Here are the results of our previous studies:

Health survey of 167 pet rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in Finland.
Mäkitaipale J, Harcourt-Brown FM, Laitinen-Vapaavuori O.
Vet Rec. 2015, 177: 418.


Only a limited amount of information is available about health status of pet rabbits. The aim of this study was to obtain data about the health status of pet rabbits considered healthy by the owners in Finland. Physical examination and lateral abdominal and lateral skull radiography were performed on 167 pet rabbits of which 118 (70.7 per cent) had abnormal findings in at least one examination. The most common findings were acquired dental disease (n=67, 40.1 per cent), vertebral column deformities and degenerative lesions (n=52, 31.1 per cent), skin disorders (n=28, 16.8 per cent) and eye disorders (n=12, 7.2 per cent). Vertebral column angulating deformities were significantly more common in dwarf lop rabbits (P≤0.001). The prevalence of health disorders was significantly higher in rabbits over three years of age of which 51 (82.3 per cent) had findings in at least one examination (P<0.05). Rabbits as prey animals hide their illness, which cause difficulties to owners to recognise health problems. Because of the high prevalence of clinical and radiological findings in apparently healthy pet rabbits, regular physical examinations are advised, especially for animals over three years old.

Tibial bone density, cross-sectional geometry and strength in Finnish pet rabbits: a peripheral quantitative computed tomography study.
Mäkitaipale J, Sievänen H, Laitinen-Vapaavuori O.
Vet Rec. 2018 183: 382.

Rabbit bones are brittle and prone to fissure formation. Radiographs of very young and old rabbits are often indicative of decreased bone density. The aim of this study was to investigate the tibial bone parameters in pet rabbits, and their association with age, sex, castration and dental disease. Eighty-seven (43 female/5 spayed, 44 male/19 castrated) pet rabbits (mean age 2.6 years, range 0.3-9.3 years) of various breeds were studied, of which 37 had dental disease. Right tibiae were scanned with peripheral quantitative CT at the distal (4percent) and mid-shaft sites (50percent of the tibial length). Analysed bone parameters included the total cross-sectional area, cortical bone area and density, trabecular bone density and strength-strain index. The mean diaphyseal cortical density was high (about 1400 mg/cm3) in comparison to many other species. Within the studied age range, age was weakly but positively associated with diaphyseal cortical density, with the juvenile rabbits clearly showing the lowest values. There was no tendency for age-related decrease in trabecular or cortical bone density at least up to six years of age. Neither were sex, castration nor dental disease associated with decreased tibial bone density.

Diet is a main source of vitamin D in Finnish pet rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus).

Mäkitaipale J, Sievänen H, Sankari S, Laitinen-Vapaavuori O.
J Anim Phys Anim Nutr 2019 May 31

During the winter time in Finland, sunlight is inadequate for vitamin D synthesis. Many pet rabbits live as house rabbits with limited outdoor access even during summer and may therefore be dependent on dietary sources of vitamin D. The aims of this study were to report the serum 25‐hydroxyvitamin D concentrations in Finnish pet rabbits and to identify factors that influence vitamin D status. Serum 25‐hydroxyvitamin D concentrations from 140 pet rabbits were determined using a vitamin D enzyme immunoassay (EIA) kit. Eleven rabbits were excluded from the statistical analysis because of unclear dietary data. The remaining 129 rabbits were divided into groups depending on outdoor access during summer (no access n = 26, periodic n = 57, regular n = 46) as well as daily diet: little or no hay and commercial rabbit food ≤1/2 dl (n = 12); a lot of hay and no commercial food daily (n = 23); a lot of hay and commercial food <1 dl (n = 59); a lot of hay and commercial food ≥1 dl (n = 35). The range of serum 25‐hydroxyvitamin D concentration was from 4.5 to 67.5 ng/ml with a mean of 26.1 ng/ml. Statistical general linear model adjusted for weight, age and season indicated that diet was associated with vitamin D concentrations (p = 0.001), but outdoor access during summer was not (p = 0.41). Mean 25‐hydroxyvitamin D concentration was significantly higher in the rabbits receiving a lot of hay and commercial food ≥1 dl (33.9 ± 13.2 ng/ml) than in rabbits in other diet groups (24.0 ± 8.5 ng/ml, 21.7 ± 8.1 ng/ml, and 22.2 ± 18.0 ng/ml, respectively). This investigation showed wide variation in 25‐hydroxyvitamin D concentrations among Finnish pet rabbits. Diet remains a main source since outdoor access seems to be too limited to provide adequate vitamin D synthesis for most of them, and the use of vitamin D supplements is rare.

The relationship between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration and parathyroid hormone concentration in assessing vitamin D deficiency in pet rabbits.
Mäkitaipale J, Sankari S, Sievänen H, Laitinen-Vapaavuori O.
BMC Vet Res 2020, 16, 403.


Vitamin D deficiency and related metabolic bone diseases in pet rabbits have been intermittently debated. In human research, the parathyroid hormone concentration in relation to the 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration is used to determine vitamin D deficiency. Thus, this study aimed to identify the breakpoint in the 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration indicating a significant change in the parathyroid hormone concentration in 139 pet rabbits. An enzyme immunoassay kit was used for 25-hydroxyvitamin D analysis and the intact parathyroid hormone (PTH 1–84) immunoradiometric assay kit for parathyroid hormone analysis. The mid-tibial cortical bone density was measured using peripheral quantitative computed tomography. A segmented linear regression analysis was performed, with the 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration as the independent variable, and parathyroid hormone, ionised calcium, total calcium, inorganic phosphorus concentrations and the mid-tibial cortical density as the dependent variables.

The breakpoint for the parathyroid hormone concentration occurred at a 25(OH)D concentration of 17 ng/mL, whereas the cortical bone density breakpoint occurred at a 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration of 19 ng/mL. No breakpoints were found for ionised calcium, total calcium or phosphorus.

These results suggest that a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration of 17 ng/mL serves as the threshold for vitamin D deficiency in rabbits. Nearly one-third of the rabbits had a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration below this threshold. Concerns persist regarding the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in pet rabbits and the possible health consequences caused by a chronic vitamin D deficiency, including the risk for metabolic bone diseases.

Prevalence of intestinal parasites and risk factor analysis for Eimeria infections in Finnish pet rabbits.
Mäkitaipale J, Karvinen I, Virtala A-M K, Näreaho A.
Vet Parasitol Reg Stud Rep 2017 9: 34-40.


No previous published prevalence studies exist on gastrointestinal parasites in Finnish pet rabbits; internationally, similar prevalence figures remain uncommon. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites in pet rabbits as well as to determine the possible risk factors for parasitic infections. We analyzed 2-g faecal samples (n = 398) from pet rabbits and internet-based questionnaires (n = 363) completed by their owners. Owners sent over-night faecal samples to the laboratory, and the samples were quantitatively analyzed within one week using a modified McMaster method. Eimeria oocysts represented the most common parasite found (27%, mean opg 4212). Nematode Passalurus ambiguus eggs were found in 3% of the samples (mean epg 65), while Trichuris leporis eggs and cestode eggs, respectively, were each found in 1 sample (0.25%). We also conducted a risk factor analysis based on the owner questionnaire and the faecal analysis. We limited this to only Eimeria infection due to the low number of positive results for other parasites. In the final multivariable logistic regression model, we identified a young age, multi-rabbit households (with at least three rabbits) and living somewhere other than in a home-like environment as risk factors for Eimeria infection. In similar low-helminth prevalence conditions, we recommend faecal examination and deworming of rabbits according to examination results.


Seroprevalence of Encephalitozoon cuniculi and Toxoplasma gondii antibodies and risk-factor assessment for Encephalitozoon cuniculi seroprevalence in Finnish pet rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus).
Mäkitaipale J, Järvenpää E, Bruce A, Sankari S, Virtala A-M, Näreaho A.
Acta Vet Scand 2022 64, 2.



Neurological signs, such as head tilt, torticollis, paralysis, and seizures, are common in rabbits. Differential diagnoses include two zoonotic infections caused by the microsporidial fungi Encephalitozoon cuniculi and the apicomplexan protozoa Toxoplasma gondii. Both infections are mainly latent in rabbits but may cause severe or even fatal disease. Although several international studies have reported the seroprevalence of these pathogens in different commercial rabbit populations, similar prevalence studies and risk-factor analyses among family-owned pet rabbits are uncommon and lacking in Scandinavia. We sought to estimate the seroprevalence and possible risk factors for E. cuniculi and T. gondii among Finnish pet rabbits. We used ELISA to measure E. cuniculi IgG seroprevalence of 247 rabbits and modified direct agglutination test for T. gondii seroprevalence of 270 rabbits. Samples were collected as part of the Finnish Pet Rabbit Health Research project. Internet-based questionnaires (n = 231) completed by the rabbit owners were used for risk-factor analysis.


The apparent seroprevalence of E. cuniculi was 29.2% and true seroprevalence of T. gondii 3.9%. Risk factors were analysed only for E. cuniculi due to the low T. gondii seroprevalence. The final multivariable logistic regression model revealed that rabbits spending the whole summer outdoors had a higher risk of being E. cuniculi seropositive than rabbits with limited outdoor access. Additionally, rabbits living in households with only one or two rabbits had higher risk of being E. cuniculi seropositive than those in multi-rabbit households.


Nearly one third of Finnish pet rabbits participating in this study had E. cuniculi IgG antibodies, indicating previous exposure to this pathogen. The prevalence is similar to that reported previously in clinically healthy rabbit populations in UK and Korea. While the seroprevalence of T. gondii was low (3.9%), antibodies were detected. Therefore, these zoonotic parasitic infections should be considered as differential diagnoses when treating rabbits.


Prospective survey of neoplastic and non-neoplastic uterine disorders in 116 domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus).
Mäkitaipale J, Airas N, Engblom S, Linden J.
J Ex Pet Med 2022 41, 3-8.!



Earlier studies indicate that the risk for uterine tumours in rabbits may be as high as 60–80%. This high occurrence and the need for routine neutering of non-breeding pet rabbits have recently been in the spotlight.


This study aimed to describe and compare macroscopic and histopathological alterations in uteri collected from domestic rabbits of various ages neutered, deceased, or euthanized without a suspected uterine disorder (NoUD; n = 94) and from rabbits with a suspected uterine disorder (UD; n = 22).


In the NoUD group, uteri of 41 rabbits (44%) displayed histopathological findings and 12 rabbits (13%) had neoplasms. Samples from thirteen rabbits (14%) evinced histopathological findings with no macroscopic alterations. The most frequent diagnoses were cystic endometrial hyperplasia (26% of the 41 uteri), adenocarcinoma (9%), and polyps (5%). In the UD group, uteri from 21 (95%) out of 22 rabbits exhibited pathological alterations; in 2 (10%) of these, the changes (cystic endometrial hyperplasias) were seen only in histology. The most frequent diagnoses in the uteri of the UD group were cystic endometrial hyperplasia (77%) and adenocarcinoma (54%). Uterine malignant neoplasia affected 40% of all rabbits aged over 3 years, and the odds of a malignant uterine tumour in these rabbits were approximately 19-fold higher than in rabbits aged under 3 years.

Conclusions and clinical relevance

Uterine disorders are common in domestic rabbits, even without a suspected uterine disease, and the risk of uterine neoplasia markedly increases after 3 years of age. A macroscopically normal uterus may have pathological changes and ovariohysterectomy should be therefore preferred over ovariectomy at least in older rabbits.