Staphylococcosis affecting young rabbits



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Warning: this file contains pictures that may be distressing for people

Between 1982 and 1985, an acute form of staphylococcosis infection appeared in rabbit farms with rational breeding programs. From 1985 to 1990, the disease decreased thanks to efficient prophylaxis methods. The infectious disease spread again strongly between 1990 and 1992 with the introduction of group-housing of rabbits. After bacterial cultures, it was discovered that the infectious agent was Staphylococcus aureus.

Healthy rabbits can remain asymptomatic carriers of the Staphylococcus sp., with the bacteria found on the skin or mucous membranes. Affected animals present various clinical signs, which include skin lesions or small abscesses. The bacterium can be transmitted to other animals or offspring, from animal to animal, or through human handling, through bedding (e.g., hay, straw, litter box filling). Newborn aged between 0 and 15 days are particularly sensitive to bacterial infection, and the risk contamination is especially high if the doe is affected.

Clinical signs

General signs are unusual behavior of young female rabbits, mastitis, the presence of abscesses, dermatitis and/or pododermatitis, as well as a high rate of mortality among newborn rabbits. The affected animals must be isolated. The death rate is high.

Preventive measures include a good hygiene and quarantine of the affected animals, as well as observation and screening with a clinical examination of the rabbit and bacteriologic tests such as bacterial cultures and sensitivity tests to antibiotics. Treatment includes the use of antibiotics. Often they need to be given over a longer period of time. The administration of SC fluids is indicated in case of dehydration.

Pasteurella multocida is a bacterium that can cause respiratory problems in rabbits, but also abscesses under the chin, neck, on the limb, back and uterus, as well as mastitis. Preventive measures include a clean living environment. Depending on the gravity of the disease, the animal must be isolated or can be left with its companion rabbit. Treatment includes the administration of systemic antibiotics.


Hazel Forrest

Young rabbits that possibly died from staphylococcosis. They present abscesses under the chin and local dermatitis. 


Many thanks to Hazel Forrest for sharing the pictures of the young rabbits and his permission to use in MediRabbit.

More Information

Boucher S, Nouaille L. Maladies des lapins. Paris, F: Editions France Agricole; 2002.

Van Praag E, Maurer A, Saarony T. Skin Diseases of Rabbits. Geneva, CH:; 2010.