Lapis ISSN 2398-2969


Contributor(s): Lesa Thompson, Glen Cousquer, Anna Meredith


  • Staphylococcosis is an infection produced by a species of Staphylococcus  Staphylococcus spp  .
  • Cause: staphylococcal bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus  Staphylococcus aureus  and Staphylococcus epidermidisare skin commensals.
  •  Staphylococcus aureusis most commonly incriminated and has been shown to possess a number of virulence factors that determine the pathogenic capacity of each strain.
  •  Staphylococcus aureusis an important cause of pododermatitis, subcutaneous abscesses, infertility and mastitis in rabbitries.
  • Signs: diseases caused by staphylococci may present as several different clinical syndromes.
  • These include a highly fatal disease of neonatal rabbits, subcutaneous abscesses, exudative dermatitis, mastitis, metritis, and pododermatitis.
  • Diagnosis: bacterial analysis.
  • Treatment: depends on condition; antibiotic therapy or analgesia.
  • Prognosis: often fatal if not treated. Good prognosis if individual cases treated early.

Historical note

  • A number of experimental rabbit models have been developed to study staphylococcal infections.
  • Model of staphylococcal keratitis has been described in the rabbit.

Presenting signs

  • Presenting signs depend very much on the syndrome produced by a particular staphylococcal infection. Suppurative inflammation of any organ can be seen, but usually skin and subcutaneous tissues affected.
  • Neonatal rabbits suffer from two forms of staphylococcal disease:
    • Septicemia and sudden death. 
    • Exudative dermatitis.
  • Dermatitis with exudate crusts.
  • Rabbits with subcutaneous abscesses present with soft to firm swellings that gradually enlarge over several days. Draining tracts may be seen.
  • Pododermatitis   Ulcerative pododermatitis (Bumble foot)  .
  • Does with mastitis   Mastitis  present with depression, anorexia   Anorexia  , septicemia and pyrexia. Suckling rabbits may die due to agalactia of dam or from septicemia after infection is transmitted to them via milk.
  • Rabbits suffering from staphylococcal respiratory disease present with snuffles   Snuffles - the facts  and a nasal discharge.
  • Septic arthritis   Arthritis  .
  • Otitis media   Otitis media / interna  has been reported.
  • Death.

Acute presentation

  • The acute presentation will also vary depending on the syndrome produced.
  • One reported outbreak of cutaneous staphylococcosis caused high mortality among newborn and very young rabbits.
  • Exudative dermatitis was seen in the youngest rabbits, subcutaneous abscesses   Abscess   in rabbits of all ages and mastitis   Mastitis   in lactating does.

Geographic incidence

  • Worldwide distribution.
  • Belgian rabbitries have reported particularly virulent Staphylococcus aureus  Staphylococcus aureus  - biotypes.

Age predisposition

  • Older rabbits show a greater predisposition to staphylococcal pododermatitis.
  • This increase in incidence with age may be related to changes in skin elasticity.

Sex predisposition

  • Mastitis   Mastitis   primarily affects lactating does.
  • In farmed situations, females are more frequently affected by pododermatitis than males.
  • Possible explanations for this include the greater fragility of their skin, the stress of reproduction and the provision of more foot rests for male rabbits.

Breed predisposition

  • Heavy breeds are predisposed to the development of staphylococcal pododermatitis.
  • Rex breeds   Rex  lack guard hairs and have a finer hair coat, which is more easily worn, leaving the underlying skin vulnerable to trauma and the development of staphylococcal pododermatitis.
  • New Zealand rabbits   New Zealand Red      New Zealand White   have a much denser hair coat and are particularly resistant to the development of staphylococcal pododermatitis.

Public health considerations

  • Potential source of pathogenic bacteria.

Cost considerations

  • The economic impact of low virulence staphylococcal infections is minimal as clinical signs remain limited to a small number of rabbits.
  • In commercial units affected by high virulence staphylococcal infections, the disease shows an epidemic spread resulting in poor production results, infertility and death. This leads to chronic problems and a subsequent decline in production.
  • The culling of affected rabbits followed by the disinfection of the premises and restocking is indicated when dealing with an outbreak of high virulence staphylococcosis.

Special risks, eg anaesthetic

  • No particular special risks.
  • Individuals with respiratory disease have a greater anesthetic risk. They should receive supplemental oxygen throughout anesthesia via an endotracheal tube when possible   Nasal oxygen administration  .


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Further Reading


Refereed papers
  • Recent references fromPubMedandVetMedResource.
  • Olivas I, Torres A G & Villagrá A (2013)Development of a pododermatitis score in breeding does using clustering methods. Animal7(6), 1011-1016 PubMed.
  • Tirpude R J & Batra H V (2012)Characteristics of Staphylococcus aureus isolated from acute, sub-acute and sub-clinical staphylococcosis in rabbits. World Rabbit Sci20(4), 215-221WRSA.
  • Meulemans G et al(2011)Efficacy of an autogenous vaccine against highly virulent Staphylococcus aureus infection in rabbits. World Rabbit Sci19(1), 1-9WRSA.
  • Rosell J M et al(2010)Study of urgent visits to commercial rabbit farms in Spain and Portugal during 1997-2007. World Rabbit Sci17(3), 127-136.WRSA.
  • Corpa J M, Hermans K & Haesebrouck F (2009)Main pathologies associated with Staphylococcus aureus infections in rabbits: a review. World Rabbit Sci17(3), 115-125WRSA.
  • Scarff D (2008)Skin diseases of pet rabbits. UK Vet13(2), 66-75.
  • Cui J, Liu Y, Wang R, Tong W, Drlica K & Zhao X (2006)The mutant selection window in rabbits infected with Staphylococcus aureus.Infect Dis194(11), 1601-1608PubMed.
  • Min Y G, Oh S J, Won T B, Kim Y M, Shim W S, Rhee C S, Min J Y & Dhong H J (2006)Effects of staphylococcal enterotoxin on ciliary activity and histology of the sinus mucosa. Acta Otolaryngol126(9), 941-947PubMed.
  • Rougier S, Galland D, Boucher S, Boussarie D & Valle M (2006)Epidemiology and susceptibility of pathogenic bacteria responsible for upper respiratory tract infections in pet rabbits. Vet Microbiol115(1-3), 192-198PubMed.
  • Vancraeynest D, Hermans K & Haesebrouck F (2006a)Prevalence of genes encoding exfoliative toxins, leucotoxins and superantigens among high and low virulence rabbit Staphylococcus aureusstrains. Vet Microbiol117(2-4), 211-218PubMed.
  • Vancraeynest D, Haesebrouck F, Deplano A, Denis O, Godard C, Wildemauwe C & Hermans K (2006b)International dissemination of a high virulence rabbit Staphylococcus aureusclone. J Vet Med B Infect Dis Vet Public Health53(9), 418-422PubMed.
  • Girgis D O, Reed J M, Monds K S, Dajcs J J, Marquart M E, Thibodeaux B A & O'Callaghan R J (2005)Pathogenesis of staphylococcus in the rabbit anterior chamber. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci46(4), 1371-1378PubMed.
  • Vancraeynest D, Hermans K, Martel A, Vaneechouette M, Devriese L A & Haesebrouck F (2004)Antimicrobial resistance and resistance genes in Staphylococcus aureusstrains from rabbits. Vet Microbiol101(4), 245-251PubMed.
  • Hermans K, Devriese L A & Haesebrouck F (2003)Rabbit staphylococcosis: difficult solutions for serious problems. Vet Microbiol91(1), 57-64PubMed.
  • Boucher S (2002)La maladie ulcéreuse des pattes du lapin. Le Nouveau Praticien Vétérinaire337-339.
  • Jenkins J R (2001)Skin disorders of the rabbit. Vet Clin North Am Exotic Anim Pract4, 543-563PubMed.
  • Hermans K, De Herdt P, Devriese L A, Godard C & Haesebrouck F (2000)Colonisation of rabbits with Staphyloccus aureusafter experimental infection with high and low virulence strains. Vet Microbiol72(3-4), 277-284.
  • Boucher S (1999)Mal de patte chez les rongeurs et chez les lagomorphs de compagnie. Point Vét30, 587-588.
  • Sloop G D, Moreau J M, Conerly L L, Dajcs J J & O'Callaghan R J (1999)Acute inflammation of the eyelid and cornea in Staphylococcus keratitis in the rabbit. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci40(2), 385 -391PubMed.
  • Sharma A K, Kumar R & Paliwal O P (1997)Cutaneous Staphylococcosis in German Angora Rabbits. Indian Vet J74(9), 792-792.
  • Drescher B & Schlender-Böbbis I (1996)Étude pathologique de la pododermatite chez les lapins reproducteurs de souche loured sur grillage. World Rabbit Sci4(3), 143-148.
  • Okerman L, Devriese L A, Maertens L, Okerman F & Godard C (1984)Cutaneous staphylococcosis in rabbits. Vet Rec13, 313-315PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Hess L (2004)Dermatologic diseases.In: Ferrets, Rabbits & Rodents Clin Med & Surg. 2nd edn. Eds: Quesenberry K E & Carpenter J W. Elsevier, Missouri, USA. pp 194-202.
  • Boucher S & Nouaille L (2002)La Staphylococcie.In: Manuel Pratique des Maladies des Lapins. 2nd edn. France Agricole, Paris France. pp 72-77.
  • Scarff D H (2000)Dermatoses.In: BSAVA Manual of Rabbit Med & Surg. Ed: Flecknell P. BSAVA, Gloucester, UK. pp 69-79.
  • Akulova V P & Kuznetsova O V (1973)Clinical and morphological manifestations of pododermatitis in rabbits.In: Proc 5th All Union Conf Pathol Anatomy Farm Anim. pp 201-203.