Vol. 22, No. 4April 2000
Refereed Peer Review
FOCAL POINTKEY FACTS
Serology combined withpolymerase chain reaction–basedassays can be used to rapidlyand accurately documentpasteurellosis in rabbits.
Pasteurellosis in Rabbits
University of Georgia
Susan Sanchez, PhDShaikh Mizan, PhDBranson W. Ritchie, DVM, PhDMargie D. Lee, DVM, PhD
infections in rabbits may remain subclinical or can cause avariety of acute or chronic diseases in most organs, particularly tissue in the repiratory andgenital tracts. Although clinical signs are frequently used to diagnose pasteurellosis, other or-ganisms can cause similar clinical signs. The status of a rabbit with respect to
can be best determined using a polymerase chain reaction–based assay in conjunction with asensitive and specific ELISA.
can cause various clinical changes in rabbits. As oneof the most common disease-causing agents in this genus,
has been associated with rhinitis (snuffles), abscessation, pneumonia, oti-tis, conjunctivitis, genital tract infections, abortions, neonatal mortality, and sep-ticemia.
Although this organism is highly infectious, many rabbits are subclini-cally infected until stress or concomitant problems precipitate recognizabledisease. The reported prevalence of
in clinically stable rabbits rangesfrom 20% to 90%, depending on the animal’s age, sex, and health status and thechosen testing method.
Based on studies by Webster and Smith, it is generally believed that rabbits in-fected with
can resist or clear infection, become chronically but sub-clinically infected, or develop acute or chronic disease. The type of infection isbelieved to be influenced by the strain of infecting
and the specifichost resistant to that strain.
Generally, Pasteurellaceae should be consideredcommensal organisms that may be pathogenic in immunosuppressed rabbits.Peracute pasteurellosis usually causes septicemia and death in seemingly healthy rabbits. Upper respiratory tract disease (e.g., snuffles) associated with
infection starts as a serous nasal discharge that usually turns mucopu-rulent (Figure 1). Hair on the animal’s forelimbs is usually moist from repeatedattempts to clean the muzzle. Epiphora, sneezing, and coughing may accompany the upper respiratory tract form of pasteurellosis. Anorexia, weight loss, dyspnea,pleuropneumonia, and, in the most severe cases, death may occur if untreatedrhinitis progresses to more generalized disease.
is a common cause of abscessation in rabbits, irrespective of thepresence or absence of respiratory tract disease. These abscesses are filled withthick, yellow–gray mucopurulent exudate and can occur in any location on or within the body (Figures 2 and 3). Microscopic examination of material collectedfrom these abscesses usually reveals small gram-negative coccobacilli suggestive of
infection (Figure 4).
canalso cause otitis externa and oti-tis media. If the vestibular system is involved, torticollis with the head tilted to
is one ofthe most common disease-causing agents in rabbits.
Culture accuracy of
depends on the transportmedium, storage temperatureof the swab, previous antibiotictreatment, and laboratory cultureconditions.
A polymerase chain reaction–basedassay is a more sensitive test thanis culture, partially because theformer detects the presence ofboth viable and nonviable bacteria.
Serology can be used to detect
antibodies, particularly inchronically infected rabbits.
Nasopharyngeal swabs arerecommended for obtaining culturesamples to detect the presence of
; however, samplecollection from conscious rabbitsis difficult.