Coccidia is a parasite that exists pretty much everywhere in the soil. Young rabbits are generally more susceptible to infection, and will show symptoms of diarrhea, loss of appetite and listlessness.
Coccidiosis is very contagious in an environment where feces from a sick animal are present and can be consumed by other rabbits. It’s such a common killer of young rabbits that many rabbit breeders medicate their rabbits against it every few months, whether they show symptoms or not.
In a situation where rabbits are pastured, coccidiosis can be a very real concern. Since I tractor many of my kits I had a couple of cases of it turn up this year. Although nobody died, it left an impact on them physically. I thought it would be interesting to show you the damage that this parasite can cause to your rabbit’s liver.
The most obvious thing upon opening up an infected rabbit is that the liver is spotted with white. The amount of spots will vary according to the severity of the infestation. These white spots are actually the hardened edges of small tunnels that the coccidia carve into the liver. If you slice the liver in half you can clearly see the small tubes.
Whenever I see symptoms of coccidiosis in my pastured buns, I immediately add apple cider vinegar to their drinking water, feed blackberry bramble daily, make sure they are moved to fresh pasture frequently and ensure everything is kept as clean as possible. So far I’ve been very successful at clearing it out of my herd this way, without resorting to medications.
Usually even if a kit has been infected, once they overcome the parasite and fight it off, they can still lead a perfectly healthy life. Still though, there is obvious damage left to the liver which may or may not heal over time. I’m not a rabbit biologist after all… I’m a whale biologist.
Below is an example of a nice healthy rabbit liver with no white mottling. Infected livers should not be eaten but the rest of the rabbit is still safe to eat.