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BINKYBUNNY FORUMS > HOUSE RABBIT Q & A > How to tell if a bunny has worms
Last Post by BB at 5/27/2007 8:36 PM (13 Replies)
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User is Offline Ester Yeh
Houston, TX
127 posts Send Private Message
5/18/2007 4:33 PM
I was given these two rabbits by a friend who had found them in a very dirty cage.  They look healthy and bright eyed to me, but their cage was so filthy.   There were worms ( I think maggots) in wiht the dirt and days old poop.  Once I saw the maggots I pretty much broke down.  It reminded me too much of the traumatic event I went through in high school when I had a rabbit.  My parents forced me to keep her outside and she ended up getting worms and dying.  When I saw her she had worms coming out of her everywhere and she looked like she was in so much pain.  During the time, my parents wouldnt let me take her to the vet because of costs and stuff so we never knew she had worms and my knowledge of rabbits were very minimal back then.  That scene was incredibly traumatic for me.  It still affects me every once in awhile now when I think back about it.   Thats why I'm trying so hard to care for rabbits now.   I'm so scared for those rabbits right now.  At the moment they are not with me but at a friends house, but how can I tell if they have those worms inside of them?  Will they feel bloated? Will it come out in their poop? Will they not eat as much? They seem pretty active and eating well to me so far.  I'm so worried though and its really stressing me out.  

User is Offline osprey
Los Altos, California
2094 posts Send Private Message
5/18/2007 4:54 PM
I don't know anything about internal parasites, so I can't help you there.

I do know a bit about what happened to your previous bunny though.  She was afflicted with "fly strike", where flies lay their eggs on the bunny and the larvae (maggots) eat their way into the bunny's flesh.  It is an absolutely awful thing to see, I am not surprised that it traumatized you.  Fly strike should be relatively easy to see, the little buggers leave sores behind that are visible.  Here are two articles that discuss it:

User is Offline Ester Yeh
Houston, TX
127 posts Send Private Message
5/18/2007 5:12 PM
omg that is horrifying...but thanks for the information.

User is Offline MooBunnay
Dallas, Texas (Allen)
3088 posts Send Private Message
5/18/2007 5:19 PM
I had the same thing happen to a chicken of mine when I was little, and I know how traumatizing it is. 

I think if the rabbits had worms, with such delicate digestive systems they would not be eating.  If they are eating and now in a clean area, you should start looking at their poops to see if they look abnormal, if they are eating healthy and their poops are healthy looking, I would say that is definitely a good sign.

I found this online when looking at worms and parasites in rabbits:

Signs of worms in pet rabbits include unthriftiness, dull fur,
diarrhea, cysts, and mucous or blood in the droppings. If you
suspect worms in a pet rabbit, take the rabbit and a small
sample of it's droppings to the veterinarian.

Also, since you think you saw maggots near the rabbits, I would take them to the vet, I saw this on the House Rabbit Society website:

Once they have consumed external debris, they go right on to sound flesh (sometimes up the back where you don't see it), and once in the flesh, they produce toxins that create a state of shock.

It seems that you should be able to tell by examining the bunnies, especially around their rear area for any infestations.  Were the bunnies have soft poops due to a bad diet? If so, then they are even more likely to have fly strike, so examine their skin to see if you see irritations.

I think the best idea would be to get the bunnies to the vet, even if they do not have a parasite, they might have developed another sickness due to an unhealthy environment, so the vet can check it out!

User is Offline Ester Yeh
Houston, TX
127 posts Send Private Message
5/18/2007 5:22 PM
what does it mean by "up the back where you dont see it'? like up the anal area?

User is Offline Ester Yeh
Houston, TX
127 posts Send Private Message
5/18/2007 5:25 PM
i am going to my friends house now to do my best to check up on them. I am extremely squeamish and hate bugs so I hope I can manage this. Unfortunately I wont be able to take them in to a vet since I have to work all wknd and the bunny vets here only work on certain days. However I do work in an animal clinic, but they only service dogs and cats. Its also not a full service clinic and all we do is vaccinations but hopefully I can ask one of the vets if she could somehow physically examine the buns. Man, I am majorly freaked out right now!

User is Offline BB
San Francisco Bay Area
Forum Leader
8980 posts Send Private Message
5/18/2007 10:07 PM
Aw man, what JERKS the people were who took care of them before you. Ask your friends to see if the bunnies behinds are filthy too. I figuring yes. If this is flystrike, you should really act quickly. I agree with MooBunnay - at this point since they've been living in filth and maggots were seen in their poop, there is a good chance that they could have it. It is better to play it safe rather than sorry,as flystrike can happen very quickly. According to the articles above "Within a 24-hour period an otherwise stable rabbit can enter a terminal state of shock due to maggot infestation."

so if there is anyway you or your friends could get them a 24 hour vet (emergency) that would at least be playing it "safe" . I know that if I call my regular vet after hours they have a recording that includes a recommended after hours vet. Mabe yours will too

User is Offline MooBunnay
Dallas, Texas (Allen)
3088 posts Send Private Message
5/19/2007 5:55 AM
When they were talking about up in back where you don't see it, I believe thats referring to the bum area. This is how to check for them: (Quoted from the House Rabbit Society,

Flies don't need to lay eggs on the messy or injured area; that is merely what attracts them. The eggs look like tiny patches of off-white mush laid on the regular fur where they can stick. When the eggs hatch, the maggots automatically gravitate to the appropriate area where they begin to burrow in and, literally, eat their victim alive. The tiniest cut can provide access beneath the skin where they begin to burrow and eat deeper and deeper. If not found and flushed out before getting too deep, there may be no hope. Between tissue damage and infection, they cause serious harm to their victim and are potentially life threatening.

Inspect your rabbit thoroughly and regularly. If egg patches are found, a flea comb can help remove them. Vinegar also helps kill the eggs, but do not rely totally on this. Removal is the key.

The maggots themselves are tiny white worms (the larval stage of the fly) and there can be hundreds of them. You may have seen such wiggling masses on garbage. If you see them on the surface of your rabbit, be assured they are also under the surface. You can frequently tell where they are by a rippling motion under the skin.

Every single maggot must be removed and killed or it will burrow back inside at the first opportunity. Watch carefully for the smallest sign of movement anywhere on the animal's fur or near the area of the maggots' entrance. The rabbit should also be thoroughly checked for additional patches of eggs that may not have yet hatched. Be sure to follow all of this with an immediate trip to your veterinarian. A thorough veterinary exam, possibly more flushing, and antibiotics will be needed any time maggots have been found on your pet.

User is Offline MooBunnay
Dallas, Texas (Allen)
3088 posts Send Private Message
5/19/2007 6:00 AM
Also, I read that a great technique for seeing the little invaders is a Magnifying Glass. If you see some freshly hatched larvae, they can be wiped off with a Q-tip, also feeling the fur should also you to feel bunches of eggs, and you can take those off with a flea comb.  The HRS also recommends that the areas to look are up and down the back of the legs and the tail.

User is Offline Gravehearted
Campbell, CA
2443 posts Send Private Message
5/20/2007 8:35 AM
Moobunnay - thanks for sharing so much info on parasites, since I haven't dealt with them myself, it's good to learn more.
~ bunny mom to to HRH Hareiette, Viktor the crazy Krum and Pandora, prima binky ballerina ~ Save a life, Adopt!

User is Offline Spacehopper
Buckinhamshire - UK
544 posts Send Private Message
5/20/2007 11:11 PM
Found this, it may be of interest too.


Trichostrongylidae—rabbit stomach worms. Rabbits get infected upon ingesting worm eggs. Parasite develops to maturity in stomach. The infestation with these worms usually has no clinical signs. In severe infections failure to gain weight or weight loss could result. Treatment: Fenbendazole in feed for 5 days.
Passalurus ambiguus —rabbit pinworm located in cecum and large intestine. The infestation with these worms usually has no clinical signs, even in heavy infections. Treatment: Piperazine for two days in food or water; fenbendazole 50 ppm in feed for 5 days. Rabbits get infected through ingestion of contaminated food and water. spores are shed in the urine and can remain viable for months. Rabbit pinworms are not transmissible to humans. Pinworms are extremely common in rabbits and may be difficult to prevent even with good sanitation.
Taenia pisiformis, Taenia serialis, Cittotaenia variabilis—rabbit tapeworms. These parasites may be located in small intestine, liver or connective tissue of muscles. Signs may include loss of appetite, lethargy, enlarged abdomen and swelling under skin. Tapeworm are transmitted through ingestion of feed (especially grass) contaminated with eggs. The primary host of most tapeworms that affect rabbits is the dog. Rabbits should not be allowed to eat grass in area where dogs run. Rabbits are the primary host of Cittotaenia, but this tapeworm is usually found in wild rabbits, rarely domestic rabbits.

Eimeria stiedae (also known as Monocystis stiedae , Coccidium oviforme, and Coccidium cuniculi)—These protozoal parasites cause hepatic coccidiosis. Signs are usually mild and may include loss of appetite, rough coat, weight loss, enlarged abdomen, lethargy, constipation and diarrhea. In this form of coccidiosis the parasites invade the liver and block bile ducts rather than forming colonies on intestine walls. It is more serious than intestinal coccidiosis. Jaundice may be present in advanced stages. Death is usually rare, except in young rabbits with heavy infections.

Diagnosis is made through identification of oocysts in feces using a direct smear, flotation, or concentration- flotation methods.

Treatment involves several drugs that controls the organism until natural immunity develops.

Excellent husbandry can eliminate coccidiosis or keep it to a low level. Infected rabbits can be eliminated from the population. Barrier systems may be used. It is important to prevent fecal contamination of feed and water. A 10% ammonia solution is lethal to oocysts. Young rabbits should be separated from the dam as soon as possible, since suckling rabbits are especially susceptible to coccidiosis. Vermin must be controlled, and it should be explained to animal caretakers that they can mechanically transmit the disease.



Eimeria irresidua, E. magna, E. media, E. perforans and others—very common protozoan parasites that infest intestinal tract; different species prefer various areas. These are transmission is by ingestion of sporulated oocysts. It is generally accepted that "night feces" which the rabbits eat, do not contain infectious oocysts. Rabbits may have no clinical signs. More severely affected rabbits (usually young) lose weight or fail to gain. Diarrhea, if present, can be intermittent to profuse and watery with mucus and blood; such animals have intense thirst. The parasitized intestinal epithelial cells die, and this may cause ulceration and accumulation of a mixed mononuclear exudate. This may cause grossly observable multiple white lesions in the intestinal wall.Deaths are due to dehydration and secondary bacterial infections. In cases of extremely heavy primary infections, rabbits may die before oocysts are passed in the feces.

Treatment and control is the same as for hepatic coccidiosis
Toxoplasma gondii (synonym: T. cuniculi)—a relatively rare protozoan parasite in rabbits, but can occur in households with cats. It is transmitted through ingestion of cat feces containing infective oocysts and also by the transplacental route. The parasites are located in the brain, lymph nodes, spleen, liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, and eyes. Acute disease is found most commonly in young rabbits. Sudden loss of appetite, fever, (greater than 104 F) and increased respiratory rate may be seen. Rabbits develop an ocular and nasal discharge, become lethargic, and central nervous signs of localized or generalized convulsions may occur a few days after initial signs are noticed. Paralysis may develop, especially in the hindquarters. Death usually occurs 2 to 8 days after the onset of signs.

In chronic disease found most commonly in older rabbits, loss of appetite and anemia are common sequels. Central nervous signs, such as paralysis of the hindquarters may occur. Rabbits may die suddenly or recover.

The diagnosis is usually done by a combination of histopathological examination of lesions, identification of organisms, and blood tests.

Although drug therapy may be used, treatment is usually not practical. Good husbandry is essential. Most disinfectants are ineffective, but heating and drying will inactivate the oocysts. If toxoplasmosis is present with a colony, only seronegative animals should be used for breeding. Rabbits may be a significant reservoir for the disease in man.
Sarcocystis cuniculi (synonyms: Sarcocystis leporum)—a rare protozoan parasite located in heart and skeletal muscle. Transmission is by ingestion of trophozoites passed in feces. Light to moderate infections have no clinical signs. The cysts produce a strong endotoxin, sarcocystin, which has been associated with the observed lameness in heavily infected animals.

Sarcocystis infections have been reported in humans, and it is thought that these cases probably represent transmission from animals.
Giardia duodenalis (Synonyms: Hexamita duodenalis; Lamblia cuniculi)—This is a common parasite located in small intestine. In severely affected animals diarrhea, weight loss, dehydration, lethargy, and low body temperature may result. It is most often seen in very young rabbits, often those from pet stores. The parasite is transmitted through ingestion of cysts from cat and dog feces.

Nutritional supplements, heat, fluids, and parasiticides such as fenbendazole and oxyfenbenddazole are used to treat it. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed. To prevent the infestation, dispose of all dog and cat feces promptly and wash hands afterwards. Cysts can remain on the hair of dogs and cats and could potentially be a source of infection. This rabbit parasite does not appear to be transmissible to man.
Cryptosporidium cuniculus—The rabbit is an intermidiate host of this protozoan. Cats are the definitive host. Rabbits in households with cats can potentially jump into the cat's litter box, step in infected cat feces, and then ingest oocysts when cleaning their feet.

Infected rabbits may have no clinical signs, or may have fever and die within a few days.

The infection is treated with parasiticides. Rabbit owners who also own cats should be very careful to keep the cat's litter box immaculately clean, to wash their hands after cleaning the litter box, and to keep the rabbits from using it, if possible.
Encephalitozoon cuniculi (synonym: Nosema cuniculi)—a protozoan parasite located in brain and kidneys. Infected rabbits may have no signs. In acute disease, loss of appetite, convulsions, increased thirst, urinary incontinence, wry neck, muscle weakness, paralysis of hindquarters, or sudden death may occur. The disease mainly affects kidneys and brain, although in seriously infected rabbits all tissues can be affected.

There is currently no drug therapy that cures encephalitozoonosis, although some drugs have been used to stabilize the affected animals. Some rabbits recover without treatment.

Dwarf rabbits appear to be more susceptible than other rabbits. Encephalitozoonosis is only contagious while the parasites are in the kidneys, a three-month period. Unfortunately the owner will probably not know the rabbit has the parasite at this stage. Therefore, good sanitation practices are the best prevention. Rabbit owners with dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, or birds should be especially attentive to good sanitation practices. Always wash hands after cleaning dog feces from the yard, cat litter boxes, and bird cages. Dispose of any rabbit bedding or feed that becomes contaminated with rodent or bird feces.
Never regret anything that once made you smile! :-)

User is Offline poopy
Orange County, CA
694 posts Send Private Message
5/21/2007 9:37 AM
My vet recommended I bring in some of Medusa's poop for a fecal exam next time I bring her in. She said often internal parasites go undetected, and its better to take care of them before the rabbit gets sick w/ anything else. You can bring in some poop to your vets office, you don't even have to bring the rabbit in, but it sounds like they are in need of a physical exam anyways since they were living in some bad conditions before.

User is Offline Ester Yeh
Houston, TX
127 posts Send Private Message
5/24/2007 5:23 PM
good idea poopy, I'll definitely do that with my own rabbits too.

thanks for all the information everyone! it was incredibly helpful.

Also, the two buns are fine and doing great!

User is Offline BB
San Francisco Bay Area
Forum Leader
8980 posts Send Private Message
5/27/2007 8:36 PM
I'm so happy to hear the two bunnies are doing great! WHEW!
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