Lapis ISSN 2398-2969

Enterotoxemia (Clostridiosis)

Contributor(s): Vetstream Ltd, Virginia Garner-Richardson, Hannah Orr, Molly Varga


  • Enterotoxemia can affect any age of rabbit.
  • For the first 3 weeks of life the rabbit has a relatively sterile gastrointestinal tract. The stomach pH is 5-6.5 and the doe's milk contains an antimicrobial fatty acid; the latter prevents bacteria from entering the hindgut. After 21 days the stomach pH gradually alters to pH 1-2 and it is during this transition phase that the milk's protective factor wanes and bacteria are able to move through and colonize the cecum. From this time all rabbits will have a small amount of Clostridiain their cecum.
  • In a healthy rabbit on a high fiber diet the amount of Clostridiapresent will be totally outnumbered by microflora that are involved in the process of digestion, predominantly Bacteroides.
  • Any situation that alters the balance of bacteria in the cecum (cecal dysbiosis) can lead to the multiplication of Clostridiaand the subsequent development of enterotoxemia. Trigger factors that may lead to overgrowth of Clostridial species include stress, wrong diet, oral antibiotic therapy.
  • Mucoid enteritis is a specific condition seen in rabbits around the time of weaning (7-14 weeks of age) that results from intestinal ileus and the subsequent multiplication of Clostridia. Weaning enteritis seen in younger rabbits (4-8 weeks of age) is also a direct result of Clostridiamultiplication.
  • Treatment of the condition is very difficult once clinical signs have developed and prevention should be a top priority. The provision of a high-fiber, low-carbohydrate diet is the single most important factor in the prevention of this disease.

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Lord B (2012) Gastrointestinal disease in rabbits 2. Intestinal diseases. In Pract 34 (3), 156-162 VetMedResource.
  • Hara-Kudo Y, Morishita Y, Nagaoka Y et al (1996) Incidence of diarrhea with antibiotics and the increase of clostridia in rabbits. J Vet Med Sci 58 (12), 1181-1185 PubMed.
  • Whitwell K & Needham J (1996) Mucoid enteropathy in UK rabbits - dysautonomia confirmed. Vet Rec 139 (13), 323-333 PubMed.
  • Hillyer E V (1994) Pet rabbits. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 24 (1), 25-65 PubMed.
  • Clipsham R C (1989) Medical care of the pet rabbit. Calif Vet 43 (5), 12-16.
  • Carman R J & Borriello S P (1983) Laboratory diagnosis of Clostridium spiroforme-mediated diarrhea (iota enterotoxaemia) of rabbits. Vet Rec 113 (8), 184-185 PubMed.
  • Targowski S & Targowski H (1979) Characterization of a Hemophilus paracuniculus isolated from gastrointestinal tracts of rabbits with mucoid enteritis. J Clin Microbiol (1), 33-37 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Brown S A (1998) Gastrointestinal Physiology and Disease in the Domestic Pet Rabbit. Proceedings for BSAVA Conference 3rd April 1998.
  • Jenkins J R (1993) A Practitioner's Guide to Rabbits and Ferrets. American Animal Hospital Association.