Rabbit syphilis, also known as treponematosis, vent disease, or venereal spirochetosis, is caused by the bacterium Treponema cuniculi. This is not a zoonotic disease and can be passed by direct and sexual (venereal) contact.:222
Transmission is through direct contact with infected skin or from infected dam to kits at birth. Incubation periods are long, lasting up to 10 to 16 weeks.:235
It is a self-limiting disease; carriers may be asymptomatic until stress occurs.:235
Other symptoms include the following::222
- lesions on the skin of the perineum and genitilia.
- facial lesions around the chin, lips, nostrils, and eyelids.
- inguinal lymph nodes may be enlarged.
Affected female rabbits can also have the following symptoms::235
- inflammation of the uterus (metritis)
- neonatal death
Bucks are often asymptotic carriers and may have small star-shaped stars on their scrotum.:222
A skin biopsy sample with silver staining can confirm a diagnosis of rabbit syphilis.:222
Rabbits with syphilis are effectively treated with repeated injections of penicillin.:223 Penicillin should never be given to rabbits orally. Remove nursing kits from dams during treatment to decrease the risk of their developing penicillin-associated enterotoxemia.:236
Tetracyclines and chloramphenicol can also be effective.:223 Many strains of syphilis have been tested to be resistant to azithromycin or erythromycin. Please note that erythromycin is contraindicated in rabbits due to its ability to incite gastrointestinal disease.
- Medirabbit. Treponematosis - rabbit syphilis
- Charles River. (2009). Treponema paraluiscuniculi [PDF]
- The Merck Veterinary Manual, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases of Rabbits - search for "Treponematosis"
- Raising-Rabbits.com. Rabbit Syphilis
The following are some experiences with rabbit syphilis.
- Pipkin Rabbit Rescue. (2010). Rabbit syphilis - Dougal
- T Saarony. Case report: Atypical treponematosis - rabbit syphilis in a pet rabbit
Here are libraries on rabbit syphilis.
- RabbitsOnline.net. Vent Disease (Rabbit Syphilis)
- Quesenberry, K & Carpenter, J. (2012). Ferrets, rabbits, and rodents: Clinical medicine and surgery. (3rd ed.).
- University of Washington School of Medicine. (2004). Antibiotic-resistant strain of syphilis is spreading, UW study finds. Retrieved 26 Sep 2021 from http://depts.washington.edu/mednews/vol8/no29/syphilis.html