Is your rabbit sneezing and dealing with runny eyes and a runny nose? Chances are, it is a condition called snuffles. Snuffles is a respiratory infection, and it can be very contagious. Most bunnies don't recover without care and treatment, so it's important to know the basics about this condition and how to treat it.
What causes the snuffles?
"Snuffles" is really a general term that refers to any respiratory illness that causes nasal discharge, snuffling, and sneezing. Usually, snuffles is caused by bacteria — the most common of which is Pasteurella multocida. Other strains of bacteria, such as Streptococcus species, can cause snuffles sometimes, too. Your bunny may catch the infection when he or she comes into contact with another infected rabbit. The bacteria that cause snuffles are often found in small numbers in the respiratory tracts of healthy rabbits, so your bunny may also become ill if its immune system is suppressed or ailing.
What other problems can snuffles cause?
The problem with snuffles is not really the initial sneezing and discharge that it causes, though those symptoms are certainly bothersome for your rabbit. When the real problems start is when the infection migrates to the lungs, causing pneumonia. By the time snuffles worsens into pneumonia, your rabbit's chance of survival is very slim, so it's very important to seek veterinary care as soon as you notice signs of snuffles — before the pneumonia develops.
When your rabbit comes down with snuffles, you may also notice that his eyes become red and begin creating yellow discharge. This means the infection has spread to the eyes, which is not uncommon since rabbits often spread bacteria from their noses to their eyes as they groom themselves.
How will your vet treat snuffles?
Your vet will prescribe antibiotics to help your bunny fight the infection. The first dose or two of antibiotics might be administered through an IV, and your bunny may also be given some IV fluid to help fight dehydration. After that, you should be able to give your bunny the liquid or pill-form antibiotics at home. If your bunny's infection has spread to the eyes, you may also be given antibiotic eye drops to put in the eyes several times per day.
How can you prevent snuffles from coming back?
Once your bunny is healthy, take these steps to keep your fluffy friend that way.
- Don't allow your rabbit to come into contact with other rabbits — they may be carrying snuffles, even if they appear healthy.
- Feed your rabbit plenty of fresh produce to keep his or her immune system healthy.
- Don't keep your rabbit in a cold or drafty area.
- Clean your bunny's cage more often so he or she does not get wet or soiled.