Rabbit Snuffles - Petplan Common Illnesses
How to Diagnose Snuffles (Pasteurella) in Rabbits
Snuffles, or pasteurellosis, is an extremely common, infectious disease in rabbits. It is estimated that anywhere between 30% and 90% of rabbits that appear healthy actually have the pasteurella bacteria in their respiratory system.These rabbits are not visibly ill, but if subject to stress the bacteria can suppress their immune system and allow the bug to get a grip on their systems.Because it is so common, it's important to learn how to spot the signs of a pasteurella infection and what to do if you suspect that your rabbit has the illness.
Looking For the Signs of Snuffles
Look for sneezes and snuffles.The signs of this infection are usually associated with the respiratory and nasal tracts. This causes the rabbit to sneeze and snuffle, hence the name 'the snuffles.'
- Infected rabbits usually cough, in addition to sneezing, as the air passages and the lungs can be affected.
Pay attention to nasal discharge.An early sign of the illness is a watery nasal discharge, which becomes thicker and has a white consistency. This excessive discharge irritates the nasal passages and causes the rabbit to sneeze.
- Rabbits breathe through their nose and so having a runny nose is distressing for them. They may rub at their nose with the front paws, and have staining on the fur of the face and the forearms as a result.
Inspect the rabbit's eyes.The pasteurella bacteria can affect the drainage and tear production of the eyes. If this is the case, the eyes may be watery or have a milky or creamy discharge.
- To treat this symptom, antibiotics may be applied to the eye and it may need to be gently flushed with saline to clear out the discharge.
Look for an unusual head tilt.The bacteria may travel from the throat up into the middle ear. This will cause a build up of pus or fluid in the ear, which can cause the rabbit to tilt its head.This is known as torticollis.
- Treatment for the cause of the head tilt usually includes antibiotics but this may not clear up the infection. It may take surgery to eliminate the buildup of fluid in the middle ear.
Inspect your rabbit for abscesses.In severe cases of pasteurella, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and travel to the lungs, liver, or the joints, and create abscesses near the surface of the skin. You may not be able to detect the abscesses when they lay dormant under the skin but they can rupture at any time. Once they rupture, you will be able to see the wound.
Assess whether your rabbit is having a hard time breathing.If the infection travels into the lungs, the rabbit can then find it difficult to breath. Their breathing becomes fast and shallow, and the rabbit is likely to stop eating altogether.
- It is not uncommon for the infection to progress from cold like symptoms and spread to the lungs, causing pneumonia.
Pay attention to signs of fatigue.The illness decreases the rabbit's energy and affects its mood. Most rabbits with the snuffles are subdued and quiet. They will eat less and start to lose weight.
- The fatigue can also cause the rabbit to stop grooming itself. Their lack of grooming creates a dull, unkempt coat.
Look for the signs of a genital infection.Rabbits with the snuffles can get a genital infection because the reproductive organs can become infected. This is more common in female rabbits than in males. Rabbits with this infection have a hard time reproducing, and can become completely sterile. If your rabbit is exhibiting other symptoms and has not been reproducing as usual, it may have the snuffles.
- The infection usually affects the internal reproductive organs but the symptoms can include a yellow or grey vaginal discharge in female rabbits.
Getting a Veterinary Diagnosis
Take your rabbit to its veterinarian.Your veterinarian will give the rabbit a general check-up, giving it a visual inspection and also probably looking in its ears, eyes, and throat. This will give the vet a good idea whether the rabbit is sick with the snuffles, although it will not specifically diagnose the disease.
- It is difficult to connect pasteurella to a specific illness. The snuffles is commonly used to describe the symptoms caused by the pasteurella bacteria.As mentioned above, a high percentage of healthy rabbits carry pasteurella in their respiratory tract but are not sick. This complicates diagnosis because swabbing these rabbits will produce a positive result, while the result itself is of little significance because the rabbit is not ill because of the pasteurella.
- If the rabbit is unwell and produces a positive swab result for pasteurella, it can be difficult to know how significant this result is. It might be the rabbit isn't actually sick from the pasteurella but has another condition and the positive result is just a coincidental finding.
Discuss with the vet which tests should be done.Another complication in diagnosing pasteurella is that to obtain a representative swab the sample needs to be taken from deep in the nasal cavity.This is uncomfortable for the rabbit and many rabbits will object to the procedure and need either sedation or anesthesia. Thus, the vet may have a strong suspicion of pasteurella based on the symptoms alone, but putting an absolute label on the condition via a swab would not actually change the treatment.
- If the rabbit is already sick, then this could stress it further and so there needs to be a definite advantage (i.e., it would change the treatment) to know if the rabbit is pasteurella positive or not.
- Because of this, the vet will weigh which tests are going to yield the most useful information and be most relevant to the treatment of the rabbit. For example, if the rabbit has breathing difficulties then it is a good idea to x-ray the rabbit's chest while it is sedated, to get a full picture of how serious the condition is and if pneumonia is a complication or not.
Follow the veterinarian's suggestions for treatment.Most likely, your veterinarian will only treat the symptoms your rabbit is experiencing. It is very difficult to eradicate the pasteurella organism with antibiotics, as they usually only temporarily eliminate it until the rabbit undergoes stress once again.
- While they will not eliminate the organism permanently, a variety of antibiotics may be prescribed to end this flare up, as the disease is bacterial.These include ciprofloxacin, enrofloxacin, and trimethoprim sulfa.
- Antibiotics are usually given for approximately 2 to 4 weeks.
- Remember that antibiotics can negatively affect a rabbit's stomach and digestion, which is a delicate system.
QuestionIf my pet rabbit has been exposed to the snuffles but has not shown any signs of having it after three weeks, does that mean my rabbit doesn't have it?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGenerally rabbits are quarantined for snuffles for 31 days. Most cases of snuffles will become apparent within that time, so if it is not showing signs by then, it is probably not affected. Some rabbits can become carriers or only show symptoms during periods of stress, so there is no perfect guarantee. While you are probably safe, if the rabbit does start showing signs during travel or stress, or some of your other rabbits start showing signs, suspect pasteurella.Thanks!
Video: Love Your Pet: Snuffles in rabbits
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