Pet rabbits don’t get worms as often as dogs and cats, but there are five kinds of worms that can jeopardize the health of your rabbit.
These tiny wriggling parasites include pinworms, tapeworms, roundworms, nematodes, and botfly larvae.
In this article, we will tell you the symptoms of these five common parasitic infections in rabbits, as well as what you can do to prevent and treat them. We’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about worms in rabbits.
Pinworms in Rabbits
Pinworms, known as threadworms in English-speaking countries outside the United States, are the most common kind of worms in rabbits.
Rabbits catch pinworms by eating feces containing pinworm eggs.
Since rabbits eat their own poop, they may constantly reinfect themselves after they get a pinworm infection unless they are treated (see below).
Pinworm eggs pass through the stomach to the small intestine, where they hatch. Over the next month, the worms feed on the contents of the intestines, not on the rabbit itself.
Pinworms attach themselves to the mucus lining the rabbit’s colon. The colon may produce extra mucus to try to force them out.
After about seven weeks, pinworms mate inside the rabbit’s body. The males die, and then females release 11,000 to 16,000 eggs into the rabbit’s colon.
Then the females die, and the eggs accumulate around the anus, where they can catch a ride on poop and start the process all over again.
When you see a pinworm in rabbit poop, it is already dead and harmless. The eggs in rabbit poop, however, can perpetuate the disease.
Most of the time, pinworms don’t cause any symptoms. It is an allergic reaction to the pinworm eggs that give the rabbit an itchy anus.
Also read: How To Get Rid Of Fleas On Rabbits Naturally?
Tapeworms in Rabbits
Tapeworms are much more common in dogs and cats than in rabbits, but rabbits can get them, too.
Rabbits get tapeworms by consuming the feces of infected animals.
That does not mean that rabbits seek out cat or dog poop the way they eat their own soft poops. They may swallow tapeworm eggs when an infected dog or cat has defecated on or near grass that the rabbit then grazes on.
Roundworms in Rabbits
Rabbits catch roundworms by ingesting feces from raccoons. This parasite can form cysts in the brain that eventually cause blindness, paralysis, and death.
People can also catch roundworms from raccoon scat, although they do not catch it from pet rabbits.
Raccoons can pass both roundworms and rabies to other animals, including both rabbits and humans.
Rabbits should not play or graze in any area where raccoons have been present. Roundworm eggs can survive in the soil for as long as ten years after the raccoon has released them in scat.
Botfly Larvae in Rabbits
Botflies, also known as gadflies, heel flies, warble flies, and maggots, cause a condition known as flystrike in rabbits.
Female botflies don’t bother to lay their own eggs.
Instead, they deposit their eggs on the bellies of house flies and mosquitoes. The houseflies and mosquitos then deposit the botfly eggs when they bite the rabbit or buzz down to feed on feces stuck on the rabbit’s skin.
The botflies then hatch into larvae feeding on the flesh of living animals. They emerge from their victims as adults that have only one mission in life, to lay eggs in another animal to keep their life cycle going.
Botflies are attracted to poop. They lay their eggs in poop that is stuck to the rabbit’s anus or in its coat. A few of their eggs will hatch and burrow into the rabbit’s skin and connective tissues, causing intense pain.
How Can I Check My Rabbit for Worms?
Rabbits that have worms will pay a lot of attention to their rear ends.
They may rub their tails on the ground or the floor.
They may scratch or bite at their anal area.
Young rabbits that have worms may develop severe diarrhea, followed by dehydration and listlessness.
The rabbit may lose interest in feeding, drinking, or playing. Your rabbit may lose weight.
Sometimes, rabbits will pass worms in their poop. The worms will be thin, light brown, and 5 to 10 mm (a little less than a quarter of an inch to a little less than half an inch) long.
How Do I Treat My Rabbit for Worms?
Your veterinarian can give you an anti-parasitic paste that is made specifically for rabbits.
If you can’t afford to take your rabbit to the vet, you can try over-the-counter products labeled for treating worms in rabbits. Products designed for deworming cats or dogs won’t work.
Panacur is formulated so it tastes good to rabbits. You just put a little of the paste on a carrot stick or a piece of broccoli, and your rabbit will probably be glad to take it.
Not every pet supply store has Panacur, so you will probably need to get it from your vet or from Amazon.
While you are treating your rabbit for worms, you will have to make sure it does not reinfect itself by eating its own feces. You will need to pick up poops before your rabbit can eat them.
Also read: How To Tell If Rabbit Is Sick (or in Pain)?
What Can I Do to Prevent Worms in Rabbits?
The most important thing you can do to prevent worms in rabbits is to give them a clean, uncrowded environment.
Make sure that poops are picked up. Change the lining in your rabbit’s litter box every day. Sterilize the litter box with water and vinegar once a week.
Acidity kills the parasites.
You also need to give your rabbits a dedicated playspace where dogs, cats, and wild animals do not urinate or defecate. If your backyard has been home to raccoons, do not allow your rabbits to graze or play in it.
Also read: Why Do Rabbits Die Suddenly?
Frequently Asked Questions About Worms in Rabbits
Q. Can people get pinworms from rabbits?
A. Pinworms are spread by eating poop.
A child could catch pinworms from a rabbit by ingesting rabbit poop. Pinworm eggs can also spread through dust from dried rabbit poop.
Once one family member is infected, the parasite spreads by fecal-oral transmission.
An infected person who does not wash their hands after using the bathroom can spread the disease, even in hygiene-conscious households.
About one-third of all children get pinworms. The condition is so common that it even has an important role in whether children develop allergies.
Prevent the transmission of pinworms by making sure everyone washes their hands after handling poop or doing number two. Keep fingernails short so they do not spread the parasite.
Also read: What Causes Rabbits To Lose Their Fur?
Q. Can people catch tapeworms from rabbits?
A. Tapeworms grow to a considerable size in the animals they infect.
You would have to knowingly eat an uncooked tapeworm or rabbit feces containing tapeworm eggs to catch tapeworms from your rabbit.
Q. What does contaminated poop look like?
A. Poops from rabbits that have worms may be elongated instead of round. They may be lighter than usual due to the presence of worm eggs.
Q. Is there any way to make a yard where raccoons have visited safe for rabbits?
A. The only way to make sure that a yard where raccoons have left their scat at any time in the last 10 years is to solarize the soil.
Cover the area you want to use as a rabbit run with black plastic. Let summer sun heat the soil beneath the black plastic for 60 days.
Clear plastic will not work for this process.
The grass beneath the black plastic will die, but the parasites will also be killed.
Then you can replant grass over the area that you have heat-treated. Be sure new grass is growing before you use the area as your rabbit run.
Q. Can rabbits get stomach worms?
A. Stomach worms and tapeworms are the same thing. The most common symptom of “stomach worms” is weight loss.
Q. Can rabbits get parasites from hay?
A. Hay contaminated with feces from infected rabbits can pass parasites to the rabbits that eat it.
It is always best to feed rabbits hay from a hay rack, rather than spreading hay on the ground or on the floor.
Q. Can rabbits get parasites from lawn clippings?
A. Snails and ants can carry eggs and larvae of parasitic worms. If their bodies get mixed into the clippings coming out of your power mower, your rabbit may catch the parasite from the grass clippings.
Clippings should be composted, not fed to rabbits or other pets.
Q. Can I treat my rabbits for worms with Ivermectin?
A. Ivermectin is useful for treating many kinds of parasitic infections, but it does not kill worms in rabbits.
Q. Can rabbits become infected with nematodes?
A. Rabbits can ingest nematodes with moldy hay. These tiny worms can accumulate as a brown, thready mass in the rabbit’s intestine.
The best way to prevent nematode infections is to make sure your rabbit always gets fresh, clean, dry hay.
Your veterinarian may be able to treat nematode infections with fenbendazole or thiabendazole. Adding about an ounce (30 grams) of arugula to your rabbit’s daily diet (it’s a natural source of piperine) may also help.
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