Blue Cross blog
What was causing Floss the rabbit's crusty face?Posted on 31 Mar 2011
When rabbit Floss came to The Blue Cross Merton animal hospital, chief vet Caroline Reay suspected syphilis. Usually thought of as an STD, what was the reason behind Floss’s diagnosis?
Floss was a pretty rabbit but would have been prettier still without the crusting area on her lip.
When we first saw her at the Merton hospital, we were suspicious that this was Treponematosis. Also known as rabbit syphilis, this is caused by a microbe related to human syphilis, though people can’t catch the rabbit form.
Pet rabbits often catch it from their mother but infection can be silent for a few months before breaking out.
The treatment is penicillin, which can be dangerous because rabbits have huge numbers of microbes living in their gut to digest the fibre in grass.
Some antibiotics, including penicillin, can kill these and produce life-threatening diarrhoea.
We took tests, including one for the fungal disease ringworm. These confirmed that Treponema was likely and so we started treatment with weekly penicillin shots.
The treatment worked perfectly, and Floss was soon as beautiful again in appearance as she is in character.
For more information about rabbit care have a look at our free pet factsheets.