We all know that we have to be incredibly careful when using antibiotics. With rabbits we use them with even more caution.
Posted: 15 December 2018
Antibiotic resistance is a big subject, and with more and more super-bugs emerging, we have a huge responsibility to make sure we choose our antibiotics carefully.
With rabbits we also have the added problem that many antibiotics can cause real and serious harm to the patient.
It’s therefore important to have safe and effective protocols of work to encourage all clinicians in the practice to work together. Some of the guidelines for choice of safe rabbit antibiotics are summarised below.
This is perhaps the most important stage of antibacterial treatment planning, and may be overlooked for various reasons. However it’s worth doing, so take a swab or biopsy and perform a culture and sensitivity test first. Explain to your client your reasoning.
The rabbit digestive system relies on a healthy, functional bacterial flora in the gut. With stress from illness and infections, these organisms can be adversely affected, and even without treatment, rabbits run the risk of bacterial overgrowth and gut stasis. However the danger increases when using antibiotics, as there can be an overwhelming destruction of healthy bacteria.
Disease occurs when an overgrowth of abnormal bacteria produce toxins which damage the caecum and colon, as well as affecting other body systems. Clostridium spiroforme, a bacterium normally identified in the lower intestinal tract in very small numbers, is the most common cause. Other organisms isolated include;
Antibiotics that alter the ‘normal’ bacterial population in the rabbit's lower intestinal tract are the problem. The chance of these antibiotics causing enteritis or enterotoxaemia is greater if they are given orally, rather than by injection.
Common signs of this rapidly developing problem, which are usually evident anything from 24 hours to 10 days after administrating the antibiotics, include;
As with the use of all the drugs in animals, make sure you follow the rules of the cascade, as clearly defined by DEFRA and the VMD
A diet full of simple carbohydrates will increase a rabbit's chance of developing enteritis when taking antibiotics, since Clostridium spiroforme needs simple carbohydrates to produce its toxin. However a diet high in fibre, such as grass hay, will reduce the chance of antibiotics upsetting the rabbit's flora. This is because the fibre increases the motility of the cecum and colon.
Prevention of enterotoxaemia is best achieved by;