Respiratory Bacterial Infection in Rabbits



Your rabbit will be treated on an outpatient basis unless surgery is indicated, or the rabbit is exhibiting signs of severe illness, such as blood infection or pneumonia. Treatment will be focused on treating the symptoms of sneezing and fever. Hydration, nutrition, warmth, and hygiene (keeping the nostrils clean) are of primary importance. Antibiotics and antimicrobials will be prescribed for eliminating the bacterial infection, and pain medications or light sedatives may be prescribed while your rabbit recovers.


If your rabbit is having trouble breathing, humidification of the environment often helps to mobilize nasal discharge and makes the rabbit more comfortable. Saline nebulization (application by liquid spray) may be helpful for humidification of the nostrils as well. If indicated, your doctor may also prescribe oxygen supplementation, and quarantine to a low stress environment. Daily treatment will include gently flushing the eyes and nose ducts to clear the passages of solidified materials before they can crust over the open passages.


If surgical intervention was necessary, or if there were abscesses, you will also need to apply wound care to your rabbit's wound as it heals, bandaging and cleansing as necessary. Multiple surgeries may be involved if there are severe abscesses in the head/brain.


Living and Management


The Pasteurella multocida bacterium is highly contagious. You will need to quarantine your rabbit from other rabbits until it has been cleared of the infection and take extra care in keeping the environment and your personal self sanitized to prevent spreading the infection. Restrict your rabbit's activity if there is shortness of breath, or after surgery, setting aside a warm, quiet environment where it can recover.


If the rabbit is not too tired, encourage it to exercise (hopping) for at least 10-15 minutes every 6-8 hours, as activity promotes gastric motility. It is absolutely imperative that the rabbit continue to eat regularly during and following treatment. Encourage oral fluid intake by offering fresh water, wetting leafy vegetables, or flavoring water with vegetable juice, and offer a large selection of fresh, moistened greens such as cilantro, romaine lettuce, parsley, carrot tops, dandelion greens, spinach, collard greens, etc., and good-quality grass hay, along with its usual pelleted diet, as the initial goal is to get the rabbit to eat. If the rabbit cannot eat, you will need to feed it a gruel mixture using a feeding syringe.


High-carbohydrate, high-fat nutritional supplements are contraindicated. In some cases this condition may lead to long standing sinusitis with recurrence, the results depend on the length of infection, the strain of the bacteria, and the strength of the rabbit's immune system.