What disease could be killing all my babies?

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bartow.amy

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I have kept meat rabbits for five years with no problems. Earlier this summer, a 2 year old doe who has delivered many healthy litters (usually 9 babies) had 8 perfect looking babies that were a bit lethargic when I first checked them in the morning (probably a couple hours old), but were all dead by evening with no signs of trauma or issues. They were fed, and tucked in nicely in the nest. No idea why they died.
6 weeks later, my two other does each kindled large litters (one had 11 and one had 9 babies). These two does are sisters. Both are also daughters of my 2 year old doe. These does have had two healthy litters before with no problems. I was concerned that 11 babies was too much for the one doe, and there were a few small ones, but after 3 days they were all looking good, then 4 of the biggest babies were dead. The next morning 3 more were dead. And 3 were dead in the other litter too. They died very suddenly and the biggest babies were dying not the runts. I found one that was dying and it was bleeding from its rectum. I looked at the other dead ones and found traces of blood on their bottoms too. I took one into our University Vet medicine necropsy lab. They found blackened sections of intestines (which is in line with rectal bleeding) and a little bit of enlarged heart tissue. But nothing else. I had them to bacterial testing on lungs, liver, intestine, but nothing conclusive turned up. All four adult rabbits are healthy and seem fine. The babies that survived (11 out of 21) are healthy and growing fast (they are now 7 weeks old). I finally rebred my 2 year old doe, not happy about not knowing what is going on with my herd. She kindled yesterday morning, about 2 days early, babies were all dead and looked not fully ready to be born. It has to be a disease that all my adults have (they are in separate cages off the ground) eat pellets and hay and greens from my garden. What disease would present this way? I carefully looked over the fryers we butcher and have seen no sign of coccidosis on the livers. The bacteria tests from the necropsy lab would have found pnuemonia, or coccidosis if it was present. I'm completely at a loss for what to do... except cull my herd. Which is heartbreaking.
 

jaxmarblebuns

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Have you swapped feed lately?
What brand of pellets do you use?
Do you/have you started to use pesticides on your garden?
Have rats been bad/worse lately?
 

bartow.amy

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No change in pellets. I use Payback, have gone through many bags over the course of the last three months. Don’t use pesticides in the garden. We don’t have rats.
 

NY Rabbits

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I have been having a similar issue with my rabbits. Kits dying from diarrhea and or bleeding from the vent. For me this has been mostly when the kits start leaving the nest box but I have had some die very young as you have. I changed food brand which did not help. 3 of these does were a bit overweight so they have all been on a mostly hay diet. I have gotten one bred after she trimmed down and her last litter has done fine. I also sanitized my pump through water system with bleach. Keeping the water supply clean from bacteria and algae also seems to have helped. I don't know if any of this will apply to your situation but it has helped here. The problem is not gone but much better. I would certainly be interested if you can pin down a root cause. Good luck with future litters.
 

BuffBrahmaBantam

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I have kept meat rabbits for five years with no problems. Earlier this summer, a 2 year old doe who has delivered many healthy litters (usually 9 babies) had 8 perfect looking babies that were a bit lethargic when I first checked them in the morning (probably a couple hours old), but were all dead by evening with no signs of trauma or issues. They were fed, and tucked in nicely in the nest. No idea why they died.
6 weeks later, my two other does each kindled large litters (one had 11 and one had 9 babies). These two does are sisters. Both are also daughters of my 2 year old doe. These does have had two healthy litters before with no problems. I was concerned that 11 babies was too much for the one doe, and there were a few small ones, but after 3 days they were all looking good, then 4 of the biggest babies were dead. The next morning 3 more were dead. And 3 were dead in the other litter too. They died very suddenly and the biggest babies were dying not the runts. I found one that was dying and it was bleeding from its rectum. I looked at the other dead ones and found traces of blood on their bottoms too. I took one into our University Vet medicine necropsy lab. They found blackened sections of intestines (which is in line with rectal bleeding) and a little bit of enlarged heart tissue. But nothing else. I had them to bacterial testing on lungs, liver, intestine, but nothing conclusive turned up. All four adult rabbits are healthy and seem fine. The babies that survived (11 out of 21) are healthy and growing fast (they are now 7 weeks old). I finally rebred my 2 year old doe, not happy about not knowing what is going on with my herd. She kindled yesterday morning, about 2 days early, babies were all dead and looked not fully ready to be born. It has to be a disease that all my adults have (they are in separate cages off the ground) eat pellets and hay and greens from my garden. What disease would present this way? I carefully looked over the fryers we butcher and have seen no sign of coccidosis on the livers. The bacteria tests from the necropsy lab would have found pnuemonia, or coccidosis if it was present. I'm completely at a loss for what to do... except cull my herd. Which is heartbreaking.
That is heartbreaking. Have you considered butchering the doe and submitting her for necropsy? Another question - did they test for rhdv2?

If you do necropsy her, please let us know the results. I’m so sorry for what you are going through.
 

jaxmarblebuns

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No change in pellets. I use Payback, have gone through many bags over the course of the last three months. Don’t use pesticides in the garden. We don’t have rats
Maybe there is something wrong with the does, like disease, or bacteria. Possibly caused by something they ingested. Something not strong enough to show in the does, but that gets into the milk and when fed to the week kits affects them. it may be worse trying to test the milk somehow if that’s even possible. I hope that made sense, my English is not is not wanting to work today.
 

Skai

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That is heartbreaking. Have you considered butchering the doe and submitting her for necropsy? Another question - did they test for rhdv2?

If you do necropsy her, please let us know the results. I’m so sorry for what you are going through.
I would immediately be suspicious of any new feed supplies. Even the same brand could have been contaminated with a more persistent pesticide or herbicide.
 

bartow.amy

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I have been having a similar issue with my rabbits. Kits dying from diarrhea and or bleeding from the vent. For me this has been mostly when the kits start leaving the nest box but I have had some die very young as you have. I changed food brand which did not help. 3 of these does were a bit overweight so they have all been on a mostly hay diet. I have gotten one bred after she trimmed down and her last litter has done fine. I also sanitized my pump through water system with bleach. Keeping the water supply clean from bacteria and algae also seems to have helped. I don't know if any of this will apply to your situation but it has helped here. The problem is not gone but much better. I would certainly be interested if you can pin down a root cause. Good luck with future litters.
Thanks for your response. I assume my issue is a disease. But what disease would show up like this? My does are healthy but having massive losses in kits at north or within days?
 

bartow.amy

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That is heartbreaking. Have you considered butchering the doe and submitting her for necropsy? Another question - did they test for rhdv2?

If you do necropsy her, please let us know the results. I’m so sorry for what you are going through.
RHDV would kill adults, not kits, so I think the lab ruled it out. I wasn’t too pleased with the necropsy and bacterialogy results on my dead kits, so I don’t have a lot of confidence in submitting my doe who shows no signs of disease. But this is probably a viral or bacterial issue, though? Right? But what? What would cause this when the does seem fine?
 

bartow.amy

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I would immediately be suspicious of any new feed supplies. Even the same brand could have been contaminated with a more persistent pesticide or herbicide.
Also, can you show me some literature or studies that show what pesticides rabbits are sensitive to? I see so many rabbits living in/near Ag fields (and they don’t seem to have a lot of reproductive issues!). Seems like wild rabbit problems would easily be contained if pesticides affected their reproductive success. I haven’t changed my brand of feed. I know others who are also using it and not having problems. Do you know of any rabbit diseases that would cause reproductive failure in otherwise healthy does?
 

Skai

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Also, can you show me some literature or studies that show what pesticides rabbits are sensitive to? I see so many rabbits living in/near Ag fields (and they don’t seem to have a lot of reproductive issues!). Seems like wild rabbit problems would easily be contained if pesticides affected their reproductive success. I haven’t changed my brand of feed. I know others who are also using it and not having problems. Do you know of any rabbit diseases that would cause reproductive failure in otherwise healthy does?
From the National Pesticide Information Center: Drooling, unusual postures, and difficulty breathing were observed in one adult rabbit. Also, two rabbits lost their pregnancies. However, it is unclear if the lost pregnancies were related to pyrethrins. Pyrethrins General Fact Sheet.
What is in the pellets or hay we feed. Kaytee is the only company I know of that claims to grow without pesticides or GMO products (Roundup). I'm sorry I can't find it right now but studies have shown that animals fed GMO products lose litters, or simply do not reproduce or if they do, the offspring can be disfigured. Most "scientific" studies are only very short term, therefore, meaningless. Research Indicates That GMO Could Be a Cause of Infertility - Natural Fertility Info.com suggests that GMOs are effecting fertility rates across the globe in humans so I'd imagine it would affect rabbits as well.
Gardeners are losing entire crops because of Grazon, a persistent herbicide. It is contaminating the straw they are mulching their beds with. It also passes thru the manure used to "organically" fertilize gardens. It doesn't hurt grasses but it stays in it and stunts or outright kills plants. I can't find any studies talking about the effects of Grazon contaminated hay on rabbits. But if you feed your rabbits Grazon contaminated hay and then put the bunny pellets in your garden it will potentially destroy it. If you feed your rabbits any plants out of the garden that the Grazon didn't kill then you are feeding it back to them again, and so on, because Grazon can take years to clear out of soil.
Fungicide treated seeds can have residual effects on plants. Companies claim that everything is safe if precautions are followed but can they guarantee that their suppliers are following safety precautions. Maybe it's not one thing but the combination of things.
I live in an area where tons of hay is grown and I have never seen a wild rabbit in almost three years. It could be due to coyotes and hawks but I have often wondered if it could be something sprayed on the hay to kill weeds.
I apologize for the length of this post but there just seems to be so many people having reproductive issues with their rabbits. Who really knows the answer? These are just my personal thoughts on the subject.
 

BuffBrahmaBantam

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Ladysown has a great question. Since the kits haven’t left the nest it narrows down the possibilities of problems - could be caused by the doe, her feed, genetics, parasites, or something about the nest box. Are your rabbits too inbred? Is something scaring them - loud noises, dogs, or sudden changes to the doe’s routine?

It may be good to post pictures of your set-up, and in the future any dead kits and the bleeding. Maybe that will give someone an idea for what is going on.

If you submit any future dead ones to a lab you could ask for histology, which may provide additional info.

I don’t know hardly anything about the rhd virus except what I’ve seen online, but according to WA Department of Agriculture type 2 affects all ages of rabbits. Click here for a link to their page: RHD virus in Washington

I’m just throwing out random ideas. It sounds like you’ve thought of a lot of things. Let us know if you figure it out.
 

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Skai

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Thanks for following up and sharing.

How is it prevented?
As Judymac said, there are several different types of Clostridium. Two that I know of are C. difficile and C. botulinum. Difficile can happen if doe has been treated with antibiotics. The doe may have had good bacteria to fight the difficile but the immature immune system of the kits could not. The antibiotics kill the good gut bacteria but allow overgrowth of the difficile. The C. botulinum, or botulism, could possibly come from feed and be passed to the kits thru nursing, same as the difficile. I'm not saying either situation is what happened, only adding more possibilities. Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint what happened, and the problem may just disappear with future litters.
 

Skai

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Thanks for following up and sharing.

How is it prevented?
After reading about what is happening to your buns I started doing some research. I had colitis several years ago from taking antibiotics and found that I had an overgrowth of C. difficile. I got it under control by taking the probiotic, Saccharomyces Boulardii. So I googled "Saccharomyces Boulardii for rabbits" and found that you can give it to rabbits to prevent C. difficile. I am going to look for one that can be added to their water, which would be easier than trying to dose them every day.
 
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