Bun Landers - Enteritis

by Sharon Kuehn

Dear Bun Landers,

Every fall my rabbitry seems to get hit by the Enteritis Fairy. Why does this seem to happen only in the fall, and what can I do to prevent it this year?

Cursed in Scranton

Dear Cursed,

There are several reasons why the mythical Enteritis Fairy seems to swoop down on innocent rabbits more so in the fall of the year. There are extreme temperature fluctuations in the spring and the fall seasons which cause stress on the animals. The pelleted feed that we purchase in the fall is made from alfalfa meal harvested from the summer's crop, causing it to be rich and higher in protein and lower in fiber than the previous batches of feed. The energy demands of the rabbits change due to the cooler nights. All these changes add up to possible hind-gut overload of undigested carbohydrates. In layman's terms: diarrhea!

There isn't a lot of prevention that can be applied due to the many uncontrollable factors. Switching to a lower protein feed temporarily or adding a copper sulfate solution to the drinking water may help stop the growth of E. coli in the cecum which is responsible for most cases of acute and fatal enteritis. Some breeders have reported good luck using 1/4 tsp. of Terramycin per gallon of water for their rabbits' drinking water. Feeding straw or other low protein grassy hay to increase fiber levels is also beneficial.

HLRSC Official Guidebook - 5th Edition 2002