Rabbit syphilis

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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.[1]: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.[1]:235

Symptoms

It is a self-limiting disease; carriers may be asymptomatic until stress occurs.[1]:235

A rescued rabbit at South Florida House Rabbit Rescue from a hoarding case with syphilis. NOTE: Clicking on the image will show the full resolution graphic image. [source]

Other symptoms include the following:[1]: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:[1]:235

  • inflammation of the uterus (metritis)
  • abortion
  • neonatal death

Bucks are often asymptotic carriers and may have small star-shaped stars on their scrotum.[1]:222

Diagnosis

A skin biopsy sample with silver staining can confirm a diagnosis of rabbit syphilis.[1]:222

Treatment

Rabbits with syphilis are effectively treated with repeated injections of penicillin.[1]: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.[1]:236

Tetracyclines and chloramphenicol can also be effective.[1]:223 Many strains of syphilis have been tested to be resistant to azithromycin or erythromycin.[2] Please note that erythromycin is contraindicated in rabbits due to its ability to incite gastrointestinal disease.

Further reading

The following are some experiences with rabbit syphilis.

Here are libraries on rabbit syphilis.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Quesenberry, K & Carpenter, J. (2012). Ferrets, rabbits, and rodents: Clinical medicine and surgery. (3rd ed.).
  2. 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