How likely is E. cuniculi to be trasmitted from an infected rabbit to a dog? My sister has a positive rabbit and my dog was just diagnosed with kidney insufficiency.  Now that the dog’s kidneys are compromised, should we be concerned?

Encephalitozoon cuniculi is a strange little organism that is now classified as a fungus, but is also similar to some types of protozoal parasites. It is an important (and often overlooked but potentially treatable) cause of neurological disease in rabbits. It is quite common in healthy pet rabbits, and infected rabbits shed the organism mainly in urine.

Less is known about E. cuniculi in dogs. Neurological disease, stunted growth and renal failure are the most common problems that develop. Disease usually occurs in young dogs (less than 1 year of age, with most cases in dogs a couple of months old or younger). Some studies have reported antibodies against the organism in a large percentage of healthy dogs, indicating that they’ve been exposed at some point, but most studies have found antibodies in few or no dogs.

The risk of transmission from rabbits to dogs is not known. There are a few different types of E. cuniculi, including one type (type I) that is called the "rabbit strain" and another (type III) that is called the "dog strain." The ability of the rabbit strain to infect dogs, particularly dogs with normal immune function, is unclear. Considering the low incidence of infection in dogs (especially older dogs), the different types of E. cuniculi that predominate in dogs and rabbits, and the commonness of kidney disease in dogs, I doubt there’s a link between the rabbit’s infection and the dog’s kidney disease in this case.

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