Antimicrobial Therapy and Dysbiosis in Rabbits

Key Points

  • The easiest forms of oral medication to administer are oral suspensions or pediatric syrups. Parenteral medication in the form of subcutaneous injections with small gauge needles may also be well tolerated.
  • Certain antibiotics have the potential to disturb the delicate microbial balance in the gastrointestinal tract allowing opportunistic bacteria such as Clostridium spiriforme, C. difficile, C. perfringens type E, E. coli, or Enterobacter aerogenes to overgrow causing serious or even fatal reactions.
  • Antibiotics most likely to disrupt GI flora (or to incite dysbiosis) have a gram-positive spectrum such as first-generation beta-lactams (i.e. amoxicillin, ampicillin), lincosamides (clindamycin, lincomycin), and first generation macrolides (i.e. erythromycin).
  • Although caution should always be exercised when utilizing antibiotics in rabbits and rodents, some of the “safer” antibiotics include broad-spectrum antibiotics such as chloramphenicol, fluoroquinolones, and sulfa antibiotics, as well as metronidazole and amingolycosides.

Antibiotic therapy is a challenge in rabbits. The rabbit digestive system depends upon a healthy population of microbes to function properly. In normal circumstances, normal commensal bacteria completely overwhelm the small numbers of opportunistic pathogenic bacteria present and keep them safely in check. Certain antibiotics, particularly when given by the oral route, however, have the potential to disturb this crucial balance by killing off the commensal bacteria . . .

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To cite this page:

Pollock C. Antimicrobial therapy and dysbiosis in rabbits and rodents. December 4, 2011. LafeberVet Web site. Available at