WORMS AND COCCIDIOSIS - Nikki White
Worms are rather rare in rabbits and most are rabbit specific, though they can get tapeworms from dogs. However, they should not be discounted. They are rather insidious as the rabbit can gimble along not appearing very sick, or even sick at all, be quite lively, and have a good appetite. Nonetheless something will be not quite right - the rabbit can seem to have lost some condition (the spine can be felt, for example) though eating heartily enough. Or s/he will pick at his/her food, tossing out the pellets (for example) and eating the rest, or else eating about half s/he would normally. Eventually, if left untreated, the rabbit will eat less and less or stop eating all at once, then die (rabbits can't survive more than 24 hours without food as their liver collapses). The presence of worms is detected in the droppings by a vet. Blood tests may show some anaemia, uraemia and so on as signs of stress of having worms. X-rays may show a bloated digestive tract with gas and food in it, indicative of some lack of gut motility. The worms are transmitted by other rabbits, usually wild rabbits who have got into the garden but not always. So if your rabbit seems a bit off-colour, not herself even though she hops around and is lively, especially if her appetite declines or she suddenly gets finicky and it isn't her teeth, take her to a vet who knows rabbits (Canberra Veterinary Hospital, particularly Sandy Hume, for example). The remedy is worming, usually a paste or gel given orally.
Coccidiosis can also be low grade and insidious and not announce itself with diarrhoea and other bells and whistles as many rabbit books will tell you. Coccidia live normally in a rabbit, indeed a few are necessary to keep the immune system active. However, when the rabbit is subjected to stress such as extreme changes in climate (such as we've been having) or the presence of parasites or any other factor, they multiply and can make bunny very sick. They flourish particularly at this time of year when it is milder and damp - they like dark damp spots so make sure you don't have any in the cage where the water bottle leaks. They can be killed with cloudy ammonia or sunlight. A rabbit with coccidiosis may not show any outward signs - clean bottom, no discharges anywhere, normal temperature - but it may be lethargic and then die 24-36 hours after going down. Fortunately, they can be treated with Baycox, given orally.
Some good plants for peaky bunnies are dandelions and comfrey. Dandelion is rich in protein but poor in fibre, and known for its curative powers. The sap stimulates the working of all glands, including the milk glands of lactating does. The plant has both laxative and astringent properties and regulates both diarrhoea and constipation. It's also good for bladder infections, liver problems, osteoporosis, warts, swellings and pneumonia. Comfrey is a digestive aid and helps with fur block and is one of the best things you can give a bunny as it has many other uses. It should be given in moderation as it can cause diarrhoea in excess.
So keep an eye on your rabbits and if they don't seem quite right in their eating habits or general condition, have them checked out.