Why is my rabbit sneezing?
There are a multitude of reasons that your rabbit may be sneezing. It can be due to snuffles, allergies, their litter, dust and dander or they simply have a tickle in their nose! Most of the time your rabbit sneezing here and there isn’t anything to worry about but that does not mean sneezing is something to take lightly.
You should always investigate the cause of your rabbits sneezing. Sometimes it is something more serious and can be detrimental to their health. We will go over in detail when to worry and when to not worry.
- 1 What is snuffles in rabbits?
- 2 How do rabbits get snuffles?
- 3 How to prevent snuffles in your rabbit
- 4 How to treat snuffles
- 5 Does my rabbit have allergies?
- 6 Is hay causing my rabbit to sneeze?
- 7 Is litter causing my rabbit to sneeze?
- 8 When to worry about your rabbit sneezing
- 9 About the Author
What is snuffles in rabbits?
First, lets discus the most serious reason why your rabbit may be sneezing frequently.
Snuffles in rabbits is an upper respiratory disease in your pet rabbit that is caused by an infection in their tear ducts and nasal sinuses. Snuffles usually starts as discharge from their nose and eyes. The discharge in the nose is usually what causes the excessive sneezing. Soon enough this discharge will turn into thick mucus.
You can typically spot the mucus on their eyes, nose and their front legs. You will see it on their front legs because they have been wiping and cleaning their face. At this point your rabbit will be sneezing and coughing quite frequently. If you have not already gotten your rabbit to the vet you need to do so immediately. Failure to get your rabbit treatment in time will soon result in pneumonia. This will inevitably result in the death of your rabbit.
How do rabbits get snuffles?
Rabbit’s get snuffles from a bacteria, the bacteria they get it from is either Pasteurella or Staphylococcus, the technical name for snuffles is actually Pasteurellosis. Most rabbits actually already have this bacteria living within them which morphs into snuffles when a rabbit becomes stressed.
Stressful situations that can cause snuffles in your rabbit are often related to; living environment, being too enclosed or crowded with too many other animals or rabbits. Poor diet, poor cage hygiene and a lack of exercise are also stressful situations that can cause snuffles in your rabbit.
Rabbits who suffer from dental problems or dental disease are also more susceptible to contracting snuffles. The reason for this is because the roots of their teeth are very close to their tear duct and when the teeth become overgrown or when the teeth do not meet properly it can cause the roots of their teeth to push up and block the tear duct.
Typically, your rabbits tear duct drains from the corner of their eye to their nose, when their tear duct becomes blocked by the tooth/tooth root it stops the normal draining of their tears through the duct and it allows the bacteria to grow.
Snuffles is also extremely contagious so your rabbit could contract snuffles from another rabbit. It is important to isolate a rabbit who has a confirmed case of snuffles, you do not want him or her interacting with other rabbits and you should never let your rabbit play with or be around another rabbit that is suffering from snuffles.
How to prevent snuffles in your rabbit
Keep a stress free environment for your rabbit! Make sure they are not cooped up in their cage all day and that they are getting plenty of exercise. Please do not keep more than one rabbit in a standard sized cage together; this can be stressful for both of the rabbits. It is also important to make sure you are keeping proper hygiene in your rabbit’s cage. Be sure you are changing his or her litter/bedding often and providing fresh hay on a regular basis.
A healthy nutritious diet is also key to keeping your rabbit stress free. Allowing your rabbit to get plenty of exercise is also beneficial to keeping low stress levels for your rabbit; it is also good for their muscles, strength and overall well-being. If you have a rabbit who has a history of dental disease or dental problems then you should be visiting your vet regularly to ensure their teeth are not overgrown or causing any tear duct blockage.
How to treat snuffles
Snuffles is not something that can be treated at home. It must be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian that specializes in rabbits. Once your vet has confirmed that your rabbit has snuffles based on a physical exam of your rabbit. Typically most vets also take x-rays and blood work just to be sure before starting treatment.
Once your vet has confirmed that your rabbit is suffering from snuffles they will prescribe an antibiotic and will likely request a follow up visit in 3-5 days or an over the phone well check to ensure your rabbit is improving.
If your rabbit is in the late stages of snuffles they may require him or her to stay in the vets office as inpatient to receive around the clock care. Please make sure you are seeing a vet who specializes in rabbits or exotic animals, rabbits are very sensitive to antibiotics so it is very important that they are prescribed something that is safe for them.
It is also not a bad idea to give your rabbits a probiotic that will help replace the good bacteria that they are missing while sick. Please consult your vet on the proper probiotic prior to administering it.
Does my rabbit have allergies?
It is surely possible! Although it is not common for a domestic rabbit to suffer from chronic allergies, it is common that their own hair and dander can cause an allergic reaction. It is not uncommon in our household to hear or see Mr. Bunny sneeze 2-3 times in a row while fur flies out in front of him. Mr. Bunny is not a bunny that suffers from chronic allergies but his own fur can sometimes send him into a sneezing fit, particularly when molting.
If you feel like your rabbit sneezes frequently with no underlying issues and snuffles has been ruled out then you should visit their vet. They can do testing to determine if your rabbit is suffering from allergies. It is important to remember that chronic allergies in a household rabbit is not common so maybe before spending the time and money on a vet visit, see if you can determine something in your household that can be causing your rabbit to sneeze. Some examples are excessive dust, a particular toy, a specific brand of hay or litter and bedding.
Is hay causing my rabbit to sneeze?
Yes, it can be! Although this isn’t a common issue it is always recommended that you check your rabbits hay prior to giving it to them. If it appears to be dusty, grainy or old then we suggest you not give it to them. Sometimes cheaper brands of hay contain a lot of small particles. Here is a recommendation on the best hay for rabbits.
Even after checking out the hay and deciding it is sufficient your rabbit still may sneeze, and that’s ok! Your rabbit just may not tolerate this brand of hay well; it may be an irritant to him or her even if it is fresh. This is not common but definitely not unheard of, try to remember that no two rabbits are the same and your bun may be more sensitive to certain types or brands of hay.
I suggest trying a different type of hay.
Is litter causing my rabbit to sneeze?
Yes, it can be! This shouldn’t be a consist issue but litter is dusty so when you use litter for the first time or when you are replacing their litter it can cloud up the dust a bit and cause your bunny to sneeze. If your rabbit likes to dig in their litter this can also cause dust to kick up which can cause you rabbit to start sneezing.
This isn’t something to worry about, it is simply irritating your rabbit in the moment, they will figure it out and stop doing what is causing them to sneeze. This isn’t specific to litter, this can be the case with really any bedding but litter it typically the dustiest. Here is the best litter to use for rabbits.
When to worry about your rabbit sneezing
So when should you worry about your rabbits sneezing? If there is any suspicion of snuffles then you should worry. You should only suspect snuffles if your rabbit is excessively sneezing, coughing at all or has any discharge from their face (eyes and/or nose.)
Another reason to be concerned would be if your rabbit is suffering from a daily/consistent sneeze. Even if no discharge is involved this could be a sign of allergies or something within your household that is irritating your rabbit.
If you rabbit has an isolated sneezing fit or sneezes three to five times periodically throughout the month then this is not a cause for concern, this is equated to what I like to call a nose tickle, we all get them, and bunnies are no exception.
A quick, good and easy rule of them is to check if the sneeze was wet or dry? If it is a dry sneeze then they are fine, probably just have a tickle or an isolated allergy issue. If it is a wet sneeze with clear discharge then they likely have an upper respiratory infection such as snuffles and you should contact your vet.
About the Author
My name is Vanessa and I love my buns. My current house rabbit is Mr. Bunny, he is a black and white Dutch that just turned 9 years old.
I believe that rabbits are a magnificent animal that make great pets for SOME people. My mission is to share what I have learned about rabbits over the past 20 years to improve the relationship between our pets and us. Please contact me or comment if you have any questions or comments.