Rabbits: Common Illnesses and Infections

As we move into summer it's very important to keep a sharp eye out for flystrike - especially if you're the owner of a longhaired breed. This can often be fatal, and a horrific experience for both rabbits and owners. Unfortunately, we see many rabbits lost to flystrike every year.

Here at helpucover.co.uk, we're no strangers to the many ailments, cuts & scrapes that your furry friends get themselves into, but some can prove to be more serious than you may think.

Some routine healthcare can be done at home, like trimming claws and dressing small wounds, but every day we hear about distressing and life-threatening illnesses that aren't spotted until it's too late.

The following are the most common illnesses and infections that we see pet owners claim for, so keep an eye out, and make sure you take your bunny to the vet as soon as you think something's wrong!


As we move into summer it's very important to keep a sharp eye out for flystrike - especially if you're the owner of a longhaired breed. This can often be fatal, and a horrific experience for both rabbits and owners. Unfortunately, we see many rabbits lost to flystrike every year.

Flies lay their eggs in soiled fur around a rabbit's tail, and within 12 - 24 hours, the maggots hatch and burrow into the rabbit's flesh. Death can happen almost overnight, so it's important to constantly check your rabbit, and ensure that the hutch is clean, especially when the temperature begins to rise.

It's a horrendous infection, as maggots can be seen crawling in and around the rabbit. If this happens, please take your bunny straight to a vet, regardless of time or day! Rabbits can recover if treated promptly, but it's often a race against time.

Guard your rabbit from flystrike by making sure you clean out his or her hutch every day, and checking at least twice daily.


Gastrointestinal stasis (or as it's more commonly known - gut stasis) is the process of a rabbit's digestive system shutting down, and is as serious as it sounds.

Unlike us, rabbits can't fast, so when they stop eating for a prolonged period of time, gut stasis occurs. If it's left untreated, gut stasis is fatal. There are many triggers that make a rabbit stop eating, and once they stop, it's very unlikely that they'll start again on their own. Triggers for gut stasis include pain, stress, and internal blockages in the abdomen.

Symptoms to watch out for include an inability to produce droppings, a lack of appetite, not drinking, a bloated abdomen, and general unhappiness! With pain medication, hydration, motility medication, force-feeding (and lots of cuddles!) rabbits should recover, and then it's important to get to the bottom of why they stopped eating in the first place. Treatment varies on whether the cause is in part to an intestinal blockage.

As prevention really is the best cure, make sure to feed your rabbit a high fibre diet, make sure it has access to unlimited water, and fresh greens. Always keep a close eye on your rabbit, pay attention to out of the ordinary behaviour, and ensure that he or she is pain-free, and housed in a calm, and rabbit-friendly environment.


We see a lot of problems that originate from badly kept teeth. Malocclusion, the name given to teeth that do not meet normally, is one of the most common teeth-related problems that we see, and is usually a consequence of a poor diet. Rabbits have very hard teeth, which in the wild would be naturally worn down by grazing all day, on tough, fibrous food. When kept in captivity, rabbits rely on you to provide them with suitable feed that will keep their teeth in check.

If a rabbit isn't supplied with these kinds of fodder, teeth are not worn down properly, and will wear down at different rates. This turns into a vicious cycle: the teeth do not meet, so they grow abnormally. There aren't always any signs that your rabbit has malocclusion, but you can look out for decreased appetite, weight loss, lumps on the outer cheek, under the eye, or under the lower jaw, uneven incisors, and discharge from the cheek or chin area.

An x-ray is needed to determine whether a rabbit is suffering from malocclusion, so it's important to take your bunny straight to the vets if you suspect he may have it. The vet will then be able to correctly trim and correct the teeth, as well as treat any complications, such as abscesses or infections.


Or as we know it - snuffles. Pasteurella is very similar to the common cold, but unlike when we get ill, it can prove to be fatal for rabbits. It's extremely infectious as well, so prevention and quick-thinking is necessary when a rabbit starts showing symptoms.

Sneezing, runny eyes, wheezing, and discharge from the nose are among the top signs that your rabbit has snuffles, and symptoms worsen as the illness progresses. Abscesses, inner ear infections, and a thicker, more yellow nasal discharge indicate a later stage of pasteurella.

As this can lead to pneumonia, it's better to be safe than sorry, and take your rabbit to the vets if it starts displaying snuffle symptoms. In some cases, rabbits will be able to recover on their own when kept warm and dry, but it's often better to have peace of mind and know that you're dealing with it the right way. For more severe cases, pasteurella can be aided by antibiotics.

If your rabbit starts showing these symptoms, immediately isolate it, and keep a close eye on any other rabbits.


This serious, but very common liver disease is caused by a microscopic parasite. Coccidiosis can cause death through exhaustion. The rabbit will become jaundiced and emaciated, and have an enlarged abdomen from a swollen liver.

Symptoms include a yellow jaundiced appearance, consistent diarrhoea, and extreme weakness. The parasites are spread through droppings, so rabbits living in dirty hutches are particularly susceptible. It's very contagious, and any infected rabbits should be isolated.

Coccidiosis can be treated and cured by a vet if caught early enough.