About Us!

Welcome to our page! We do our best to provide to-be and current bunny owners up-to-date info on the best care for their house rabbits. When we adopted our first bunny in 2005, there was almost nothing on the internet to tell us how to care for him. Just in the past few years, information has exploded online, and now it can be confusing! We try to simplify it by posting weekly articles on current issues, daily care, concerns, proper feeding, and other info so you can enjoy your house-bun! If you are just finding us, feel free to look through the older posts also. Please email us if you have any questions! Happy bunnies make happy hearts!
Email: thebunnyhut101@yahoo.com

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Aggression in Rabbits

The Basics of Rabbit Aggression: Ballistic Bunnies 101

Aggressive rabbits can be scary. Rabbits bite hard, kick hard, and move fast, so it’s not unusual for owners to get intimated, or start dreaming of dumping their rabbit at the pound.  So before you even approach this rabbit, convince yourself of the following principles:

 1) Rabbits aren’t born mean. Ninety-nine percent of aggressive rabbits have a behavioral problem, not a genetic one. Behavior can be changed. Your rabbit is growing up; hormones are in control, and your rabbit is changing. The 4-5 month mark is the time to visit your rabbit veterinarian to talk about spay and neuter.  Depending on the rabbit, there can be very little chance of having a calm, non-biting/scratching bunny after 4 months of age if not soon fixed.

2) Your rabbit doesn’t hate you. There may be a slight chance that your rabbit has taken a personal dislike to one person. More likely, she’s afraid you’re going to hurt her.  Nevertheless…

3) You may be the best one who can solve the problem.  Your rabbit won’t wake up one day and say, “Gee, maybe I should be nicer to Jane.” It’s the humans who have to figure out what’s wrong and initiate new ways of interacting.

 4) You must NEVER hit a rabbit. This will only aggravate the problem tenfold.  Your hands MUST be seen as only a source of affection, bringing hay and food, and petting/love.
Never, and I must repeat, NEVER hit or tap your rabbit for biting. He/she will never forget, and this will make things so much worse.  You need to reassure your rabbit that her environment is safe and you are there to help.
If you can train yourself not to flinch when he/she pounces or attacks, that will teach your rabbit, “Hey, this doesn’t work.”  Using a high-pitched “eeeekk” sound will let him know it hurt, and this is how they tell each other about pain.   Spend several minutes a day, as much as you can, petting your rabbit from the top of the head back, slowly.

Extremely Aggressive Rabbits: Bunnies Who Run With the Wolves

 Some rabbits are so “mean” they seem more like predators than prey. These are the rabbits who chase you across the room and up into chairs, who sink their teeth into your tender limbs and refuse to let go, or who growl at you when you approach. They’re the rabbits most likely to be dumped or put to sleep. Unfortunately, they’re often the ones who have suffered the most in life because somewhere along the line they learned that humans, or life itself, is not safe.
 If your rabbit is neutered or spayed, there can be any number of reasons he’s aggressive.

1. You must give your rabbit time after spaying or neutering. It can take up to a MONTH for your

rabbit’s hormones to settle down. (Sometimes longer for older females in my experience - Rhonda). It is by no means instantaneous, and they are sore for a few days after (especially females–give them a good 4 days without picking up or bothering them after spaying).

2. If you just got a new rabbit, he may be stressed out by the move. His last owner may have frightened him somehow.

3.  If he used to be a hutch rabbit, the noises, smells, and sights of a house may be overwhelming him.

Wear gloves, long sleeves, long pants, and real shoes when you’re around him. This will protect your flesh. It will also help you keep calm.

Now start playing detective.

Watch him closely to see what provokes him. It may be your touching anything in his view. It may be the movement of your legs when you walk . It may be a certain sound–like a rattling newspaper or the vacuum cleaner. It may be your reaching out to touch him or feed him.
Whatever it is, don’t do it.
He needs to learn that you’re not out to get him.  One rabbit was frightened by sleeves, having been carried by young boys in coat pockets.  You never know what happened to your rabbit before you got him.

Then turn on the charm.

This is one of the key lessons many have learned is that affection works wonders on psycho bunnies. Try acting like he’s the greatest thing that ever happened in your life, despite the bandages on your hand and the boots on your feet. Give him a big hello when you see him. Greet his every act of aggression with good humor too.
When he charges your arm, say “why hello, you little pumpkin!” while calmly removing your arm from his reach. If he growls and thumps, say, “yes, you’re a BIG rabbit –I love that about you!” If he streaks across the room with murder in his eyes, simply say, “hey buddy, are you coming to see me?”

Rabbits think in patterns

Your job is to change the pattern, so he realizes that his approach provokes affection from you, not harm. Eventually he’ll associate you with kind words, nice pats, and enthusiasm for his particular personality.  Don’t forget play time–toys, boxes, so he associates you with fun things!


Full article and common aggression scenarios:


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Urine Scald & Rabbits

A rabbit suffering from urinary tract problems may experience loss of fur in the genital region and hindquarters. The baldness and red, irritated skin are caused by "urine scald," and it can happen to any
bunny whose urine soaks into the fur around her vent and is in constant contact with her delicate skin.

There are many possible reasons for a rabbit to dribble urine and/or sit in urine, and the only way to know for sure is have your rabbit completely examined by a veterinarian experienced in rabbit medicine

 Many rabbits rescued from hoarding situations or found living in small cages, unclean living conditions, and/or neglect are most often victims of urine scald and need treatment. Typically in these situations, proper physical care and clean water with proper vet check will help the rabbits through. Sometimes it can take months depending on the situation. (Rhonda)

Other possible causes of urinary incontinence (and hence, urine scald) to consider are the following: 

Bladder sludge:

When excessive amounts of calcium/oxalate salts precipitate in the urinary tract, they sometimes manifest as a thick, curry-colored "sludge" that sometimes has a consistency as thick as toothpaste. This can be very painful in the bladder and when it is passed, and sludge buildup can cause urine leakage and incontinence.


Bladder stone (urolith)

Diagnosed via radiography, a bladder stone is a mass of calcium and/or oxalate salts that has precipitated into a solid mass. Like sludge, a urolith can cause urinary incontinence and dribbling. Unfortunately, the only viable treatment at this time is surgical removal.


 Urinary tract infection (UTI)

The best way to diagnose this particular ailment is by a Culture and Sensitivity Testing. This will reveal (1) what species of bacteria is causing the infection and (2) which rabbit-save antibiotics (with good urinary tract penetration) will kill them.


Arthritis of the spine or pelvis

Arthritis of the spine or pelvis can result in the rabbit's inability to posture correctly for urination. This can cause urine to collect in the fur and soak into it, causing urine scald.


Rear limb/pelvic paresis

Paresis is defined as a weakness without total loss of movement in a particular area of the body. This problem is not uncommon in older rabbits.


Uterine cancer

Unspayed female rabbits have a very high risk of developing uterine cancer, and a large tumor can sometimes interfere with normal urination. All female rabbits should be spayed for their health and longevity.


Incontinence due to hormone imbalance

Because rabbit spaying is a relatively recent notion, data are not yet complete on the long-term effects of early spay.




Caring for your bunny with urine scald:

While your veterinarian is performing diagnostic tests to determine the reason for your rabbit's urine scald, your job will be to keep her comfortable, clean and dry. You can do this by giving her regular "butt baths" when she is soiled (follow the link for instructions), and by administering analgesia (e.g., Banamine) as per your veterinarian's instructions.

Butt Bath Link:  http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/buttbath.html

**Please consult your vet as the bath may not be necessary for your situation or may cause more irritation.

Cream that helps treat Urine Scald:

Taking into consideration that rabbit are grooming themselves often and may ingest the cream, all used ingredients are safe:

-  Chloramphenicol : 1 gr
-  Zinc oxyde : 20 gr
-  Cod liver oil : 15 gr
-  White vaseline : 60gr
The cream is applied once a day to once every other day, after cleaning the skin with water and “allercalm" (Virbac). It is important that the cream stays on the skin, and does not penetrate it.

Full article:  http://www.medirabbit.com/Safe_medication/Antibiotics/cream/antibiotic_cream.htm 

Footnotes and detailed reading:

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Bunny Overheating / Heat Exhaustion

  As the temperatures rise, so do a rabbit’s chances of getting heatstroke. Though this is a legitimate concern for all rabbits, rabbits with thick or long coats of hair, overweight, and young or old are at an even greater risk.

 Early detection of heatstroke and proper corrective steps could mean the difference between life and death for your beloved companion.

                          Signs to look out for:

  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Hot ears
  • Listlessness
  • Wetness around the nose area
  • Tossing back of head while breathing rapidly from open mouth.
Video of a rabbit suffering heatstroke:
NOTE this video was taken by a very concerned rabbit expert who was documenting the problem for the show organizers. She immediately took action to cool the bunny down, and he's now doing fine. She also demanded that the show organizers create much stricter policies for the health and safety of the rabbits.

 What should you do if your rabbit shows signs of heatstroke?
Your first goals will be to:

1. Relocate your bunny to a cool place away from any sun.
2. Dampen the ears with cool (not cold) water as this will help to bring down his/her body temperature. Rabbit’s ears are his/her air conditioner.
3.Give your bunny plenty of fresh, cold water with a few ice cubes in it.
4. Call your rabbit savvy vet for further instructions.


 Preventing Heatstroke 

The old adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care" certainly applies to this. 

 1. I keep soda bottles filled with water frozen at all times so that they are ready for the rabbits should the temperature of where they are being housed start rising above 75 degrees or I see an increased rate of breathing. These bottles not only help to keep their body temperatures down and the rabbit more comfortable, but also double as a toy I have found.

2. Change out waters twice a day or more frequently if needed and be sure to drop in an ice cube or two when refilling. It’s a good idea to have a bottle water feeder available as back up during the summertime just in case they run out of water or their bowl gets tipped over and you can add crushed ice to these. Be sure to clean water bottles thoroughly and regularly as they tend harbor bacteria in all the small spaces.

3. Oscillating fans also help to keep your rabbit cooler during warm temperatures. When bunny is outdoors, make sure he/she has access to plenty of shade; wearing a fur coat in constant, direct sunlight is deadly. I stay away from using wet towels for cooling because of the risk of fly strike, which is another serious concern of summer.
(Fly Strike: http://www.medirabbit.com/EN/Skin_diseases/Parasitic/Myiasis/Miyasis_fly.htm )

Heatstroke is a very serious condition in rabbits, but can be prevented. Always consult your rabbit-savvy vet when in doubt.

Rabbit Haven is a registered 501(c)(3)non-profit organization. 100% of our donations go to the care of the rabbits.
 For further reading:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Dealing with Medical Emergencies

The question of what is a critical emergency is another problem for the rabbit owner. The following categories may serve as a guide:

Find your vet by statehttp://rabbit.org/vet-listings/
If your will have to go to another location with an out-of-hours rabbit emergency, have the name, address, phone number and directions posted prominently in your house as well as on your address book.

                              Bunny overheating!
                        See the complete article here: 

I. Life-threatening-emergencies:
  1. 1) Coma, stupor: Any situation where your rabbit is recumbent and minimally or nonresponsive to voice and touch. The rabbit may be in cardiac arrest from chewing on an electrical cord or in shock from a dog attack
  2. 2) Seizures or sudden neurological changes: Falling to one side, head tilt, nystagmus (eyes moving constantly in one direction). Possible causes are systemic Pasteurella infection or hypoglycemia.
  3. 3) Severe continuous bleeding: This can result from any type of trauma; dog attack, fall, run-in with an automobile.
  4. 4) Hypo- or hyperthermia: In the first situation your rabbit will be ice cold to the touch usually recumbent and nonresponsive. In the second, your rabbit will be burning hot, panting, and sometimes seizuring.

    All of these situations require that you grab your rabbit, your car keys and go immediately to the emergency room. This is where your advance planning can save your rabbit's life; you may have only minutes. Please find a good rabbit vet near you.

II. Serious Emergencies: 

  1. 1) All animal attacks: Even if your rabbit has only a small would and appears fine, he should be examined by a vet. Serious puncture wounds may be hidden under a thick coat of fur. Also, the trauma of the attack can cause extreme changes in your rabbit's blood pressure and other homeostatic mechanisms; this is what is meant by "shock".
  2. 2) Maggots: Although far more common in rabbits housed outdoors, house rabbits are not immune. Maggots are fly larvae; flies lay eggs in open wounds, abraded skin, or areas where feces or urine have accumulated. Besides causing physical damage by burrowing into the rabbit's flesh, maggots release toxins which can cause a severe infection or shock.
  3. 3) Suspected poisoning: A wide variety of chemicals and plants can be toxic to rabbits. Many substances can cause delayed symptoms (such as daffodils), so do not be lulled into a false sense of security by apparently normal behavior. Be sure to take the suspected poison with you to the emergency room.
  4. 4) "Minor" electrocution/drowning: These are lumped together because both of these accidents can cause pulmonary edema, fluid in the lungs. Pulmonary edema is evidenced by difficulty breathing and sometimes blue gums. Rabbits who nibble on electrical cords can also suffer severe burns. In the same vein, a rabbit which seems shaken but otherwise unharmed after being rescued from a swimming pool should still be examined by a veterinarian. The effects of pulmonary edema are not always manifested immediately.

III. Possible Emergencies: 

  1. 1) Respiratory problems, nasal or ocular discharge: Here the degree of distress your rabbit is showing must be evaluated. A minor snuffle or sneeze or a clear discharge from the eyes in a rabbit that is sassy and active can probably wait until regular hours. However, if your rabbit is breathing audibly with increased abdominal motions, she may well have an acute pneumonia.
  2. 2) Diarrhea/constipation: Both of these can be extremely dangerous in a rabbit. A few soft stools just noticed today should not necessarily set off the alarm bell. But severe watery diarrhea may lead to dehydration even overnight. Conversely, scant hard fecal pellets indicate a possible obstruction or other gastrointestinal problem. If it has been two days since you have seen any pellets in the litter box and you know your veterinarian is closed for the weekend, the rabbit should certainly be seen at an emergency facility. 

First Aid Kits:
First aid equipment necessary is minimal. You should have a thermometer, a heating pad or hot water bottles for shock or hypothermia, alcohol, cotton pads, and gauze bandaging material.
Never place a heating pad directly on a chilled rabbit, as it is quite possible to burn him. First wrap the rabbit in a towel, then wrap the pad or bottle around the towel. If your rabbit's temperature is above 106o F, a quick alcohol bath followed by cold towel wraps can be helpful before dashing to the emergency clinic.
Bleeding wounds should have a pressure wrap placed using cotton pads and gauze wrap. Do not apply tourniquets; permanent damage can be caused.
More on this here:http://www.heartlandrabbitrescue.org/documents/Rabbit%20First%20Aid%20Kit.pdf

Find your vet by statehttp://rabbit.org/vet-listings/
If your will have to go to another location with an out-of-hours rabbit emergency, have the name, address, phone number and directions posted prominently in your house as well as on your address book.

Complete article:


What is E. cuniculi?

Various studies suggest that up to 80% of the healthy rabbit population carries the protozoa Encephalitozoon cuniculi in its body, without ever showing clinical symptoms of the disease and without development of the disease. Not much is known about the biology and the life cycle of E. cuniculi and its mode of transmission is not yet fully determined.  The presence of the Microsporidae parasites in mammals leads to a micronutrient/vitamin deficiency, which can result in anemia. Not specific information is available for E. cuniculi.

It is only within the last 10 years that significant research into this disease has been carried out and it remains a hotly debated topic.  It is a relatively rare but seriously debilitating disease which all rabbit owners should be aware of.

E.Cuniculi (Encephalitozoon Cuniculi) is a parasite – a small protozoan - that lives in the rabbit's body cells.  The parasite is absorbed into the intestines and causes lesions on the kidneys, brain and other areas.  It is estimated that over 50% of domestic rabbits carry this parasite but only a small percentage of these go on to develop problems.  It can be passed down from a mother to her babies or through contact with other infected rabbits, humans and birds, or merely through contact with spores.

Problems occur when the parasite attacks the rabbit's nervous system.  Some studies suggest that stress or other illness may trigger this but it can often appear to come out of the blue. - See more at: http://www.bunnyhugga.com/a-to-z/health/ecuniculi.html#sthash.IA73f2r8.dpuf
It is only within the last 10 years that significant research into this disease has been carried out and it remains a hotly debated topic.  It is a relatively rare but seriously debilitating disease which all rabbit owners should be aware of.

E.Cuniculi (Encephalitozoon Cuniculi) is a parasite – a small protozoan - that lives in the rabbit's body cells.  The parasite is absorbed into the intestines and causes lesions on the kidneys, brain and other areas.  It is estimated that over 50% of domestic rabbits carry this parasite but only a small percentage of these go on to develop problems.  It can be passed down from a mother to her babies or through contact with other infected rabbits, humans and birds, or merely through contact with spores.

Problems occur when the parasite attacks the rabbit's nervous system.  Some studies suggest that stress or other illness may trigger this but it can often appear to come out of the blue. - See more at: http://www.bunnyhugga.com/a-to-z/health/ecuniculi.html#sthash.IA73f2r8.dpuf
What is E. cuniculi?
It's a parasite - a small protozoan that lives inside the body cells of its host. It doesn't just infect rabbits: many other mammals (including humans in some special circumstances), and even birds can be infected.

How do rabbits get infected with E. cuniculi? 
The main path of transmission seems to be from mother to her litter, rather than by droppings and urine. Possibly a rabbit may also be contaminated later in life from an infected companion or from contaminated dirt, although there are numerous examples where an E. cuniculi positive rabbit lived together with an E. cuniculi negative rabbit, without infecting the latter.
What happens when a rabbit becomes infected?
When a rabbit is first infected, the parasite is absorbed from the intestines. Once inside the body, it heads off to other organs, especially the kidneys and brain, where it causes lesions called "granulomas". These can be found in the kidneys of rabbits only a few months old. Granulomas may develop in other parts of the body, such as the liver, as well as in the brain.

 What kind of problems can E. cuniculi cause?


The protozoal parasite attacks the nervous system and major organs, causing a variety of clinical signs that include torticollis (commonly called head tilt or wry neck), liver failure, kidney failure and calcification, incontinence, phacoclastic uveitis, cataracts, fore- or hindquarter paresis (one, or both sides), nystagmus (eye twitching), and/or other neurological symptoms. Invariably the rabbit will die of meningo-encephalitis.

Head tilt is often caused by bacterial infections such as Pasteurella multocida, but can be caused by a multitude of other problems. Some texts suggest that head tilt in dwarf breeds is more likely to be caused by E.cuniculi and in larger breeds by Pasteurella although this is also controversial. But both infections are so common it may be impossible to differentiate which (if either) is the cause of head tilt in any particular rabbit. And some bunnies may have both!

Would I know if my bunny has E. cuniculi?
Antibodies to E. cuniculi can be detected on a blood test. Hence, a rabbit that has been infected to E cuniculi will produce antibodies that will produce a positive test.

 Is there any treatment for E. cuniculi?
 The different treatment options will attempt to kill the E. cuniculi protozoa, but are unable to affect the spores. Dying protozoa will lead to inflammation of the surrounding tissues. To reduce the inflammatory reaction, corticosteroids can be given during 3 days, concurrently with fenbendazole. Since their use is controversial in rabbits, and is best avoided, they can be replaced by NSAISs analgesics, e.g., meloxicam (metacam).

Commonly given treatment: Benzimidazoles
Benzimidazoles are now routinely used to treat E. cuniculi . While these drugs have successfully treated many rabbits, they may cause mild to moderate elevation of liver enzymes. It is therefore recommended to do a blood test and analysis of biochemical parameters 14 days after starting the treatment.
The action of benzimidazoles is slow, and depends rather on their presence in the gastro-intestinal tract and the blood than on the concentration present.
Albendazole is known to be broken down in the liver into more hydrophilic products, which decreases its capacity to pass though the brain-blood barrier; the efficacy of the breakdown products against E. cuniculi is, however, not known. The use of albendazole, a drug not licensed for use in rabbits, has led to the sudden death of healthy rabbits or the appearance of bone marrow failure, although this has not been clinically tested.
It was generally found that albendazole was less efficacious that oxibendazole.
Oxibendazole is a rather lipophilic molecule that is not degraded in the body. The advantages of oxibendazole are its passage through the blood-brain barrier into the brain or CNS (Central Nervous System), its lack of teratogen properties in rabbits, and its non-degradation in the liver, prior to passing in the body, unlike albendazole. It is, however, no yet know to what extent oxibendazole is efficacious against E. cuniculi, and what are the long-term side effects of this compound. 
Fenbendazole was studied for its preventive and curing properties in rabbits affected by E. cuniculi and the results have been reported in a scientific journal (Veterinary Record, 2001, pp.478-480). This was a major breakthrough, both because there was scientific data to support the findings and because this was the first treatment that was believed to cure (rather than simply control) the condition. It was furthermore shown that fenbendazole alone crosses the blood-brain barrier in mice. In rare cases, long-term intake of fenbendazole has been associated with the onset of bone marrow failure, digestive problems and anorexia, though this was not clinically investigated. After discussion with vets who treated hundreds of rabbits with fenbendazole, none observed the onset of bone marrow failure in the treated rabbits, given the correct doses during 28 days. 
Fenbendazole remains currently the drug of choice for the treatment of E. cuniculi.
Lab rabbits have shown a high titer one year after being treated with fenbendazole and upon autopsy, the presence of the parasite was observed in their brain. These rabbits were however, clinically asymptomatic.
Lately however, more and more rabbits treated with one or with several benzimidazoles compounds showed relapse during the treatment period or after the treatment was stopped. Recently, several caretakers who have been treating rabbits long-term with oxibendazole have reported that the treatment gradually stops working, as if the parasite is developing a resistance to it. Or could two different parasites infect the rabbit, like E. cuniculi and toxoplasmosis ?
This is Rudy before and after treatment. WARNING, video may be disturbing, but if your rabbit has E. cunicunli, you need to know what you are looking for!   

 Video of Rudy, a rabbit presenting clinical signs of encephalitozoonosis: severe involuntary head tilt and rhythmic horizontal movement of the eyes. 

Rudy, after a 28 days long treatment with fenbendazole. The head-tilt and nystagmus have completed gone, and he has been seizure-free since.

Video of a sweet bun who is past treatment and living happily with her mate.

Further information:

Upper Respiratory Issues in Rabbits

Till recently, respiratory diseases in rabbits have been connected to the presence of the bacterium Pasteurella multocida, therefore the disease was called Pasteurellosis. This diagnosis is definitively outdated, after cultures of samples taken from diseased rabbits revealed the presence of a variety of bacteria: Bordetella bronchiseptica, Staphylococcus sp., Pseudomonas sp., Chlamydia sp., Acinetobacter sp., Moraxella catarrhalis, Mycoplasma sp., etc.
Non-bacterial causes can also lead to respiratory diseases in rabbits:
1.  Viral, due to poxvirus, Myxoma virus (see: Myxomatosis), or Herpesvirus (see: http://www.medirabbit.com/EN/Skin_diseases/Viral_diseases/Herp/Herpes_en.htm);
2  Mechanical or neoplastic obstruction, due to the presence of a piece of hay, or tumor (polyp, malignant tumor), respectively; of cardiovascular origin;
3.  Hypersensitivity (e.g. ammonia vapors from the litter-box, cigarette smoke, hay  or pellet dust, pollen). Allergic reactions are rare in rabbits;      
4.     Presence of a foreign body.

Kim Chilson

Rune, and the piece of hay that came out of the nostril.

Respiratory disease can be divided into:

1.  Upper respiratory tract disease, which is characterized by nasal and ocular discharge, sneezing and snoring, rarely fever;

2. Lower respiratory tract disease, which is characterized by anorexia, depression, dyspnea (abnormal or difficult breathing) and cyanosis (blue discoloration of tongue, lips, gums, due to shortage of oxygen), fever or hypothermia. Lower respiratory tract disease can remain undetected for a long time, till the disease develops in an acute form, with difficult respiration and sometimes coughing. When respiration is difficult, it can be accompanied by bilateral bulging of the eyes and excessive appearance of the nictitating eyelid (also called third eyelid).

For causes of respiratory disease in rabbits, see: "Differential diagnosis for difficult or noisy respiration



Rabbit with severe respiratory distress and mouth breathing as well as conjunctivitis.

Clinical examination

The following points should be checked, when a respiratory disease is suspected:
1.     Checking the rate of respiration of the rabbit (30 to 60/min). Higher is normal, lower is abnormal.
2.     Checking carefully the nostrils for discharge. This is not always obvious, as rabbits are big groomers and will clean themselves restlessly. Sometimes matted fur can be found on the front paw, sign that a discharge has occurred.
3.     Examining the eyes for conjunctivitis and dacryocystitis (excretion of purulent exudate or lachrymal overflow).
4.     Checking the face, the facial bones, to discover irregularities, presence of abscess, swellings.
5.     Rhinoscopy.
6.     Taking deep nasal and tracheal samples in order to do a bacterial culture; for the nostrils, it should be done on both sides as the infection can be unilateral. The nostril swab can be done with a flexible-wire calcium alginate tipped swab, 1 to 4 cm into the nostrils or the nasopharyngeal region. An alternative method is a nasal aspiration.
Nasal swab (bottom) and holder(top)
Kliniek voor Pluimvee en Bijzondere Dieren, Universiteit Gent

Septicemia causes by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida

 7.     Examining the ears for infection. X-ray pictures of the skull may show the presence of an increased opacity in the middle and external ear. Ear infection is often associated to respiratory infection, via the passage of bacteria through the Eustachian tube, but it is not an obligation. Often, the rabbit has a decreased appetite, due to pain.
8.     Microscopical examination of the blood and CBC in order to reveal hematological changes like neutrophilia (increased level of neutrophils), or leucopenia (decrease in the amount of white blood cells in the blood). It may furthermore help detect secondary organ failure.
9.     When a heart problem is suspected, X-rays and electrocardiography will help to detect cardiomegaly (enlargement of the heart).

10.    X-rays of the thorax will further help detect the presence of a bacterial infection (increased opacity), bronchitis, the presence of masses (abscess or neoplasia), or edema (accumulation of an abnormally large amount of fluid) around the lung(s) or the heart.

Infectious bacteria

Pasteurella multocida is quite contagious, although some rabbits seem to show a higher resistance to the bacterium than others. If Pasteurella sp. is present, treatment must be started ASAP, be aggressive and long, at least two weeks after total disappearance of the symptoms. It happens that a rabbit never fully recovers and need to be on maintenance antibiotics for the rest of its life.
Pasteurella sp. is responsible for more than one difficult to treat disease in rabbits, to name a few:
-       pleuritis (inflammation of the tissue around the lungs);
-       pneumonia;
-       pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart);
-       otitis media or interna (middle or inner ear infection);
-       dacryocystitis (infection of the tear duct),
-       conjunctivitis;,
-       subcutaneous abscesses;
-       mastitis (infection of the milk glands).
The clinical signs are multiple, including sneezing and coughing, and nasal discharge.
Kim Chilson

Sneezing rabbit

This stage can evolve into lower respiratory tract disease, with pleuro-pneumonia or pericarditis.
Bordetella bronchiseptica is typically a bacterium that shows up, when a rabbit and a guinea pig are housed together. It may be present asymptomatically in the nasal cavity of the rabbit, without development of the disease. Its presence may increase the susceptibility of the rabbit to Pasteurella sp. and the chances of developing an infection, including bronchopneumonia. The bacterium is fatal for the guinea pig.

Acinetobacter sp. is a bacterium that has usually a low potential of virulence and thus rarely leads to the development of pneumonia. Its presence tends to indicate that an animal is colonized by this bacterium, rather than infected. Since it is colonizing mainly, it is important to determine if Acinetobacter sp. is the causative agent, or merely masking the presence of another pathogen.

Michel Gruaz
Jonathan Cracknell BVMS CertVA CertZooMed MRCVS
Further typical clinical signs related to a Pasteurella sp infection: head-tilt (top) caused by middle or inner ear infection, which should be differentiate from encephalitozoonosis; conjunctivitis (bottom left); and unilateral eye bulging caused by the presence of a retrobulbar abscess (bottom right).



Respiratory tract diseases must be differentiated from a viral disease, a mechanical or neoplastic obstruction or hypersensitivity. If nothing is found and the presence of bacteria can be ruled out, the affected rabbit can be given antihistamines or corticosteroids (no longer than 3 to 5 days). 
Successful treatment of upper respiratory infection needs to be aggressive and long. Often a combination of antibiotics is used, like oral administration of enrofloxacin or ciprofloxacin, accompanied by gentamycin based nose drops.
Trimethoprim sulfadiazine is a bactericidal antibiotic used in GI tract, respiratory and urinary infections, among others. It is efficacious against a range of bacteria that affect rabbits, including Pasteurella sp., Clostridia spp., Staphylococcus sp., Bordetella sp., etc. It can be used long term, low dose. This antibiotic often shows poor results in rabbits, and often the disease comes back worse once the treatment is stopped. This could relate to the fact that half-life of trimethoprim in a rabbit last only 40 min.
Azythromycin, a modified erythromycin, that does not show the side effects of the later in rabbits, is very efficacious in the treatment of Bordetella sp. (and so is enrofloxacin). The azythromycin doses used for rabbits (50mg/kg PO QD (SID) is much higher than that used for other small animals like cats and dogs (5-8mg/kg). Treatment lasts generally 7 days, after which an evaluation is done and eventual prolongation decided.
Cephalosporins are bactericidal broad-spectrum antibiotics used to treat skeletal, genital/urinary, skin and soft tissue bacterial and respiratory (associated with Pasteurella sp.) infections, among others. There are several generations of cephalosporin, each aiming a more or less specific group of bacteria. Although quite safe when used in injected form, this drug is potentially nephrotoxic.
The therapy against Pseudomonas sp., one of the most difficult to treat infections, must be aggressive. A sensitivity test must be done, as this bacterium is known to be multiresistant to many antibiotics.  
Most successful treatments involve a combination of antibiotics, for example:
  • Enrofloxacin + nasal drops of gentamycin;
  • Enrofloxacin + nebulization of amikacin (if located in the upper respiratory enrofloxacin + doxycycline;
  • Cephalosporin/tobramycin (both should be use in injected form only);
  • Azithromycin is NOT effective against Pseudomonas sp.;

Further antibiotics, safe for use in rabbits that have shown good results in the treatment of respiratory tract disease, include:
  • Amikacin, injected subcutaneously or nebulization, is used to treat Gram-negative bacteria,
  • Enrofloxacin (if injected, it can lead to the development of sterile abscesses. This can be avoided by diluting the solution with a sterile saline solution, 50:50),
  • Chloramphenicol (exceptionally leads to a decreased appetite),
  • Gentamycin, injected, drops, or nebulization, used to treat Gram-negative bacteria.

For more information, see: Antibiotics *safe*  for use in rabbits: http://www.medirabbit.com/Safe_medication/Antibiotics/Safe_antibiotics.htm


Aside a longer systemic antibiotic therapy, additional therapy comprises:
·           Nasolacrimal flushes;
·           Nebulization with a saline solution, mucolytics and antibiotics help bring the medication deep in the bronchia and lungs in cases of rhinitis, sinusitis or pneumonia;
·           Fluid therapy and assisted force-feeding, when the rabbit refuses to drink and eat.
If the respiratory disease is accompanied by conjunctivitis and/or dacryocystitis, local antibiotic therapy (e.g. enrofloxacin, gentamycin) must accompany the treatment protocol.

A. van Praag
Flora hold above a bowl of hot water to allow her to breath humid air. 

 Video's about nebulization


Footnote and further information: