Rabbit Syphilis or Treponematosis

By Rick Axelson, D.V.M

What is Rabbit Syphilis?rabbit

As in humans, this is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a spirochete organism called Treponema cuniculi.  It is a different spirochete from the human Treponema pallidium. Humans cannot get this particular organism from a rabbit.

How did my rabbit get syphilis?

Rabbits get syphilis from other infected rabbits through sexual contact, direct contact with the sores of an infected rabbit or at birth during vaginal passage. Your rabbit likely came with the infection.

What are the signs of Syphilis?

The sores are confined to the mucocutaneous junctions (where skin meets mucous membranes), such as the external genitals, anus, lips, nostrils and eyelids. They may start in these areas as redness and swelling but will progress to pimple like sores, then ulcerate, and ending up as crusty sores. They may come and go, appear to resolve, then reappear perhaps after episodes of stress. Often the lesions are seen only around the face from rabbits sniffing each other. Genital sores may be missed as it is not an area of the body owners tend to look at.

How is rabbit syphilis diagnosed?

This disease is most often a presumptive diagnosis based on history, and/or diagnosed by the physical signs the rabbit is showing. It can also be diagnosed in retrospect by its response to treatment. There are some blood tests available but it may take up to 12 week for results. Skin biopsies can also be used  to confirm the diagnosis.

How is syphilis treated?

Your veterinarian will treat the infection with an injectible penicillin for 3-4 weeks.

      NOTE :   oral penicillin is NEVER used in rabbits

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