Why My Rabbit Has Runny Nose

Why Does My Rabbit Have A Runny Nose?

A rabbit with a runny nose or weepy eyes may be sick with what is commonly called snuffles. Snuffles is a common illness among rabbits. It is marked by cold-like symptoms (sneezing, discharge from nose, watering eyes) and is most often due to a bacterial infection or blockage in the tear duct or a bacterial infection in the sinus.

If not the snuffles, then your rabbit may have any of the common eye infections, often triggered by a blocked tear duct. Snuffles may advance to the lungs and cause bronchitis or pneumonia! If your rabbit has these symptoms then your best course of action is to proactively contact your veterinarian for evaluation.

Snuffles is a common infection in rabbits. 
As a responsible owner you want to know how to detect it and what to do about it!

Up Close Bunny Nose!

What are the Symptoms of Snuffles?

Clear and watery discharge from your rabbit’s nose usually means that your rabbit is in the earlier stages of Snuffles.  The darker and thicker the discharge, the more advanced the irritation or infection.

Another tell-tale sign indicating eye or nose discharge is matted fur on front paws.  As the rabbit rubs its nose and eyes with its front paw, to wipe away discharge, the discharge cakes on its front paws. If your rabbit is cleaning its face more, to wipe away discharge, then it is also rubbing its face and may end up irritating facial skin, creating some sores on or near the face.

Moreover, if your rabbit is wheezing when it breathes, then more mucus and perhaps thicker mucus is being produced by an advancing case of snuffles or a related upper respiratory illness such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Another symptom is a bit of huffing and puffing to breathe as rabbits are usually quiet nose breathers.

If you observe your rabbit breathing heavier, perhaps repeatedly opening its mouth to breath, then this is also a sign of an upper respiratory problem. Shallow and more rapid breathing is also a classic symptom of upper respiratory infection.

In addition, lack of appetite or general lethargy is also a general sign that something may be wrong with your rabbit. Be aware that any upper respiratory infection may spread to the rabbit’s inner ear via the eustachian tube. The eustachian tube connects rabbits’ throats to their inner ears. 

Beautiful Brown Bunny

If the inner ear becomes infected, then the rabbit may begin to frequently rub or itch his ears.  Moreover, the infection may affect the rabbit’s sense of balance.  As a result the rabbit may begin to tilt its head sideways, know as head-tilt. Here you can read more about rabbits’ amazing ears!

Alternatively, the upper respiratory infection may also progress to the lungs. Crackling sounds in the rabbit’s lungs when your veterinarian, or you, listen with a stethoscope, indicates that your rabbit has a case of bronchitis or pneumonia! Snuffles can also advance to be a kind of bronchitis or pneumonia in your rabbit’s respiratory system.

Observe your rabbit and if troublesome or abnormal behaviors continue, then strongly consider a call or visit to your local veterinarian. If your bunny is not eating at all, then emergency bells should be ringing in your head and you should contact your local veterinarian immediately.

Here at Hobby Farm Heaven, we are enthusiastic proponents of videos that show portray the strategies, tactics, methods, and conditions we speak about. Observing a sick rabbit in a video can help you recognize when your rabbits are sick and need assistance! 

Here is a great video showing clear examples of snuffles!

What Causes of Snuffles in Rabbits?

Snuffles is caused by a bacterial infection in the rabbit’s nasal sinuses (nose) or tear ducts.  The bacteria involved are usually Pasteurella or Staphylococcus but, there are other several other strains that cause respiratory infection.

Just as with humans, that significant drag on the rabbit’s respiratory system is going to place quite a drag on the rabbit’s immune system. The infection may move to the eyes causing conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye.

The sick rabbit’s immune system will consume a significant amount of the rabbit’s energy as it fights the respiratory infection. If the infection gets worse, then the immune system becomes compromised and other illnesses may set in, compounding the discomfort, pain and stress for your rabbit. Again, we recommend pro-active decision making.  If you think your rabbit is sick, then call or visit your local veterinarian sooner rather than waiting.

What Can I Do To Help My Sick Rabbit? How Do I Prevent Snuffles?

In addition to the other rabbit hygiene practices like keeping a clean hutch and keeping other stressors low, you can wash your hands and clothes after handling a rabbit that is not yours. 

Yes, the bacteria is easily spread by touch, so handling your friend’s or neighbor’s rabbit and then handling your rabbit may spread the bacteria to your rabbit.

Realize that some rabbits are more prone to snuffles and bronchitis or pneumonia than others.  Some rabbits may repeatedly contract snuffles or pneumonia throughout their lives. If your rabbit is sick, then you want to reduce stress on your rabbit. 

Common drivers of stress for rabbits include:

  • Overcrowding
  • Cold and damp environment
  • Dirty living conditions
  • Low quality or low quantity food and water
  • Aggressive rabbits
  • Fidgety children,
  • Loud startling noises

Things you can do to reduce stress:

  • Provide plenty of quality hay, water, and leafy green vegetables
  • Clean the rabbit’s environment
  • Keep the rabbits environment warm, dry and reasonably quiet
  • Don’t let the kids pester the rabbit
  • Consider cutting a rabbit sized hole in a cardboard box and placing it in the rabbit’s environment (it can make for a nice little spot for the rabbit to feel safe and rest.

Treatment by your veterinarian will often include the use of an antibiotic. 

Administer the entire course of antibiotics as directed by your veterinarian.  Do not stop administering the full prescription just because your rabbit seems to be recovering. The earlier it is treated, the more positive the outcome for the rabbit.

When your rabbit eventually recovers, the bacteria will continue to live in the rabbit’s nasal cavity. In the future when the rabbit becomes stressed and its immune system is over-taxed, the snuffles may develop again.

This video about snuffles, by the PetPlan Veterinarians, is quite educational.

Should I Isolate My Sick Rabbit?

If your veterinarian advises isolation, then you probably should comply, but if the sickness is mild then isolation usually is not required. Often, separating, or isolating rabbits may create more stress on the rabbits.

Remember that by nature, rabbits live together: if one has a contagious illness like snuffles, then the others have been introduced to it.

Can My Rabbit Catch My Cold?

This Miami University biology article states that the strains of the human common cold do not affect rabbits.  So, no your rabbit did not catch your cold; it did not get an upper respiratory infection or snuffles from you.

Rabbit Dental Disorders

Sometimes the cause of the chronic runny nose or watering eyes is a dental disorder.  This may happen, particularly in older rabbits, as the rabbit’s teeth grow and are literally pushed up into the skull and begin to encroach on the nasal cavity. 

It is often hard to tell or diagnose just by looking at the rabbit’s teeth.  Typically, an x-ray is required to discern the depth of the teeth or roots. Note that the rabbit’s molars are located under their eyes and molar roots that are pushed into the skull can cause partial, or even full, blockage of the rabbit’s tear ducts.

If the blockage is minor, then flushing the tear duct may help remedy your rabbit’s watery eyes. If the blockage is advanced, then removal of the respective teeth may solve the problem. Note however, that in many cases the nearby tissues have already been seriously damaged, so removing the offending tooth does not remedy the rabbit’s watery eye problem. 

Obviously, these chronic problems can cause eye and nasal cavity infections, as well as abscesses. Again, if you suspect or know that your rabbit is having a problem, then proactive visits to your veterinarian will help your rabbits live healthier and happier lives. 

Rabbit Teeth - Dental Disorders

Do Rabbits Sneeze?

Yes, rabbits sneeze.  Sneezing is a symptom of snuffles.  Sometimes they sneeze because some dust or dirt got into their nose and sometimes, they sneeze because they are sick.

Repeated sneezing is a sign that your rabbit is sick, possibly with Snuffles. Repeated sneezing may also mean that your rabbit has a piece of hay or some other nagging particle stuck up or in its nose or sinus cavity, creating an irritation.

Whatever the cause, repeated sneezing is cause for a call to your local veterinarian.

Do Rabbits Have Sinus problems?

Yes, Snuffles is the layman’s term for a rabbit upper respiratory infection, including sinusitis.

Do Rabbits Drool?

No, rabbits do not drool.  The rabbit’s mouth is usually closed except to eat. If your rabbit is drooling, then there is definitely a problem.

If the drool is clear or bubbled, then your rabbit has a problem.  If the drool is off color yellowish or brown, then your rabbit has a bigger problem: discolored discharge or drool is very likely to be drainage from a serious irritation and infection; something seriously wrong with a tooth and or tissue inside your rabbit’s mouth.

Do Rabbits Have Boogers?

A healthy rabbit does not have boogers or gooey discharge from their nose. However, sick rabbits or rabbits with a form of snuffles may have gooey discharge from their noses and it may look like boogers.

Final Thoughts

As we’ve discussed, snuffles is the common term for a rabbit upper respiratory infection.

Snuffles may affect the nose, the eyes, and spread to the ears and may progress to the lungs, causing bronchitis or pneumonia. Treat snuffles with a visit to your local veterinarian.  Follow your veterinarian’s guidance very closely, including completion of any medicine prescription for your rabbit.

You can reduce stress on your rabbit by providing plenty of quality hay, water, and green leafy vegetables.  Additionally, you can modify the rabbit’s environment so that it can rest, undisturbed, in a warm, dry, quiet, and dark space like a cardboard box.

Symptoms that indicate snuffles may also result from dental disorders!

As always, if you think your bunny has a problem, then it probably does.  You can be proactive in your rabbit’s health and happiness by contacting your local veterinarian.

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