Sneezing rabbits – a difficult condition to cure

1st August 2017


At Bollington Veterinary Centre we love to see rabbits. They’re so different to cats and dogs and by understanding this it helps us to manage them better.

Snuffles in rabbits is one example of how they differ from other species. Whilst a cat or dog may get over a mild nasal infection, a rabbit’s response is typically more chronic and slow. The pus they produce tends to be thicker and drier resulting in it being harder to expel. The debris produced from the initial infection remains in the nasal cavity and causes further damage to the delicate tissues.

Prevention is certainly the preferred option, as a cure is hard to achieve.


6 ways to prevent infections

A golden rule to remember is that happy, healthy, stress-free bunnies get fewer infections. We need to feed them well and keep them in good living conditions to ensure they remain stress free and healthy.

  1. Feed the best – feed lots of good quality feeding hay and some high quality all-in-one dried pellets. Speak to our team at Bollington Veterinary Centre to find out the brands we recommend. You can feed some fresh vegetables and herbs as a treat.
  2. Avoid dust and mold – minimise the dust in the environment as it clogs up their lungs and delicate respiratory systems. Avoid old hay as it can have lots of harmful debris. You can buy specially cleaned hay which is mold and dust free.
  3. Litter hygiene – stale urine breaks down into ammonia which is harmful to the lungs and eyes. It’s essential to keep the rabbit’s home clean and fresh. Many rabbits will use litter trays, so keep these cleaned daily. If it smells then it needs changing.
  4. Good ventilation – a constant change of air will help reduce both ammonia and dust levels.
  5. Health checks – we try to encourage you to visit us at least twice a year so we can discuss your rabbit's health, weight and diet.
  6. Reduce stress – lots of animals hunt rabbits in the wild, so your bunny is hard-wired to worry about them. Cats, dogs, large birds and ferrets will all make them nervous. Other factors such as being handled inappropriately, poor diets and sudden changes in the environment will all trigger stress.


How do we treat rabbit respiratory infections?

  • Remove stress – it’s important to identify and remove the cause of stress. It could be the temperature and environment or perhaps a boisterous dog or inquisitive cat. By removing the stress, the rabbit’s immune system will be able to improve.
  • Antibiotics – a lot of their infections are bacterial in origin so we use antibiotics to help.
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines – these drugs are often used to manage inflammation of the respiratory system and make the animal feel more comfortable.
  • Mucolytics – these are drugs that help to make mucus more fluid and easy to remove.
  • Assisted feeding – great care and attention must be given to any rabbit struggling with illness. Food and fluids are given orally to help stay hydrated and keep their guts moving. If your rabbit stops eating or passing faeces this should be treated as an emergency. Please contact us as soon as possible.


If all the treatment we can offer fails to help, we may have to consider euthanasia. Sometimes it is kinder to let go than to put your rabbit through a long, protracted treatment. This isn’t something we would do lightly at Bollington Veterinary Centre and we’ll certainly help you throughout the decision-making process. Rabbits are so good at hiding disease that they can sometimes be much more unwell than you realise.


What should you do if you're worried?

Don’t hesitate to call us if you have any concerns about your pet rabbit. We can make you an appointment to see one of our vets at the earliest convenience.

Call us if you're worried about your rabbit  >