Does your pet rabbit seem to have a cold? It could actually be rhinitis, also known as snuffles, which is a symptom of upper respiratory disease in rabbits. It is characterized by inflammation of the tissues that line the nose. Here are some questions you may have about the condition and how to treat it.
What are the signs of rhinitis?
If your rabbit has rhinitis, you'll notice that thin mucus is dripping out of their nose and eyes. Later, this mucus becomes purulent, meaning that it contains pus. Since rabbits clean their noses with their front paws, you may also notice that your pet's paws are caked with dried mucus. In addition to these symptoms, your pet may cough or sneeze.
What causes rhinitis?
Rhinitis is caused by bacteria. Generally, Pasteurella is the bacteria responsible, though other bacteria, like Bordetella bronchiseptica and Staphylococcus have been linked to rhinitis.
It's easy for rabbits to pick up these bacteria. About half of healthy rabbits are carriers for Pasteurella, so if your rabbit is exposed to other rabbits, they could get the bacteria from their friends. You can also introduce the bacteria to your rabbit on your hands or clothes if you've been in contact with infected rabbits.
The other bacteria that can cause rhinitis are also widespread. For example, Bordetella bronchiseptica is carried by rabbits, dogs, cats, and sometimes even humans, and it can remain in the environment for long periods.
Is rhinitis serious?
By itself, rhinitis isn't serious; it's similar to the stuffy nose associated with colds in humans. The concern is that rhinitis may progress to pneumonia, a serious lung infection. People with colds can sometimes get pneumonia too, but it's a bigger worry for rabbits. Rhinitis often leads to pneumonia in rabbits, so if your rabbit has a stuffy nose, take them to the vet, just in case it gets worse.
How is rhinitis treated?
Rabbits need aggressive treatment to recover from upper respiratory infections. Your vet will prescribe antibioticsto treat your pet's infection. Some antibiotics can give rabbits diarrhea or even be fatal, so make sure to talk with a vet, like Glen Erin Animal Hospital, so that you use the right antibiotics for your pet.
In addition to antibiotics, your rabbit may need supportive treatments. If your rabbit feels too sick to eat or drink, supportive treatments will include intravenous fluids and hand-feeding. If their tear ducts are clogged with mucus, your vet may perform a nasolacrimal flush; this procedure cleans out the blocked ducts.
If your rabbit seems like they have a cold, they probably have rhinitis. This condition isn't as harmless as it looks, so take your pet to a veterinarian right away.