ISSN 2398-2969      




  • 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  .


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to obtain ten tokens to view any ten Vetlexicon articles, images, sounds or videos, or Login


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to obtain ten tokens to view any ten Vetlexicon articles, images, sounds or videos, or Login


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to obtain ten tokens to view any ten Vetlexicon articles, images, sounds or videos, or Login


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to obtain ten tokens to view any ten Vetlexicon articles, images, sounds or videos, or Login


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to obtain ten tokens to view any ten Vetlexicon articles, images, sounds or videos, or Login

Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Olivas I, Torres A G & Villagrá A (2013) Development of a pododermatitis score in breeding does using clustering methods. Animal (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 Sci 20 (4), 215-221 VetMedResource.
  • Meulemans G, Haesebrouck F, Lipinska U et al (2011) Efficacy of an autogenous vaccine against highly virulent Staphylococcus aureus infection in rabbits. World Rabbit Sci 19 (1), 1-9 VetMedResource.
  • Corpa J M, Hermans K & Haesebrouck F (2009) Main pathologies associated with Staphylococcus aureus infections in rabbits: a review. World Rabbit Sci 17 (3), 115-125 VetMedResource.
  • Rosell J M, de la Fuente L F, Badiola J I et al (2009) Study of urgent visits to commercial rabbit farms in Spain and Portugal during 1997-2007. World Rabbit Sci 17 (3), 127-136 VetMedResource.
  • Scarff D (2008) Skin diseases of pet rabbits. UK Vet: Companion Animal 13 (2), 66-75 VetMedResource.
  • Cui J, Liu Y, Wang R et al (2006) The mutant selection window in rabbits infected with Staphylococcus aureus. J Infect Dis 194 (11), 1601-1608 PubMed.
  • Min Y G, Oh S J, Won T B et al (2006) Effects of staphylococcal enterotoxin on ciliary activity and histology of the sinus mucosa. Acta Otolaryngol 126 (9), 941-947 PubMed.
  • Rougier S, Galland D, Boucher S et al (2006) Epidemiology and susceptibility of pathogenic bacteria responsible for upper respiratory tract infections in pet rabbits. Vet Microbiol 115 (1-3), 192-198 PubMed.
  • Vancraeynest D, Hermans K & Haesebrouck F (2006) Prevalence of genes encoding exfoliative toxins, leucotoxins and superantigens among high and low virulence rabbit Staphylococcus aureus strains. Vet Microbiol 117 (2-4), 211-218 PubMed.
  • Vancraeynest D, Haesebrouck F, Deplano A et al (2006) International dissemination of a high virulence rabbit Staphylococcus aureus clone. J Vet Med B Infect Dis Vet Public Health 53 (9), 418-422 PubMed.
  • Girgis D O, Reed J M, Monds K S et al (2005) Pathogenesis of Staphylococcus in the rabbit anterior chamber. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 46 (4), 1371-1378 PubMed.
  • Vancraeynest D, Hermans K, Martel A et al (2004) Antimicrobial resistance and resistance genes in Staphylococcus aureus strains from rabbits. Vet Microbiol 101 (4), 245-251 PubMed.
  • Hermans K, Devriese L A & Haesebrouck F (2003) Rabbit staphylococcosis: difficult solutions for serious problems. Vet Microbiol 91 (1), 57-64 PubMed.
  • Boucher S (2002) La maladie ulcéreuse des pattes du lapin. Le Nouveau Praticien Vétérinaire 337-339.
  • Jenkins J R (2001) Skin disorders of the rabbit. Vet Clin North Am Exotic Anim Pract 4 (3), 543-563 PubMed.
  • Hermans K, De Herdt P, Devriese L A et al (2000) Colonisation of rabbits with Staphyloccus aureus after experimental infection with high and low virulence strains. Vet Microbiol 72 (3-4), 277-284 PubMed.
  • Boucher S (1999) Mal de patte chez les rongeurs et chez les lagomorphs de compagnie. Point Vét 30, 587-588.
  • Sloop G D, Moreau J M, Conerly L L et al (1999) Acute inflammation of the eyelid and cornea in Staphylococcus keratitis in the rabbit. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 40 (2), 385-391 PubMed.
  • Sharma A K, Kumar R & Paliwal O P (1997) Cutaneous staphylococcosis in German angora rabbits. Indian Vet J 74 (9), 792-793 VetMedResource.
  • Drescher B & Schlender-Böbbis I (1996) Pathological study of pododermatitis in breeding rabbits of a heavy broiler strain. World Rabbit Sci (3), 143-148 VetMedResource.
  • Okerman L, Devriese L A, Maertens L et al (1984) Cutaneous staphylococcosis in rabbits. Vet Rec 14 (13), 313-315 PubMed.

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.

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

We have an ever growing content library on Vetlexicon so if you ever find we haven't covered something that you need please fill in the form below and let us know!


To show you are not a Bot please can you enter the number showing adjacent to this field

 Security code