Although pet rabbits are considered as low-risk pets when it comes to the zoonoses you should be aware of the fact that they can carry some illnesses that could harm you.
Rabbits are very common and popular pets in US households. According to the Human Society of The United States, they come right after dogs and cats.
Rabbits are playful and cute creatures, smart and although they can be very independent usually they are very loyal to their owners. In short, rabbits are wonderful pets but still carry some health risks to you
What are diseases you can catch from your bunny? Can you be allergic to your rabbit? What are the symptoms? Can you develop asthma? What can you do to prevent health problems that your bunny may cause you? Can you get sick from your rabbit’s poop or pee? What about bites, can you catch some infection if your bunny bites you? What is Tularemia?
If these questions attract your attention and you would like to learn more on this topic, read our article. I hope you will find it helpful.
Table of Contents
How Do Rabbits Get Sick?
Rabbits can get sick for various reasons. They could be exposed to viruses or bacteria or eat something that is not good. It can happen that some rabbits are genetically predisposed to get some illness.
It is hard to tell if your bunny is sick. Rabbits are prey animals and they won’t let you see that they don’t feel very well. In the wild, if they show weakness, they will be eaten so they need to be strong. That is why you need to carefully observe them in order to track any health issues.
In connection with this, it might happen that your rabbit carries some contagious disease, that might attack you as well, but you don’t know that your bunny is sick.
Pay attention if your bunny has any of these symptoms
- is lethargic
- doesn’t have the energy or he becomes aggressive,
- decreased appetite
- problems with stool ( missing or very frequent )
- urinating problems
- respiratory problems such as (sneezing, coughing, breathing problems)
- lack of grooming habits
- presence of dandruff
- hair loss
Of course, you cannot prevent everything bad that might happen to your rabbit but with proper care, you can improve the quality of your rabbit’s life and protect him and yourself from possible health threats.
Provide a balanced and quality diet for your rabbit. Make sure he has proper habitat in which he can run, exercise, stretch. Ensure a clean and pleasant environment for your bunny ( avoid extreme temperatures).
Keep him far away from possible predators and wild animals but provide him a company of another rabbit.
Cuddle your rabbit, not only because he needs your touch but also because you could detect some lumps or bumps that could indicate some health problems.
Take your bunny to the vet on a regular basis not only when he is sick ( at least once a year and if you have bunny older then 5-6 years then you should take him twice a year)
In short – make certain that he runs a good life.
Keeping your bunny happy and healthy, you also protect yourself from getting some zoonotic disease.
Can I Get Sick From My Rabbit’s Poop?
In theory – yes but happens rarely in practice.
Rabbits can carry some parasites such as Cryptosporidiosis which can be transmitted to humans. According to the experts from Washington State University, you can infect with this parasite if you ingest, unintentionally your rabbit’s poop. You might be able to recognize this illness if your bunny suffers from diarrhea but it can also happen that has no symptoms at all. However, any diarrhea in rabbits should be an immediate alert sign.
You may run into information that your bunny can also have tapeworm parasite which is the truth – he can act as an intermediate host ( definite hosts are dogs, cats or foxes) for this parasite but the good thing is that it cannot be transmitted to you. The only way to get this parasite is to eat your infected rabbit which, I am sure you won’t!
Is Rabbit’s Urine Harmful To Humans?
Usually not. You will hardly ever get sick from your rabbit’s pee. Rabbit’s pee contains ammonia which can be harmful to humans only if found in large concentrations. To prevent that, you just need to do the regular cage/hutch cleaning (short one every day and detailed on once a week using disinfects such as vinegar ).
If ammonia appears in larger concentration you can feel eye, nose and throat irritation.
Besides ammonia, rabbit’s pee can contain a bug called Encephalitozoon cuniculi. This microorganism is very common in healthy rabbits ( usually lives in rabbit’s kidneys). The majority of them will experience no trouble because of this but some of them may suffer from a neurological disease caused by this bug.
According to Professor J. Scott Weese (University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada) this microorganism can cause an infection in people with compromised immune systems especially HIV positive persons. These people should avoid contact with an infected animal ( especially with its urine and feces material ) and use good personal hygiene
Can I Get Sick If My Rabbit Bites or Scratches Me?
Yes, you can get sick, as your bunny can transmit bacteria by biting or scratching you. The thing is that rabbits don’t bite too often and even if they do, those wounds rarely become infected. Of course, as we are speaking here about everything that can happen to you we have to mention Pasteurella multocida.
According to the experts from Washington State University this bacteria that can be found in nasal passages and mouth of a rabbit causing respiratory problems such as sneezing and nasal discharge.
If an infected rabbit bites you, what can happen is – infected wound. You would notice redness around the wounded place or that wound spreads out. In that case, you should seek medical help.
But don’t worry, this situation is pretty rare and even if you have some wound caused by rabbit’s bite or scratch it is likely to heal rapidly and without any problems.
Of course, it is advisable to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water as soon as you can. It is also helpful if tetanus immunization is up to date.
Although bunnies don’t bite and scratch often, it can be rather painful due to their sharp teeth and claws.
What Other Diseases Can I Catch From My Rabbit?
Ringworm -the name indicates that this infection is caused by worm/parasite but in fact, it is a fungal infection. Both rabbits and humans can catch it and transmit it to one another.
The best way for the disease to be transmitted is skin-to-skin contact with infected animal or human. Whoever is infected( rabbit or human or both) requires medical treatment. The main symptoms are hair loss and scaly skin.
Bacteria such as Salmonella or Listeria or Pseudotuberculosis also can be transmitted from your bunny to you but the chances for this to happen are very, very slim. It is more likely to catch the disease if you consume contaminated food or water.
What Can I do To Prevent Infection?
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling your rabbits.
- Don’t eat, drink, use tobacco or apply makeup while handling the rabbits.
- If bite or scratch occurs do wash the wounded place thoroughly
- Try not to kiss or hug your bunny
- Keep the cage and all items related to your bunny clean.
- If you notice any health problem in your rabbit, seek the vet help
Can I Be Allergic To My Rabbit?
Yes, you can experience allergies to rabbits but also items from rabbit’s environment.
For example, many people have reported allergies to hay. We all know that hay is an irreplaceable part of the rabbit’s diet and if you keep rabbits you have to be in contact with hay.
If you notice that hay is the thing that is causing you symptoms similar to cold ( lack of energy, sneezing, breathing problems…) you should do something about it.
Rabbit’s fur also can trigger allergens, as well as rabbit’s saliva, skin, dander, urine. The signs could be the same as for cold, but also skin redness, eye itching and conjunctivitis.
What can you do?
- Pay attention to the hay you buy – always buy high-quality dust-free hay
- Keep a few areas in your house rabbit free – especially your bedroom. You should have some areas to which your rabbits don’t have the approach, so you don’t have to exposed to allergens all the time
- Use a vacuum cleaner on a regular basis to remove soiled hay, hair and fur
- If your bunny is shedding, do help him with grooming in order to reduce the amount of dead fur.
- You can get an air purifier. If you let it work constantly it will help you get rid of the allergens.
A certain number of people develop allergic reactions to rabbits. Some of them may also develop asthma but the majority will suffer from minor symptoms similar to cold.
Although rabbits are known as low-risk pets as they don’t transmit many diseases to humans pay attention if you have kids. Kids are at greater risk than adults but also adults with a compromised immune system ( people treated with chemotherapy, HIV positive persons, people with long term steroid usage ) are also jeopardized.
If you are a healthy adult you don’t have to worry too much. Human’s immune system is much stronger than rabbit’s that is why people rarely get sick from rabbit’s pathogens.
As I said at the beginning, if you put extra effort and provide your bunny a quality life, healthy diet and a clean environment, most probably you won’t experience any health problem. Not you, nor your bunny.