The Occupational Health Program is designed to inform individuals who work with
animals about potential zoonoses (diseases transmitted to humans from animals),
personal hygiene and other potential hazards associated with animal exposure. This
information sheet is directed toward those involved in the care and use of rabbits
Potential Injury and Zoonotic Diseases
Rabbits are generally docile animals that are easy to handle and pose minimal risk of
contracting a zoonotic disease to laboratory personnel and animal care staff. The
development of disease in the human host often requires a preexisting state that has
compromised the immune system. If you have an immune compromising medical
condition or you are taking medications that impair your immune system (steroids,
immunosuppressive drugs, or chemotherapy) you are at higher risk of contracting a rabbit
disease and should consult your physician or Occupational Health physician. The
primary concern when working with rabbits is developing allergies and injuries from
scratches and bites. Prior to your assignment, you should receive training in specific
handling techniques, and specific protective clothing requirements.
The zoonotic diseases associated with handling rabbits include the following:
Pasteurella multocida: This bacterium resides in the oral cavity or upper respiratory
tract of rabbits. Human infection is generally associated with a bite or scratch and is
generally local inflammation around the bite or scratch, possibly leading to abscess
formation with systemic symptoms.
Cryptosporidiosis: Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal disease caused by microscopic
parasites of the genus Cryptosporidium. Many species of Cryptosporidium exist that
infect humans and a wide range of animals. The parasite is protected by an outer shell
that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it very
resistant to chlorine disinfection. It usually causes a mild to severe infection of the
gastrointestinal system, including watery diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea and
vomiting. Click here for more information.
Other diseases: Other diseases that can be spread through working with rabbits are
Brucella suis biotype 2, Francisella tularensis, plague, Q fever, and Trichophyton
Occupational Health
Colorado State University
Updated 01/13/2015
(970) 491-3102
Allergic Reactions
Allergies to rabbit fur and dander are well documented. The major glycoprotein allergen
can occur in the fur of rabbits and minor allergenic components found in rabbit saliva and
urine has been identified as a source of allergies.
How to Protect Yourself
Wear gloves and wash your hands.
Wear respiratory protection. If respiratory protection is worn, it is mandatory that
individuals enroll in the Respiratory Protection Program through EHS.
Wear protective clothing. Avoid wearing street clothes when working with
Seek medical attention if you are injured. Contact your supervisor and
Occupational Health and Safety to be instructed as to where to go to seek medical
Enroll in the Occupational Health and Safety Program. Update your information
on an annual basis to ensure proper medical surveillance.
Occupational Health
Colorado State University
Updated 01/13/2015
(970) 491-3102