of the digestive tract
Esther van Praag,
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Dozens of different
parasites can be found in the digestive tracts of rabbits, hares, and
cottontails. Some are very rare, some are pathogenic only under exceptional
circumstances; others have barely been studied. We will describe those most
commonly found in house rabbits.
as well as healthy house/pet rabbits living in clean conditions can be
infested by gastrointestinal parasites. With domestic rabbits, the life cycle
of the parasites is often disrupted when the appropriate conditions for
development of the larval stages (L1, L2 and sometimes
L3) are not met indoors.
parasites are heteroxenous (multihost):
in order to reproduce, they must live in several host intermediates before
infesting the final host. For instance, the different juvenile forms of the
liver flake (Fasciola hepatica) are found in certain snails
in the grass of marshy areas before entering the rabbit digestive tract. The
little fluke larvae (Dicrocoelium lanceolatum)
need to live in snails and ants before becoming infective in rabbits. Those
worm parasites are rarely found in rabbits living indoors as their life cycle
is broken due to the absence of intermediate hosts in the house environment.
Other parasites are monoxenous (single-host). Their
larval stages are generally found in wet grassland, stagnant water, or hay
before being ingested by the unique and final host, the rabbit. Such worms
are more commonly found in house rabbits.
In order to
prevent worm invasion in a house rabbit, it is essential that:
forage not be
gathered in areas where there are numerous dogs, cats, rodents,
and vegetables be washed carefully with running water,
hay and straw
used as litter be changed regularly (this avoids attracting flies too),
cannot be changed daily be given on a feed rack, where it cannot be soiled
with feces or urine,
the litter boxes themselves be cleaned daily
with hot running water, acetic acid, or chlorine.
Nematode parasitic worms
Nematode parasitic worms of the domestic rabbit
Clinical features and diagnosis
due to thank Simone van der Meij, and her rabbit Jasper, for the pictures or
worm-infested droppings, and to Arie van Praag, for the picture of Flora.
3. J.E. Harkness, J.E. Wagner (1995) The Biology and Medicine of Rabbits and Rodents, Williams
and Wilkins. p. 372.
S. Boucher, L.
Nouaille (2002) Maladies des Lapins. Editions France Agricole, p. 122-135