Listeria has claimed the lives of more than half my rabbits. A nasty disease, it can kill within 48 hours of the first symptoms. The cure is massively massive doses of antibiotics, and only works in a fraction of infected animals.
It works so quickly that in the first two rabbits to succumb to it, I never even saw the early symptoms. The first I noticed, the first rabbit was sitting hunched as if in pain, with her heads pressed against the corner of her cages. When I picked her up, I noticed she was extremely skinny despite having eaten her food regularly. Within an hour of being seen like this, she was dead. I had no idea what caused it, and skimming my medical information for rabbits didn’t yield anything that seemed like it. So I thought perhaps the tapeworms that I’d been dealing with had something to do with it. Or the cold snap we were in. Or maybe she’d dumped all her food instead of eating it, and the wild birds had cleaned up the evidence. I really didn’t know.
The second rabbit succumbed about a week later. Again this one was hunched in pain with his head in the corner of his cage, and again he was extremely skinny despite leaving no food in his bowl. He was dead by morning. This time I went online and posted what symptoms I knew on a rabbit-savvy internet bulletin board, and someone suggested I check out listeriosis. The symptoms fit to a T. https://www.addl.purdue.edu/newsletters/1997/winter/listeriosis.shtml
I started putting my hands on each rabbit every day, and paying extreme attention to each one’s behavior and possible symptoms. I found two more with looks and behaviors that matched listeriosis’ early symptoms. One of the rabbits with the early symptoms died 48 hours later. The other had developed more pronounced symptoms.
I knew this could seriously impact my herd. Listeria in rabbits is originally contracted from food that spoils in certain ways. It can also be passed from animal to animal with a fecal-oral contamination. (That means one rabbit gets another rabbit’s feces in her mouth.) So I made changes to reduce or eliminate the chances of transmission via that fecal-oral route. I also took stock of where their feed was coming from, and made changes in where I got their green feed.
Two other rabbits caged nearby developed early symptoms anyway.
So today I bit the bullet and culled most of my rabbits. All the rabbits that were symptomatic were from the same bloodline, so that bloodline is now gone. It comprised well over half of my rabbits. I am left with three Angora rabbits that don’t produce offspring. One proven American Chinchilla doe. And two Silver Fox does that are new to my herd. (Notice I don’t have a buck in this herd? He was the second one to pass. Grrrrr.)
So, Listeria sucks. I’m still not sure how it’s getting transmitted. Perhaps the squirrels that run between the cages? I don’t know. I just know that my herd is down to three breeders. And no buck. I have no guarantee I stopped the progress of the disease, either.
Remember this post? https://rantingaboutrectangles.com/2012/05/11/when-to-throw-in-the-towel/ Sometimes things happen that take the decision away from you.