Oh, No, It Looks Like My Rabbit Has a Cough!
In rabbits, the symptoms of sneezing, runny eyes, and runny nose are referred to collectively as “snuffles.” Pasteurellosis is another name for this contagious respiratory illness.
The presence of persistent bacterial infection in the tear ducts and nasal sinuses is frequently the root cause of these symptoms. It is one of the most common causes of respiratory disease in rabbits and the bacterium that causes it, Pasteurella multocida, is most commonly responsible for the outbreak.
There is more than one strain of the virus, and the severity of the symptoms in infected rabbits can vary greatly depending on which strain of the virus they have contracted. Even though certain strains of these bacteria are frequently found in the nasal passages of rabbits, they might not result in infections unless the animal is under a lot of stress or if its immune system is already compromised.
There is a possibility that rabbits that are housed in hutches with insufficient air circulation are more likely to develop snuffles. The accumulation of fumes from urine or from certain types of wood shavings, especially cedar, can irritate the eyes and possibly bring on sneezing fits in some rabbits.
Snuffles is a common complication in rabbits that also suffer from dental disease. This is due to the fact that the tooth roots are located very close to the tear duct as it travels from the outer corner of the eye to the nose.
If the teeth are misaligned (do not come together in the correct way), the tooth roots will push upwards, which can cause the tear duct to become blocked. Because of this obstruction, tears are unable to drain normally through the duct, which gives bacteria the opportunity to multiply.
You might not immediately recognize the symptoms, but you’ll have a gut feeling that something is wrong with your pet, even if it’s difficult to put your finger on what it is.
Depression, a loss of appetite, and a decrease in weight are all possible symptoms that you might observe. Sneezing, difficulty breathing, and discharge from the nose and eyes, which will cause the fur on the rabbit’s cheeks to become wet and stained, are some of the additional symptoms that you may observe in your rabbit.
Depending on the strain of Pasteurella multocida that a rabbit has contracted, snuffles can spread to other organs in the body if it is not treated and can cause sudden death in some rabbits even in the absence of any other symptoms. This is a rare occurrence.
As the condition worsens, it is likely that your rabbit will begin to expel a thick discharge from its nose that ranges in color from whitish to yellow, which it will then wipe away with its front paws. It is possible that you will find dried discharge on your rabbit’s front paws.
This discharge comes from the area where your rabbit grooms its face and wipes its eyes and nose. Because of the fluid and mucous that builds up in their nose and sinuses, infected rabbits frequently emit a loud snuffling or snorting sound when they breathe.
It is extremely unlikely, but possible, for a rabbit to contract fatal forms of pneumonia or bacteremia (the bacteria enter the bloodstream). Abscesses can develop in a few different locations, including under the skin, in the joints, or even within the organs themselves.
In most cases, the initial treatment for snuffles consists of taking antibiotics for a period of two to four weeks. Antibiotics such as enrofloxacin (Baytril), ciprofloxacin, and trimethoprim sulfa are among the most frequently prescribed medicines (TMS).
In order to properly digest their food, rabbits have certain bacteria in their intestines that are essential to their health. Because antibiotic treatment can eradicate these bacteria, rabbits frequently require additional doses of these bacteria both during and after treatment with antibiotics. Even if you no longer exhibit any symptoms of the disease, there is a good chance that the bacteria responsible for the illness are still there, albeit in lower numbers.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to treatment is to take an effective antibiotic as soon as you notice any signs of infection. If the infection is allowed to continue untreated for a period of several days or weeks, it is likely that it will turn into a chronic condition that is extremely challenging to cure.
Even in cases that are caught early and treated, some animals will still develop chronic infections in their sinus passages. These infections must be treated for an extended period of time or even for the rest of the animal’s life in order to be kept under control.
Snuffles are a disease that is difficult to treat, and it may take several months after treatment has begun for the patient’s condition to begin to show signs of improvement.
The prevention of a return of symptoms is the single most important aspect of the treatment. This is difficult because any stressful event that compromises the rabbit’s immune system can cause the rabbit to start sneezing and coughing again.
The introduction or removal of a new family member or pet, a shift in diet or any other aspect of a routine that has been established over time, a change in the environment (such as moving), and a change in the weather are all examples of events that can cause stress.
Snuffles are also a very contagious disease that can be passed between rabbits, and it is imperative that infected rabbits never come into contact with healthy rabbits. Before being used for healthy rabbits, any cage or bedding that has been in contact with sick rabbits needs to be disinfected with a solution of diluted bleach. This is necessary to prevent the spread of disease.
During treatment, rabbits that are infected should be kept in isolation. Cages, food bowls, water containers, and toys should all be meticulously scrubbed and disinfected. Throw away porous objects (wood, natural fibers, etc.) that cannot be cleaned thoroughly, and if you or members of your family handle an infected rabbit, please wash your hands and change into clean clothes before handling healthy rabbits.