It can be alarming if your rabbit looks sick.
You might wonder if they caught your cold.
As prey animals, they always try to hide their pain.
So, if you notice even the slightest signs of a “cold” in your rabbit…
And if you don’t know what to do to help them in case of an illness…
You have to learn what can make them sick before it becomes too late.
Read to find out:
- 7 tips to avoid snuffles.
- 21 symptoms of snuffles.
- What causes snuffles in rabbits.
- What to do if your rabbit has snuffles.
- And so much more…
Do rabbits get colds?
Rabbits don’t get colds, but they can get “snuffles”. They don’t get human colds but they can pass on our cold to someone else. Instead of a virus, rabbits get a type of bacterial infection. It can happen because rabbits have a weak respiratory system.
What are rabbit snuffles?
Snuffles is a term used to describe what seems like a cold for humans.
In fact… snuffle is not the disease itself…
Instead, it’s only a word for the symptoms of different respiratory problems.
It’s when rabbits are sneezing…
Have watery eye discharges and a runny nose.
Rabbit snuffles can be dangerous.
And it needs to get treated right away.
When left ignored…
Snuffles can lead to death.
Can rabbits survive snuffles?
Rabbits can survive snuffles with proper treatment.
Though it is a risky disease, it’s not impossible to survive it.
Research claims… there is a higher chance of survival during summer.
In some cases, it can also go away on its own.
Depending on what caused their illness, the chance of recovery will be different.
In the early stages of infection, rabbits have a higher chance of surviving it.
But the later stages can become harder.
Serious infections may need long-term treatment.
This can happen if the bones in the nose or their teeth get infected.
What causes snuffles in rabbits?
Bacteria infection causes snuffles in rabbits.
Research shows that…
The common bacteria involved is “Pasteurella Multocida” a.k.a “P. Multocida”
Though, other bacteria can also be responsible for it.
Some examples are:
According to a study…
P. Multocida can cause different diseases in rabbits.
It’s often found in the nasal area which causes breathing problems for rabbits.
But it can also be found in the ears and in the mouth.
Your rabbit can get infected by P. Multocida in many ways…
Here are a few examples:
- Air pollution.
- Poor room temperature.
- Dental problems caused by poor diet.
- Eye and nose infection caused by dirt.
Any rabbit can get infected by this disease.
It can also be contagious. For some, it can be fatal. In other rabbits, it can become a long-term disease.
The symptoms may vary depending on each rabbit.
How do I know if my rabbit has snuffles? 21 symptoms
#1: Head tilt
You might think it’s cute when rabbits tilt their head sideways…
It looks like they’re confused or curious about something.
But in reality, when a rabbit gets infected by pasteurella, the bacteria can travel to their ears, as stated by research.
If left untreated, it may spread throughout their body.
Once it reaches their inner or middle ear, it can also lead to swelling in the brain.
Which can cause a great amount of pain…
If this happens, your rabbit might tilt their head in an attempt to find relief.
#2: Runny nose
A runny nose is one of the most common signs of snuffles…
This is because most infections start with their eye or nose.
Note: A rabbit’s eye and nose are close to each other.
When one gets infected, the other is at a high risk of getting infected too.
For example, when their nose gets irritated by dust or dirt, it can lead to inflammation in their nose or lungs.
If this happens, a blockage can occur.
This will make breathing difficult for them.
As a result, their nose will start trying to flush out the bacteria through nasal discharges a.k.a runny nose.
#3: Crust formation around the nose
Following symptom #2…
Crust formation due to mucus buildup can also happen.
This is common in the later stages of the infection.
Their runny nose is so severe, that the mucus has begun to harden around their nose.
Once it reaches this level, it means your rabbit will need more serious long-term help.
#4: Red eyes a.k.a conjunctivitis
When there is an eye infection caused by dirt, dental issues, or allergies…
The bacteria can cause inflammation around the eyes.
This can lead to redness and make it seem like your rabbit has teary eyes.
If they already have natural red eye color, pay attention to the area around the outer eye.
The skin where their lashes are should be quite red as well, due to the inflammation.
#5: Rapid weight loss
When a rabbit is sick, they can also lose weight pretty fast.
Given their small bodies…
It’s not hard for them to lose or gain weight.
If you noticed a great amount of weight loss in your rabbit, there’s a chance that they have stopped eating due to snuffles.
Sometimes, it also begins with dental problems.
If there are problems with their teeth, it can be hard for them to eat.
When a rabbit is uncomfortable, they might get stressed and lose interest in their normal activities.
Even if they eat, the weakness they get from the infection can still cause weight loss.
#6: Signs of dental problems
As mentioned in #5…
Having issues with their dental health is also a cause of snuffles.
This means that if you notice a problem with their teeth, you can consider it as a symptom of snuffles.
Based on a study…
Dental problems can lead to infection in their nose.
An example of a dental problem would be a poor diet that leads to overgrown teeth.
When a rabbit doesn’t have a balanced diet…
Their teeth might not get enough trimming.
As a result, their teeth will be sharp and grow long enough to injure the gums.
The roof of their gums is very close to the nose and their eyes.
Remember, those two body parts are right next to each other.
Bacteria buildup around the gum injury will travel to the nose and then to their eyes…
It can also spread to the ears and up to their brain.
Their health will collapse like a domino.
The only difference is that it’s not fun to watch.
#7: Stain in their fur
A study shows that rabbits tend to hide their illnesses.
Which means it can be hard to spot snuffles in your rabbit.
But this is a condition that needs to get spotted in its early stages.
One way to check if your rabbit might have snuffles is by looking at their front paws.
Check if their fur has any stains on it.
Most of the time…
Rabbits with eye or nose discharges will wash their face right away.
The mucus will remain as stains on their fur.
#8: Changes in their skin or fur
A research claims that in some cases of snuffles, some rabbits might have hair loss a.k.a depilation.
A few of them might even bite their own fur out.
This can happen if the infection started with a skin problem.
Skin problems can happen due to allergies or because of a polluted environment.
The skin irritation can travel throughout the body and some of them can be close to the outer eye, nose, or ears.
Any of these parts can invite the notorious pasteurella bacteria.
When the skin gets irritated, excessive scratching can occur.
This may lead to open injuries near one of those 3 sensitive areas.
As a result, a wound in the skin might promote bacteria buildup.
#9: Eye discharges
When snuffles are caused by an eye infection, you can expect discharges in their eyes.
The color can vary between white, dirty white, and yellowish tones.
If you spot a darker-colored discharge, it can be a sign that their condition is severe.
Aside from discharges…
They might also have red, watery, bulging eyes.
In some cases, crust can also build up around the outer eye.
Most eye infections in rabbits start with irritation from dust, smoke, or dirt. As well as a nasal blockage caused by inflammation in the lungs or the nose.
Dental problems can also lead to eye infections.
#10: Loud breathing
When the lung gets infected by the bacteria, there could be inflammation inside it.
This leads to swelling and as a result…
It will block the airways which can make breathing difficult for them.
Because of this, you might hear your rabbit wheezing.
They might also make loud noises as they try to breathe.
Sometimes, you might also catch them pointing their head up as if trying to get some air through their nose.
Though it’s rare, some rabbits can also cough.
But since they are quiet, prey animals, this can be hard to spot.
You have to listen closely to hear any weird noise from your rabbit.
Coughing is not common at all…
Because they always try to hide any sound they might make.
So if you catch them coughing due to snuffles, it can be a sign that their infection has gone worse.
They might also cough due to their desperate attempt to breathe or because they are in a lot of pain.
#12: Abnormal body temperature
When their respiratory system is infected…
They might have an abnormal body temperature.
In most cases of snuffles, they might have a fever.
You can tell if their body temperature is out of the ordinary by checking it.
To check their temperature, you can use any regular thermometer. Make sure it’s no deeper than 1 inch.
Hold your rabbit and insert it in their anus.
A healthy rabbit should have a body temperature of 101°F to 103°F (38.3°C to 39.4°C), as stated by a study.
If it rises above 103°F (39°C), then your rabbit has a fever.
If this is the case, cooling them down is the first priority.
The best way to cool them down is to use ice cubes. Rub it against their ears for 2-3 minutes.
Make sure to avoid getting water droplets inside their ears.
You can also use a cold water bottle and wrap it in a soft towel.
Other options include using cold vegetables or using a soft, damp cloth.
Place any one of these items next to your bunny.
Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t get wet from the cold.
“What if my rabbit has a low body temperature?”
In some cases, your rabbit might also develop hypothermia.
When they reach 100°F to 30°F (37°C to -1.11°C), it’s a clear sign of it.
Help your rabbit warm up by using a hot bottle of water instead.
You should also wrap it with a soft cloth to avoid burning their skin.
Observe until their temperature improves.
#13: Breathing problems
Pay attention to the way your rabbit breathes.
Is it faster than usual? Are they mouth breathing?
Are their noses twitching more than normal?
Do they have an irregular pattern? Going from fast to heavy and slow paces?
Their normal heart rate must be between 120 to 150 beats per minute. The respiration rate in rabbits should be around 30 to 60 breaths per minute.
If anything becomes out of ordinary…
It can be a dangerous situation for your bunny. They need to get treated ASAP to help them breathe.
#14: Changes in their personality
A sick rabbit can become too stressed to act normal.
If you notice even the slightest changes in their behavior…
You need to pay closer attention to confirm if they’re sick.
For example, your rabbit runs up to you whenever you come home. Then one day, they stopped.
Acting as if they never cared or they don’t see you at all.
This is a sign of unusual behavior.
There are also other easy-to-spot changes such as…
- Becoming distant.
- Losing interest in food.
- Failing to use their bathroom.
These 5 signs can be alarming, especially if it doesn’t improve within the day.
Other rabbits can also act destructively.
Here are 3 examples:
- Throwing things around.
- Chewing everything around them.
- Excessive digging and too much scratching.
Before they end up hurting themselves…
Get them the help they need as soon as possible.
You might also want to know: 23 Tips To Stop A Rabbit From Chewing Everything (How-To)
#15: They stop grooming
Rabbits like being clean. It’s part of their nature.
A normal rabbit would clean up many times a day. So when they stop grooming, it can be very unsettling.
It shows that they might be too weak to move on their own…
Or they feel too hopeless to even try helping themselves.
Rabbits can become depressed to the point of giving up on their welfare.
This is the time that you have to clean them up on their behalf.
Warning: Don’t give them a bath. The shock from water can kill them. Rabbits aren’t used to getting soaked by water.
What you can do instead is use cotton balls or wipes. Pat it on their skin and fur to get rid of the dirt.
Don’t rush the process or it can cause them stress.
When you’re done, wipe them dry for their comfort.
Most rabbits are active in nature. It’s part of their fun personalities.
Though they can also feel down on some days…
It shouldn’t last any longer than one day.
When a rabbit stops moving and remains weak for days, something is wrong.
Sometimes, when the infection reaches their brain…
Rabbits can develop brain diseases. It can lead to paralysis.
This explains why they end up not moving at all.
If your rabbit doesn’t respond to anything anymore…
The infection could already be severe.
You can also notice some changes in their body when they become lethargic.
Their muscles can become too limp. But in some cases, they can become too stiff.
#17: Loss of appetite
Sick rabbits will stop eating.
In the wild, rabbits always need to chew on something. This is because they have teeth that never stop growing.
It’s unnatural for a rabbit to stop eating at all.
It’s also dangerous for them to skip even one meal.
If they have a problem with their dental health, it can make them stop eating too.
Here are other things that can cause this issue:
- Old age.
- Having small teeth in some breeds.
- Hereditary diseases such as malocclusion.
Some breeds are at higher risk of this problem. As revealed by research.
Most of the time, having overgrown teeth might injure the roof of their gums.
When this happens, bacteria may build up inside the mouth.
This bacteria can be pasteurella and it can spread fast all the way to their nose.
It will grow all over their upper body and cause snuffles.
As a result, they become too uncomfortable to eat.
#18: Losing their balance
When the bacteria reach the ears, they can cause them to lose balance.
It’s the same feeling as feeling dizzy when we hear a ringing sound in our ears.
The inflammation can cause swelling and pain.
This will lead to involuntary movements.
Some rabbits might run into walls or objects too.
The ears are close to the brain where things can become more sensitive.
If the infection reaches the brain, it can cause brain damage.
This can make them get paralyzed. Some might start tilting their heads due to pain.
This will take us back to symptoms #1 and #16.
#19: Making weird noises
Rabbits are quiet animals. They try to conceal any noise as much as possible.
This is because they are prey and want to avoid predators.
With that said, a rabbit who is in pain might make weird noises.
Here are 5 examples:
- Excessive sneezing.
- Loud teeth grinding.
- Crying or squeaking.
- Grunting and gasping.
If they’re in too much pain, they can be unable to control the sounds they make.
Check out also: 13 Things Rabbits Do When They Are Scared (Behavior)
In some severe cases, snuffles can lead to diarrhea.
When left untreated for too long…
The bacteria can spread to the bones and internal organs.
When the inflammation and swelling affect the digestive tract…
Some rabbits can have diarrhea.
#21: Excessive sneezing
Sneezing once in a while is normal. But constant sneezing is not.
If your rabbit keeps sneezing, check if they might have a snot along with it.
Pay attention if they have a runny nose too.
This is one of the first signs of snuffles.
Since it’s the early stage, noticing it can help prevent the infection from spreading.
Treat them ASAP before the condition grows worse.
Further reading: 15 Alarming Reasons Why Your Rabbit Keeps Sneezing + 11 Tips
How to treat rabbit snuffles? 7 tips
#1: Give them antibiotics
One of the first steps to treat snuffles is to use antibiotics.
A proven example is enrofloxacin, as stated by research. It works without causing side effects.
To support the claim of research…
14 rabbits got infected by P. Multocida.
As a treatment, they injected 11lbs (5kg) of the drug every 12 hours for 2 weeks.
7 out of 8 or 87% of rabbits showed health improvements within 72 hours.
The rest of the rabbits received treatment through oral intake. They got better within 3 to 7 days.
Though they healed, at least 3 rabbits still carried the P. Multocida bacteria.
The drug may not get rid of the bacteria 100%, but it guarantees recovery.
This means that recovered rabbits can be a carrier and pass it to a healthy rabbit.
For other medicine to give your rabbit, consult your vet.
If you’re not sure how to give medication to your rabbit, you can watch this video:
#2: Keep them warm
A study believes that P.Multocida is weaker during the warm season.
So if you keep your rabbit warm, it can promote better recovery.
Keep them in a room with a temperature of 60 to 65 Fahrenheit (15 to 18 degrees Celsius).
This is the ideal setting for most rabbits.
#3: Avoid causing stress
Stress in rabbits can slow down their recovery.
They already have a hard time breathing…
The least we can do is relieve their stress.
To help them feel better, make sure they can relax.
Here are some things to avoid for them:
- Strong odors.
- Other animals.
- Too much handling.
Note: Keep bonded rabbits together. They would need their best friend’s support.
A rabbit can get depressed without a companion.
If you want to know more, read this article: How to reduce stress in rabbits?
#4: Keep everything clean
Dirt, dust, and smoke are common culprits causing snuffles in rabbits.
This is why it’s important to keep them in a clean room.
Make sure you avoid using strong chemical products such as wax or air fresheners.
These items can irritate a rabbit’s nose.
Clean their living space at least twice a day.
One in the morning and one in the evening. This is to make sure they start their day fresh and be comfortable in their sleep.
#5: Healthy balanced diet
To avoid dental problems in your rabbit…
Giving them a balanced diet is important.
This will help reduce the bacteria buildup in their gums.
A study says that high fiber hay is a good option to promote chewing.
You should also keep them hydrated.
Most rabbits need to drink 1.69oz to 5.07oz (50 to 150ml) of water per day.
If they’re very sick, they might need more than that.
If they can’t eat or drink on their own, syringe feeding can help.
#6: Stay beside them
At this point, all your rabbit needs is your attention.
As much as possible, stay by their side.
If you’re a busy person…
You should consider asking for help from family or friends.
For your rabbit’s best interest, find someone they already know.
This is to avoid causing fear for them.
When a rabbit is left alone…
They can get lonely pretty fast.
Your presence will help motivate them to fight back.
#7: Take them to the vet
Even if you already tried everything…
The vet might still give you more options to work with.
Sensitive animal like rabbits needs proper diagnosis. Only a vet can give you accurate, professional advice.
Keep in mind that snuffles can become deadly…
That’s why you need to take your rabbit to the vet before it grows out of control.