What are they?
Internal parasites include worms and other microscopic creatures called protozoa. They can cause loss of condition and ill health in rabbits as well as posing a risk to people. Most pets have these, although it’s not always easy to tell if your rabbit is infested as often there aren’t any outward signs of ill health.
Symptoms are difficult to spot, but can include loss of condition, vomiting and diarrhoea. By the time you notice these symptoms, these parasites can be damaging your rabbit’s health.
What causes them?
A variety of these parasites can affect rabbits, however the most common is a parasite called Encephalitozoon cuniculi (E. cuniculi).
Encephalitozoon cuniculi (E.cuniculi) is caused by a microscopic parasite. It is widespread across the UK – 50 per cent of apparently healthy rabbits have been exposed to the parasite – and the disease is particularly nasty. It often causes a rabbit’s head to tilt on one side with their head twisted round. E.cuniculi can also cause seizures, kidney disease, hind limb weakness, loss of vision and balance. The parasite is spread by infected urine or from mothers to babies and it can live in the environment for several weeks, so hutches containing a large number of rabbits are often infected.
Roundworms are pale white to beige in colour and are coiled like a spring. They grow to approximately 100mm in length and you may see them in your rabbit’s faeces or vomit. Rabbits pick up roundworms by eating their larvae and the adult worm then develops inside the body with worms and eggs being passed out in faeces. These eggs then develop into larvae and the cycle starts again.
Tapeworms are white or pale in colour and resemble flat segments filled with moving eggs that look like grains of rice. You might see tapeworm segments in faeces or near your pet’s anus. Rabbits are infected with tapeworm by swallowing fleas while grooming. Once inside the rabbit’s gut, the worm larvae carried by the flea develops into an adult worm that can grow to 5 metres in length.
To help eradicate worms you should administer an effective wormer, alongside the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Your vet, country store, pet shop or pharmacist will be able to advise you on worming products.