Diseases of the Rabbit Respiratory Tract

Key Points

  • Pathogens commonly cultured from the rabbit respiratory tract include Pasteurella multocida, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter spp., and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
  • A subtle sign of upper respiratory disease in rabbits may be discharge matted on the medial aspect of the forepaws due to the rabbit’s tendency to fastidiously clean its face with its forepaws.
  • Consider nasal foreign body in rabbits with persistent, intractable upper respiratory tract infection.
  • Dental disease can be an important underlying cause of upper respiratory tract disease. Overgrowth of maxillary cheek tooth roots can impinge upon the nasal cavity or nasolacrimal duct causing obstruction and bone remodeling.
  • The only clinical signs seen with pneumonia or pulmonary abscess may be tachypnea and a mild to moderate decrease in activity level.
  • Unfortunately pulmonary neoplasia such as metastastic uterine adenocarcinoma is an important cause of lower respiratory tract disease in intact does.
  • A useful adjunct to systemic antibiotic therapy is nebulization, which serves to humidify the respiratory passages and/or deliver antibiotics.

Rhinitis or sinusitis, sometimes called “snuffles” in laymen’s terms, is usually characterized by unilateral or bilateral, mucopurulent nasal discharge, sneezing, and congestion. A subtle sign of upper respiratory tract disease can be discharge matted on the paws or the medial aspect of the forelimbs. Discharge may collect here as the rabbit fastidiously cleans its face with its forepaws. In the early stages of disease, discharge may not be evident on the nose or even on the paws, however close examination of . . .

To continue you need to be a LafeberVet.com member. (Français), (Español)

Pour continuer, vous devez être un membre LafeberVet.com

Para continuar, debe ser miembro de LafeberVet.com

Already a LafeberVet Member?

Please Login


Antinoff N. Respiratory diseases of ferrets, rabbits and rodents. Proc Annu Conf Western Veterinary Conference, 2008.

Carpenter JW. Exotic Animal Formulary, 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders; 2005.

Clippinger TL, Bennett A, Alleman R, et al. Removal of a thymoma via median sternotomy in a rabbit with recurrent appendicular neurofibrosarcoma. J Am Vet Med Assoc 213 (8):1140-1143, 1998.

Deeb BD. Respiratory disease and pasteurellosis. In: Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW (eds). Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery. Philadelphia: WB Saunders; 2006.

Divers SJ. Exotic mammal diagnostic endoscopy and endosurgery. Vet Clin North Am: Exot Anim Pract 13(2):255-272, 2010.

Geertsema RS, LaFranco-Scheuch L, Jenné KJ, Richter PJ. Sneezing, nasal discharge, dyspnea and sudden death in rabbits. Lab Anim 37(1): 17, 2008.

Harcourt-Brown F. Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann, 2002.

Harcourt-Brown F, Harcourt-Brown N. Surgical removal of a mediastinal mass in a rabbit. Exotic DVM 4(3):59-60, 2002.

Ivey ES, Morrisey JK. Therapeutics for rabbits. Vet Clin North Am: Exot Anim Pract 3(1):183-220, 2000.

Kelleher S. Respiratory disease. Proc Annu Conf CVC 2008.

Lord B, Boswood A, Petrie A. Electrocardiography of the normal pet rabbit. Veterinary Record 167(25):961-965, 2010.

McKay SC, Morck DW, Merrill JK, et al. Use of tilmicosin for treatment of pasteurellosis in rabbits. Am J Vet Res 57(8):1180-1184, 1996.

Meredith A. Respiratory disorders. In: Meredith A, Flecknell P (eds). BSAVA Manual of Rabbit Medicine and Surgery. Quedgeley, Gloucester. 2006. Pp. 67-73.

Plumb D (ed). Veterinary Drug Handbook, Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press; 2002.

Redrobe S. Imaging techniques in small mammals. Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine 10(4):187-197, 2001.

Sanchez-Migallon D, Mayer J, Gould J, Azuma C. Radiation therapy for the treatment of thymoma in rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). J Exot Pet Med 15(2):138-144, 2006.

Vernau KM, Grahn BH, Clark-Scott HA, Sullivan N. Thymoma in a geriatric rabbit with hypercalcemia and periodic exophthalmos. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 206(6):820-822, 1995.

Villa A, Gracia E, Fernández A, et al. Detection of mycoplasmas in the lungs of rabbits with respiratory disease. Vet Rec 148(25):788-789, 2001.

To cite this page:

Kelleher S. Diseases of the rabbit respiratory tract. January 25, 2011. LafeberVet Web site. Available at https://lafeber.com/vet/diseases-of-the-rabbit-respiratory-tract/