Pasteurellosis in Rabbits

Key Points

  • Many pet rabbits carry Pastuerella multocida, although Pasteurella-free rabbit colonies are common in research settings.
  • Pasteurella multocida is the most common cause of respiratory disease in rabbits.
  • Pasteurellosis primarily causes rhinitis in rabbits, however disease may also present as lower respiratory tract infection, otitis media, dacryocystitis and conjunctivitis, abscesses in various tissues, reproductive tract disease, and septicemia.
  • Diagnosis of pasteurellosis relies upon clinical signs as well as laboratory testing. Cytology may demonstrate many rod-shaped bacteria and degenerative heterophils. Definitive diagnosis relies upon culture and/or PCR testing.
  • For management of rhinitis, conjunctivitis, or dacrocystitis, pair systemic antibiotics with topical treatment such as ophthalmic drops and nasolacrimal flushing whenever possible.
  • Most strains of Pasteurella spp. are sensitive to chloramphenicol, tetracyclines, and sulfonamides. Some strains are sensitive to penicillin, higher generation macrolides, such as azithromycin, and fluoroquinolones like enrofloxacin.
  • Medical therapy alone is unlikely to be effective for treatment of abscesses. Surgical debridement, including removal of the entire abscess capsule, is recommended whenever possible.
  • Antibiotic impregnated polymethylmethacrylate beads can be implanted into abscess cavities before closure and are especially helpful with bone or dental abscesses, in which resection options are limited.

The most common presentation of P. multocida infection is upper respiratory tract disease. Pasteurella multocida was identified as a cause of mucopurulent rhinitis in rabbits or “snuffles” in the 1920s. Clinical signs include mucopurulent nasal discharge, sneezing, congestion, and/or snoring. Infection of the nasolacrimal duct may extend to the conjunctiva causing ocular discharge and nasolacrimal duct obstruction. Affected rabbits may also have . . .

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To cite this page:

Franco K, Pollock C. Pasteurellosis in rabbits. December 30, 2010. LafeberVet Web site. Available at