Sarcocystis in Domestic Rabbits

What is Sarcocystis?

Sarcocystis is a genus of single-celled parasites with a complex lifecycle involving two hosts. The definitive host is typically a predator, while prey animals contract the parasite by consuming contaminated plants or grass. For the parasite to complete its lifecycle, the infected prey must be eaten by the predator, whose feces then contaminate the environment.

Symptoms of Sarcocystis in Rabbits

Rabbits with Sarcocystis typically exhibit neurological symptoms, the most common being ataxia, which gives them a “drunken” appearance. Affected rabbits often wobble when they hop, experience tremors, and may fall over. Other symptoms include:

  • Hind-limb weakness
  • Seizures
  • Circling behavior
  • Head tilt
  • Rolling
  • Stargazing

These symptoms can progressively worsen over time, so early detection and treatment are crucial.

How to Prevent Sarcocystis in Your Rabbit

To protect your rabbit from Sarcocystis, follow these prevention tips:

  1. Indoor Housing: Keep your rabbit indoors to minimize contact with wildlife or predator feces.
  2. Monitor Wildlife Presence: If you live in an area with wildlife like opossums or skunks, or where other rabbits have been diagnosed with Sarcocystis, be extra cautious.
  3. Safe Outdoor Play: Limit outdoor playtime for your rabbit. If you do allow outdoor time, cover the exercise area with a clean blanket or rug to prevent contact with contaminated surfaces.
  4. Supervision: Always supervise your rabbit during outdoor playtime to ensure they stay on the clean, covered area.

By taking these precautions, you can help ensure your rabbit stays safe and healthy.


Further reading

Videos of Bunnies with Sarcocystis

  • Margo DeMello

    Margo DeMello PhD is an anthrozoologist, animal activist, and writer. She is an Assistant Professor of Anthrozoology at Carroll College. For the past 15 years, she was the Human-Animal Studies Program Director at the Animals & Society Institute. She loves rabbits, chihuahuas, wombats and sloths. She is a knitter, a gardener, and a true crime fanatic.

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