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 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.