Rabbit Snuffles: Diagnosing, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Rabbit Snuffles

Rabbit health is important, especially if you want them to improve their lifespan. Unlike other animals, extra care and consideration are done when taking care of rabbits because of their vulnerability and sensitive body. One disease that you should not overlook is rabbit snuffles because it can destroy your pet’s body. 

According to Bishops Stortford Veterinary Hospital, snuffles are a life-long health risk for your rabbits that causes runny eyes, nose, and constant sneezing. It’s such a common disease for pets that even experienced rabbit breeders have to deal with it. 

In this article, we will provide you with background information regarding rabbit snuffles, the cause, prevention, and cure to be able to assist you in understanding this threatening disease for your pet. 

When your rabbit is experiencing health problems, acquiring information through searching online is essential for your rabbits. Part of the care that you need to provide pets is learning how to treat and prevent diseases like snuffles. That is also to ensure that our pet remains happy and healthy. However, you should not solely base the treatment on the information you find online. Going to your trusted veterinarian is still recommended. 

To Know About Veterinarian Qualities, Read This Article: 5 Qualities You Should Look At for Veterinarian Services

Understanding Rabbit Snuffles

Rabbit snuffles are a respiratory disease commonly caused by bacterial infection of Pasteurella or Bordetella. As stated by some studies, Pasteurella is small and non-spore in nature, but this can still affect other animals nearby when one of them is infected.  

Moreover, this bacteria can also be found in the rabbit’s body or encountered by other pets. This naturally occurring bacterium is highly contagious, which is why it’s very easy for one rabbit to infect others through coughing and sneezing because of the irritation. 

That is why it’s also considered a life-threatening disease that can kill your pet because it’s very easy to infect other potential hosts, so as a rabbit owner, you must know how to combat it properly since rabbit snuffles can affect not only the eyes and ears of your rabbit but also other organs. However, note that some rabbits out there are immune to the mentioned bacterium.

Here are some of the common symptoms that you should look at when the rabbit has snuffles:

The Rabbit has Runny Eyes and a Nose

Rabbit snuffle bacteria causes irritation in your rabbit’s senses, such as its eyes and nose. That is why this symptom is noticeable to your pet. Mayo Clinic defines runny eyes and nose as continuous water discharged from this body part of your rabbit. This is uncomfortable for your pet and causes further irritation if not treated. 

The Rabbit has a Hard Time Breathing

One of the common signs of infected respiratory and snuffles is inconsistent breathing. Or most of the time, your rabbit is like constantly gasping for air because the bacteria is blocking the airway of their body. The normal breathing count of rabbits is between 30-60 breaths per minute.  

The Rabbit is Coughing or Sneezing.

Since this is a respiratory-related disease, your rabbit will show symptoms such as continuous coughing and sneezing because of the bacterial infection. If your rabbit starts coughing, isolate them first to avoid infecting other pets since rabbit snuffles are contagious diseases. 

The Rabbit is Tilting their Head

Head tilting also happens sometimes to your pet when they have snuffles, which is caused by neurological damage. Sometimes rabbits tilt their head because the bacteria also starts infecting the ears of your rabbit. That is why it’s important to observe sudden behavioral changes in your rabbit because this can indicate more serious underlying diseases in their health. 

The symptoms of snuffles or pasteurellosis bacteria can sometimes mimic common respiratory diseases. That is why it’s a little challenging for owners to detect snuffles earlier because some of them thought it was simply cold. To be sure and officially diagnose your rabbit visit your trusted vet. They will test the bacteria if it turns positive for Pasteurella or Bordetella, then your rabbit has a sniffle. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness, abscesses, and the destruction of other reproductive organs of your pet. 

Read More: Definitive Guide to Your Rabbit’s Health

Diagnosing Rabbit Snuffles

Diagnosing Rabbit Snuffles requires a medical examination from animal expert individuals. That is why after you suspect your rabbit because they have symptoms of snuffling, the most important thing you need to do is send your rabbit to a veterinarian. 

When visiting the clinic, ensure they are a reliable and experienced vet who is knowledgeable about treating snuffles and other respiratory complications since this can lead to other respiration issues for your rabbit. You can also ask for advice from rabbit breeders or raisers who know a trusted veterinarian in your area that can treat snuffles. 

Here are the things you should expect when diagnosing your rabbit:


It is important for the vet to ask questions because this will assist them in knowing the right diagnosis for your rabbit. One of the questions that the doctor will ask is regarding the signs and symptoms you’ve noticed for the past few days in your pet. It’s also common for them to ask you how long you have noticed these symptoms and if your pet has been around other animals that have appeared to have similar symptoms. That is why keeping your rabbit on track and noting the behavioral changes in them help not just you but also improve and treat your pet’s health.

Physical Examination

The vet will then conduct a physical examination on your rabbit. This is done to identify any obvious signs and causes of your rabbit’s snuffles. The vet may want to rule out enclosure, diet, and supplements as the culprits of the signs and symptoms. 

In addition, there is a possibility also that the vet doctor will go over the health history of your rabbit. Although there are chances and no guarantee that the vet will be able to determine the specific bacteria. There are also instances when the veterinarian will ask your permission to proceed to image tests or tools such as X-rays to determine whether or not your rabbit has snuffles. 

Urine and Fecal Examination

To confirm whether or not your rabbit has Pasteurella or snuffle, these tests must be conducted:

Getting the rabbit’s urine, and poop are important procedures in examining and diagnosing your rabbit because they contain most chemicals inside your rabbit’s body. Some underlying diseases can be found through this method, especially bacterial infections that affect them.

On the other hand, blood work may also be conducted. So if ever you go to the vet, prepare to gather samples of any discharge from your rabbit, such as the mucus that forms in their nose and eyes because of the bacteria. 

Preventing Rabbit Snuffles 

Now that you know that rabbit snuffles are a threat to your pet’s life and contagious to other rabbits, as a responsible pet owner, you must know how to prevent it from happening to them. Since this type of disease can be very difficult to treat, as they always say, prevention is always better than cure. The good news is that you can do things to prevent your beloved pets from acquiring snuffles. Here is the list of things you can do: 

Provide a Clean Shelter

A clean area where your rabbit can freely eat and sleep will help prevent your pet from avoiding the snuffles and other bacteria and parasites that can attack them. That is why one of the things that you should practice when taking care of any pet is to ensure that you follow strict sanitation. 

Unlike humans, your pet animals don’t have the knowledge to clean their own space. The only thing that they have is the instinct to clean their body, like licking and letting their other companion clean them.

To do this, have a schedule and be sure you clean your pet’s cage regularly, especially in the area where they hang out often. You can use safe sanitizers or natural cleaning solutions when cleaning your rabbit’s shelter. 

There are many available manufactured pet cleaning products that you can safely use. But if you prefer the natural way of cleaning, baking soda and vinegar is also good option. Pour the ingredients in a generous amount to cover all the corners and sides of the rabbit shelter and leave for about 10-20 minutes, then rinse with clean water. 

Having a habit of cleaning your rabbit shelter promotes sanitation and decreases the chance of diseases. You should also make sure that you clean urine and soiled bedding. Replace the bedding as often as possible. Remember that the dirtier the rabbit cage is, the higher the chances of developing snuffles. Also, clean the litter area regularly since it contains ammonia from your pet’s urine, and inhaling ammonia can ruin your rabbit’s health. 

Provide a Comfortable Environment

Aside from regularly cleaning your rabbit’s cage house, you should also ensure that you provide them with a comfortable environment where they can freely eat, play, and sleep. Since rabbits are known to be prone to stress, and whenever they are stressed out, they release stress hormones like cortisol, and cortisol suppresses their immune system. Hence, when a bacterial infection attacks their body, they have a weak defense in fighting those bacteria from snuffles. 

A good lifestyle promotes a healthy and safe space for your rabbit. As much as possible, you want your rabbits to live a happy and stress-free life. Reducing your rabbit’s stress means that you are also reducing the risk of developing rabbit snuffles.

Provide Nutritional Food

Acquiring the right nutrition for your rabbit pet is important because this is where they base the overall health performance of their body. As stated by some reports, fiver food helps your rabbit’s development and improves their immunity which helps them fight common diseases and bacteria that will try to attack their system. Hence, a good and balanced diet will prevent your rabbit from getting known bacteria that cause snuffles. 

A balance for your rabbit should consist of a bundle of timothy grass and hay to fill up their tummy and the fiber that their body needs, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Although it’s also a good decision to provide them with additional nutrition from fruits and veggies, note that you should have restrictions because it can cause digestive issues for your pet. There are also fruits and veggies that can harm them because of the toxins that they contain.

Look at the table below to better understand the foods that your rabbit can and cannot eat.

Foods that Rabbit Can EatFoods that Rabbit Cannot Eat
LettuceIceberg Lettuce

Read More: The Definitive Guide To What Foods Rabbits Can & Cannot Eat

Isolate Infected and New Rabbits

If you suspect your rabbit having snuffles or other parasitic infection that is contagious immediately avoid them having contact with one another. This may be too much for other pet owners, but preventing the disease from affecting the herd of rabbits is the ideal thing that you should do. Not only will it cause disease, but curing many rabbits can be costly, too, since medication and examination are required when treating snuffles. 

Moreover, when you have a new rabbit and want to introduce it to the rest, isolate them first for the first few days and observe if they have any symptoms of snuffling. Or you can take them to the vet first to check their health because there is a chance that the breeder shelter where they came from has parasites and bacteria that they can bring to your own house. Keeping them away from other rabbits reduces the chances of spreading snuffles or other diseases. 

Quarantine is very important if you’re buying or introducing a new rabbit. The quarantine period should last about 3 to 4 days if your purpose of taking care of them is as a companion pet inside your house. 

But for breeding purposes, the standard period of isolation is up to 14 days to ensure the safety of all rabbits in captivity. 

Treating Rabbit Snuffles

When it comes to snuffles, the usual medication that a veterinarian gives your rabbits is antibiotics. This treatment can last from 15 to 30 days, depending on the case of snuffles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an antibiotic is a medicine given to patients to reduce infection of bacteria inside the body. 

The most common antibiotics that vets use are ciprofloxacin, trimethoprim sulfa, and enrofloxacin. Also, vets may supplement good or beneficial bacteria during medication since it aids indigestion. 

Again the medication depends on the severity of the disease. There are times when snuffles have mild symptoms, and your rabbit has a strong immune system because you provide them with the proper meal and exercise, then recovery without treatment is possible. However, serious treatment such as antibiotics is essential if the diseases are strong or aggressive and the animal has a weak immune system. 

Remember that prevention and early detection are recommended rather than treatment.

Key Takeaways

  • Rabbit snuffles are a life-long health risk and respiratory problem caused by bacteria. This is commonly noticeable because they will have runny eyes, a nose, and constant sneezing. 
  • The bacteria that cause snuffles are known as Pasteurella or bordetella; they are non-spore bacteria that are contagious. That is why it’s very easy to infect the animals nearby once a single rabbit acquires snuffles. This disease can be passed through sneezing and coughing. 
  • Here are the symptoms of rabbit snuffles; runny eyes and nose, the rabbit has a hard time breathing ( normal breathing for the rabbit is 30-60 breaths per minute), coughing and sneezing, and abnormal head tilting.
  • As an owner, you need to distinguish between snuffles and other respiratory issues because sometimes snuffles can mimic the symptoms. To ensure the right diagnosis, you can visit your vet for examination and testing of discharge from your rabbit’s body to identify the bacteria causing snuffles. 
  • Prevention is always better than cure. So here is the list of things you can do to prevent your rabbit from acquiring the bacteria causing rabbit snuffles;
    • Provide your pet with a clean shelter, a comfortable environment, and nutritional food. 
    • In addition, it is also recommended to isolate the pet that is positive for snuffles from others to avoid infecting the whole shelter.   

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