Rabbit Diseases

Zoonotic Diseases are diseases that can pass from animals to people. There are several avenues through which this can happen. Some of the most common methods of transmission include: Fecal-oral, respiratory, direct contact, penetrating wound, and vector-borne diseases.

The following are diseases that can be transmitted from rabbits to people. Understanding these diseases and how they are  transferred can help you avoid exposure.


(Penetrating Wound Transmission)

Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. 

The bacterium is typically spread by ticks (especially the lone star tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, and American dog tick), deer flies, or contact with infected animals, including rabbits, ground squirrels, muskrats, mice, and beavers. It may also be spread by drinking contaminated water or breathing in contaminated dust (i.e. if mowing or doing yard work disturbs the habitat of an infected animal). 

It does not spread directly between people. Diagnosis is by blood tests or cultures of the infected site.

To avoid contracting Tularemia:

– Avoid bites by arthropods and wear insect repellent

– Use rubber gloves when skinning or handling animals; especially rabbits

– Do not drink, bathe, swim, or work in untreated water where wild animals are known to be infected

– Cook the meat of wild rabbits and rodents thoroughly before eating it

Ectoparasite or Tick-borne Diseases

Lyme Disease

Rabbits can carry ticks infected with Lyme disease.

Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an inflammatory disorder caused by the Borrelia bacterium. Lyme is transmitted to humans through the bites of black-legged (deer) ticks. Lone star ticks may also be vectors. 

The tick typically needs to be attached to the body for 24 hours or longer for the bacteria to transfer from the tick to the host. You cannot get Lyme diseases from animals or other people. 

If you suspect a tick has been attached for nearly 24 hours, you should remove it carefully and place the tick in a container to be tested. 

In most people, the first symptom is a skin lesion that forms where the tick was attched. This usually appears within 1 to 2 weeks. If you notice this or accompanying flu like symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.

The sooner you begin treating Lyme disease, the less likely your symptoms are to become severe. 

Tick-borne Illness Prevention

– Avoid tick infested areas when possible (tall grass and dense vegetation)

– Wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easy to see and remove

-Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Tuck your pant legs into your socks

– Apply tick repellents, but use sparingly to avoid prolonged or excessive exposure

– Apply permethrin to clothing

– Avoid sitting down amongst or brushing against vegetation when on trails

– Always check body and clothing during and after being outdoors