Pet Factsheets

Mycotoxicosis

Mycotoxicosis is the disease resulting from exposure to a mycotoxin. A mycotoxin is a toxin produced by organisms from fungus and is capable of causing disease and often death in rabbits.

What clinical signs do rabbits with Mycotoxicosis show?

Mycotoxicosis can affect any rabbit but with young rabbits aged up to 4-5 months, it often causes a reduction in feeding leading to poor growth. In these rabbits it may also cause hair loss, crusts and necrotic areas around the tail. This is most commonly seen in chronic cases. As rabbits eat their own droppings (caecotrophs) those who are infected may keep re-digesting the toxin through eating their caecotrophs.

In addition, some mycotoxins can cause multi-organ failure (kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, brain) and associated signs, followed by death or fatal diarrhoea.

How do rabbits become infected?

Rabbits are usually infected through contaminated food containing fungal spores. There are several different mycotoxins, which can be classed as either field or storage fungi, and some are more dangerous than others.

Field fungi produce mycotoxins on the crops in the field whereas storage fungi, such as Aspergillus, produce mycotoxins on the crops after harvesting and during the time they are in storage.

Mycotoxicoses can either be chronic (occur slowly) or acute (happen rapidly). The acute form is caused by a rapid ingestion of large amounts of toxins over a short period of time, whereas the chronic form happens when the rabbit consumes the toxin repeatedly over a period of time, including possibly from eating their own caecotrophs.

What can my vet do to treat my rabbit?

A diagnosis is difficult since the clinical signs may be attributed to several other, more common, diseases. Your vet may offer supportive treatment but often, and especially with the acute form, the disease is rapidly fatal, and no treatment is successful.

Can it be prevented?

You should never feed your rabbit any food that is mouldy or that you are not sure is safe. If in doubt do not feed it. Rabbits can’t vomit so anything they ingest cannot be bought back up again if it’s dangerous.

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