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Worms and Your Rabbit

Knowing the signs to look out for can help you make sure your bunny gets treatment quickly, and stays happy and healthy.

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While worms are much less common in rabbits than in our cats and dogs, they can still pick them up. Knowing the signs to look out for can help you make sure your bunny gets treatment quickly, and stays happy and healthy, even if they do come across any of these parasites.

Read more about common parasites 

Prevent

As is so often the case, prevention is better than cure. As rabbits are so rarely affected with worms, unless there is a specific reason to do so, routine worming is not usually recommended. Instead, the best way to protect your bunny is to reduce their chance of exposure to parasites in the first place. Tips for how to do this include:

  • Regularly worming and cats and dogs who can access your rabbit’s grazing area.
  • Picking up after your other pets in the garden routinely and rapidly.
  • Excluding foxes from the garden where possible, and picking up and disposing of any fox faeces if you find it.
  • Cleaning the hutch regularly.
  • Rotating the area in which your rabbits graze.
  • Keeping your rabbit population density low.
  • Avoiding feeding greens collected from areas where wild rabbits may have been.

Avoid sitting rabbit cages on top of each other, to prevent faeces dropping between cages. 

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you do think that your rabbit has worms, getting them to your local vet for a check-up is the best course of action. If your rabbit does have worms, then usually a simple deworming program is enough to combat the problem. In advanced or serious cases, rabbits may need more supportive case, especially if they have had an upset tunny or gone off their food.

Although most pet rabbits do not need regular routine worming, if you think your rabbit may be at a higher risk of picking up worms, your local vet will be happy to talk to you about what preventative treatments are available. 

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What About My Health?

Rabbit tapeworms cannot be passed to humans unless rabbit meat is eaten and undercooked, so this is not a health concern for the average pet rabbit owner!

The rabbit pinworm is a different species to that which is found in humans. 

Pinworms

The tiny pinworm, Passalurus ambiguous, is the most common worm to infest UK rabbits. Measuring only 5-10mm, adult worms are found in the caecum and the large intestine of affected rabbits. Signs may be absent but affected rabbits may show:

  • Poor coat condition 
  • Weight loss
  • Skin irritation around the back end  

Young rabbits, especially around weaning, can be heavily infected and may have more serious signs including diarrhoea, lethargy and substantial weight loss. 

Rabbits are infected by grazing on contaminated food, meaning worms are much more of a problem in places with many rabbits such as breeders, although wild rabbits can be a source of infection for pet rabbits.

Stomach Worms

It is rare for stomach worms (Obeliscoides cuniculi) to be diagnosed in pet rabbits, however the main sign if an infection is weight loss. For rabbits who are carrying a large number of worms, it may be possible to see worms in the faeces. 

Tapeworms

While tapeworms are usually destined to live in cats, dogs or foxes, some of their lifecycles take them through rabbits too.  These tapeworms can be picked up from grazing in areas contaminated by faeces from other animals, and can develop into cysts within rabbits.  This can cause abdominal discomfort but is quite rare.