Syphilis in Rabbits (Treponematosis)

Treponematosis is a bacterial organism closely related to the Syphilis virus. It is a sexually transmitted disease that is specific to rabbits and can not be passed on to humans. If diagnosed and treated early, a course of antibiotics is usually successful for treating Treponematosis.  Lesions generally become visible within 3 to 6 weeks of infection. 

Symptoms

  • Inflammation and swelling around the genitals and eyes.
  • Brown crusting lesions on the nose, lips, eyelids and genitals. Fluid may be seen from the lesions. In severe cases the lesions may bleed.

The infection may be latent, so no symptoms may be present.

Causes

  • Sexual intercourse with an infected rabbit.
  • Expectant mothers can pass the infection on to their kits when giving birth.
  • Direct contact with the skin lesions.

Diagnosis

  • Testing lesion scrapings.
  • Skin biopsy.
  • Diagnostic testing of blood serum.

Treatment

  • Penicillin is the preferred treatment. This must not be given orally, as penicillin affects the good bacteria of the rabbit’s stomach and can be fatal.
  • Pain medication may be required.
  • Monitor your rabbit closely to make sure they continue to eat and produce pellets as normal.
  • All rabbits that have come in contact with the infected rabbit will need to be assessed by your vet.

If you suspect that your rabbit is infected take them to a rabbit savvy vet immediately.

Resources used: Second Edition Textbook of Rabbit Medicine

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