From Iceland — Rabbits In Iceland Tackling A Pandemic Of Their Own

Rabbits In Iceland Tackling A Pandemic Of Their Own

Published October 9, 2020

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The Icelandic Food And Veterinary Administration (MAST) recently received a report from the Animal Hospital in Víðidalur, warning that a parasite called Encephalitozoon Cuniculi has been diagnosed in two rabbits, RUV reports.

Pet owners are now being asked to monitor whether their animals start to show any symptoms of the parasite, which is found in wild animals in Iceland. However, this is the first time it has been diagnosed in domestic rabbits.

The parasite was detected in foxes in the 1980s as well as in mink and mice. The disease that is caused by this parasite is known as ‘Refavanki’ or ‘Fox Failure’ in Icelandic but is also known as nosematosis or encephalitozoonosis, and is spread by forming spores that are then excreted in urine or faeces. This makes surrounding vegetation infectious for a long time. When the spores enter a new host they release the infectious agent which finds its way into the host’s cells and multiply. Infection can also be spread from mother to offspring during pregnancy.

Symptoms to look out for

Animals infected with the parasite usually show no symptoms, but symptoms that do occur are noticeable in the nervous system, eyes or kidneys. these symptoms include: distorted head position, instability, pacing, or abnormal eye movements, white masses in the eyes, increased pressure or infection in the eyes. If the parasite reaches the kidneys it can cause kidney failure.

Little is known about the treatment of this disease, and care can only really be administered to help relieve the symptoms rather than curing them. The risk of infection can be prevented by maintaining high levels of hygiene when feeding the animals. Pet owners are being urged to be extra careful and vigilant.

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