Tyzzer's disease is usually a fatal disease that is seen in young rabbits, most often recently weaned rabbits. When an outbreak occurs in a group of rabbits, less than 10 percent may survive and death can occur within days of being infected. The disease can affect a wide range of animals including rabbits and rodents and in rare cases, dogs, cats, and horses, among others.
Causes of Tyzzer's Disease
Tyzzer's disease is caused by the bacteria Clostridium piliforme. It is believed that the bacterium is spread when a rabbit consumes contaminated fecal matter. The disease is most often seen in rabbits that are stressed or are kept in unsanitary living conditions. Tyzzer's can be mistaken for other diseases including those caused by other bacteria. Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria can also cause bouts of diarrhea which often leads to the death of the rabbit. To confirm the disease, a veterinarian can positively diagnose Tyzzer's with testing.
Symptoms of Tyzzer's Disease
Tyzzer's disease is characterized by a great amount of watery diarrhea. Diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration which can cause the rapid death of a recently weaned rabbit. Other symptoms may include appetite loss, lethargy, and lack of movement. Internally, Tyzzer's disease can cause damage to the liver, intestines, and even the heart. As the disease quickly progresses, a rabbit may appear to have wasting disease and will quickly deteriorate before treatment can be administered.
Treatments for Tyzzer's Disease
Treating Tyzzer's disease in rabbits is seldom successful. Since rabbits typically have adverse reactions to many antibiotics, the treatments available for other animals cannot be used for rabbits. In rare cases, the antibiotic oxytetracycline has shown to be effective.
If an outbreak of any disease should occur, the environment will need to be thoroughly sanitized with bleach and water. Bedding and any accessories that cannot be sanitized properly should be disposed of, preferably by burning.
Not all cases of Tyzzer's disease have been proven to be preventable. However, there are steps a rabbit owner can take to limit the transmission. Most importantly, a rabbit's living conditions should be kept sanitary. This includes their cage, accessories, and feeding containers. To limit cross-contamination, owners should wash in between handlings of different rabbits. If possible, rabbits should be housed separately and should not share feeding containers. Rabbits should not be placed in stressful situations especially young rabbits that are being weaned.
When new rabbits are purchased, they should be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days prior to being housed near currently owned rabbits. I personally quarantine rabbits for 30 days because moving causes large amounts of stress with rabbits. This 30 day period is not only used to watch for illness but also allows the rabbit time to adjust to its new environment and handlers. Before placing a rabbit into a previously used hutch or cage, the housing should be thoroughly sanitized with bleach and water.
THE MERCK/MERIAL MANUAL FOR PET HEALTH, copyright 2007.