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Enterotoxemia, also spelled as enterotoxaemia, is an explosive diarrheal disease often caused by Clostridium spp., an anaerobic Gram-positive bacteria capable of producing powerful intestinal toxin (enterotoxin). Species of Clostridia that can cause enterotoxemia in rabbits include Clostridium spiriforme, Clostridium difficile, and Clostridium perfringens.

Small numbers of Clostridium spp. are normal inhabitants of the gut flora of rabbits.


  • Lethargy
  • Rough coat
  • Perineal area covered with greenish brown fecal matter.
  • Death within 48 hours.

Often, a rabbit can look healthy in the evening and be dead the next morning.[1]


High dietary starch levels are believed to predispose to enterotoxemia by causing "carbohydrate overload" of the cecum. However, this situation is more likely to occur in juvenile rabbits (4 to 8 weeks) rather than adults.[1] Immature rabbits do not digest starch efficiently in the small intestine, but in adult animals, starch is broken down and absorbed before it reaches the cecum. Even in lactating rabbits that consume high quantities of carbohydrate, almost all the starch is hydrolysed before it reaches the cecum, so the role of starch as a predisposing factor for imbalances in adult rabbits remains unclear.[2]

In adults, enterotoxemia is usually related to factors such as stress or antibiotic therapy which disrupt the cecal microflora and allow Clostridium spp. to proliferate.[2]

Further reading

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Merck Veterinary Manual. (2015). Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases of Rabbits. Retrieved 19 August 2015 from http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/exotic_and_laboratory_animals/rabbits/bacterial_and_mycotic_diseases_of_rabbits.html#v3306520.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Varga, M. (2013). Textbook of rabbit medicine. (2nd ed.).