The Columbia basin subpopulation of pygmy rabbit Brachylagus idahoensis was listed as endangered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in November 2001, and no pygmy rabbits have been seen in the wild since spring 2002. Captive propagation efforts have attempted to increase population size in preparation for reintroduction of animals into central Washington. Disseminated mycobacteriosis due to Mycobacterium avium has been the most common cause of death of adult captive pygmy rabbits. Between June 2002 and September 2004, mycobacteriosis was diagnosed in 28 captive adult pygmy rabbits (representing 29% of the captive population), in contrast to 18 adult pygmy rabbits dying of all other causes in the same time period. Antemortem and postmortem medical records were evaluated retrospectively to describe the clinical course of mycobacteriosis in pygmy rabbits, physical examination findings, and diagnostic test results in the diagnosis of mycobacteriosis in pygmy rabbits. Various treatment protocols, possible risk factors for mortality, and recommendations for prevention of mycobacteriosis were evaluated also. Compromised cell-mediated immunity appears to be the best explanation at this time for the observed high morbidity and mortality from mycobacterial infections in pygmy rabbits.
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Vol. 37 • No. 4