There are many intestinal roundworms that affect wild rabbits but infestations in domestic rabbits are rare and unlikely to be encountered. Rabbits which graze in gardens inhabited by pet dogs or visited by foxes can become infected with tapeworms although this is not common as most pet owners worm their dogs with preparations that are effective against tapeworms.
This is an intracellular, protozoan parasite, which is spread by spores in the urine of infected animals. It can cause a variety of clinical signs, mainly relating to the brain, kidneys & eyes.
Eyes - E. cuniculi can lead to cataracts due to the inflammatory response to the parasite. It can also cause other changes in the eye, all of which require prompt veterinary treatment.
Brain - The most common signs of E.cuniculi are related to the brain. Signs include sudden death, fits, paralysis and torticollis (head on one side & neck twisted). Signs often develop quickly when brain cells rupture to release parasites into the surrounding tissues. Less severe signs can also occur, some rabbits seem wobbly on their feet & have slight loss of balance or their eyes may flick from side to side.
It can be difficult to differentiate between E.cuniculi infection and other causes of these signs so treatment usually involves several drugs, which will cover most causes. The specific treatment for E. cuniculi is an antiparasitic agent called fenbendazole, but antibiotics are often given as well.
Some rabbits can recover from this disease but often the treatment is not successful. We recommend treating any rabbits in contact with a rabbit showing these signs with fenbendazole as a preventative measure.