Sinus Infections in Rabbits


PetMD Editorial

Published Oct. 1, 2008

Rhinitis And Sinusitis

Rhinitis in rabbits is an inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane. Sinusitis is quite similar; it is an inflammation of the air-filled spaces surrounding the rabbit's sinus or nasal cavity. Both of these conditions can cause respiratory problems and are often noticed because of the rabbit's excessive sneezing and nasal discharge.

Symptoms and Types

There are both acute and chronic forms of rhinitis and sinusitis in rabbits. These can either be contagious, non-infectious, associated with allergies or other conditions, or due to an abnormal or deformed facial bone structure. Some common symptoms for sinusitis and rhinitis include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose (or nasal discharge)
  • Reduced airflow
  • Lack of appetite
  • Slobbering or excessive saliva
  • Dental disease
  • Discharge from the eyes or other orifices
  • Bleeding nose, which may suggest a bacterial infection in the teeth or mouth


There are many causes for sinusitis and rhinitis in rabbits, and they often are dependent on the type of condition (i.e., infectious or non-infectious form). The more common causes for the non-infectious forms of sinusitis and rhinitis include dental disease, trauma or injury to the face or nose, inhalation of foreign bodies including grass or seeds, allergies, and invasion of the nose by abnormal growth of cells, usually cancerous cells. The infectious forms of these two conditions may be due to bacterial, fungal or viral infections.


To diagnose sinusitis or rhinitis, a veterinarian will typically perform blood tests and imaging examinations (e.g., X-rays, ultrasounds) to detect pneumonia, as this is a common condition in rabbits for these two cases. Occasionally, bacterial rhinitis will show up in imaging studies.

Swabs and cultures are done from time to time, but may be hard to discern, as some of the organisms in the samples may not be directly responsible for the condition (or opportunistic). Your veterinarian may also make a diagnosis by identifying any bone structure abnormalities or deformities in the rabbit's face or mouth, the latter being a common sign of dental disease.


The type of treatment is dependent on the underlying cause for the symptoms. Oxygen is sometimes necessary if the rabbit has trouble breathing; using a humidifier can also help open airways. Other ways to improve respiratory function include washing the affecting area and removing any environmental irritants, especially known allergic items.

Antibiotics may help with cases of rhinitis or sinusitis due to bacterial infections. Often, secondary bacterial infections cause many of the clinical signs associated with these two conditions. And because certain topical nasal decongestants cause some symptoms to worsen, they are not commonly recommended. In these cases, your veterinarian may prescribe antihistamines.

Living and Management

Animals should be provided with a proper, well-balanced diet including a wide selection of fresh greens such as cilantro, romaine lettuce, parsley, dandelion greens and spinach. Recovering rabbits need plenty of fluids at this time, in addition to regular follow-up appointments. This will ensure that the long-term treatment is successful.

Rabbits with the chronic bacterial form of sinusitis are less likely to completely eliminate all symptoms. However, it is possible to control the disease's clinical symptoms with proper care and education.

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