brain and / or central nervous system, and not to the kidneys;
- loss of balance, disorientation, circular movements;
- loss of acquired skills;
Sometimes rabbits have whitish cloudy spots on their eyes, due to eye damage and the development of granulomas in the lens of the eye. This situation is possible if the rabbit is infected in utero through the placenta from the mother.
Since the above symptoms can be caused by other causes, for example, torticollis can also be caused by a bacterial infection and other factors, the only way to find the real cause and make a diagnosis is to visit a veterinarian.
Encephalozoonosis-affected rabbit behavior
Diagnosis of Encephalozoonosis
It is quite difficult to accurately diagnose encephalozoonosis, and there is only one test that can determine if your rabbit is suffering from this invasion. This is an antibody test for E. cuniculi and can only be tested with a blood test.
In essence, this means that a rabbit infected with the causative agent of encephalozoonosis produces antibodies against this disease, and the analysis will give a positive result. Due to the complex nature of obtaining blood from a rabbit (especially dwarf breeds), many veterinarians prefer symptomatic treatment of the animal, based on the history and signs present.
It is also worth keeping in mind that a rabbit who has taken a blood test will probably need another test two weeks afterwards to determine if the antibody level has changed after treatment.
Treatment of Encephalozoonosis in Rabbits
The biggest problem with a parasitic infection encephalozoonosis is the correct diagnosis. If a blood test was not taken and the rabbit received symptomatic treatment, the fluffy patient can recover and no one will know that he had this infection.
Drugs that are used for the specific treatment and destruction of E. cuniculi, and which are recognized as the most effective. fenbendazole-based products, for example, the well-known anthelmintic Panakur. However, the difficulty lies in the fact that even after using this drug and eliminating the parasite, in many cases E. cuniculi already causes irreversible brain damage.
In fact, this means that although the parasite is killed, the condition of the rabbit does not actually improve. This is why veterinarians also use powerful anti-inflammatory drugs in combination with fenbendazole to limit inflammatory processes in the brain. The drugs are used together because the use of antibiotics weakens the immune system, allowing the parasitic infection to progress.
In addition, it is advisable to administer to the rabbit vitamin B preparations and immunomodulators. In any case, the treatment of this complex and dangerous disease should be carried out under the supervision of a veterinarian.
What is the risk to human health?
There is a small risk of infection for people, but only if their immunity is greatly weakened, for example, a person suffering from AIDS can potentially become infected and get encephalozoonosis. People with a healthy immune system are not exposed to this danger.
How to help a sick rabbit?
one. The disease causes panic attacks, the rabbit can rush about and injure itself. Therefore, the dwelling must be secured. sheathe the walls of the cage with soft cloth, try to bother the rabbit less, talk softly, and avoid loud noises. In this case, the rabbit is not limited in communication. The pet during this period especially needs affection and support.
2. Water is offered in a low bowl, and if the rabbit can’t drink, it is watered with a syringe, in some cases they resort to injecting saline subcutaneously.
3. With a complete loss of appetite, the rabbit is force-fed, although it can be quite difficult with a wryneck. In this case, in no case do not need to straighten the neck of the rabbit!
four. Litter and contaminated hay, greens and vegetables are regularly changed. at least once a day. Effectively disinfection of equipment and pallets of cells with boiling water, alcohol solutions with a strength of at least 70%.
Forced feeding of a rabbit. more details here
Strong rabbits, with good immunity, provided with good nutrition, can be carriers of the parasite and do not show clinical signs at all or tolerate the disease more easily.
For prevention, 2 times a year, the anthelmintic drug Panakur (fenbendazole) is used in the dosage specified in the instructions. It is important to monitor the cleanliness of the home, to avoid prolonged communication of the pet with other people’s rabbits, especially on their territory.
And most importantly, even after suffering encephalozoonosis, a rabbit with a torticollis can live long, full, happy years, in activity not inferior to its healthy counterparts.
Wryneck. not a sentence
Owners of rabbits, share your knowledge and experience in the treatment and prevention of rabbit encephalozoonosis, leaving a comment below.