Rabbits/Snuffles/URI

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Question
I have had bunnies for many years now and I'm an educator with HRS.  One thing continues to allude me, though.  I have a bunny with chronic snuffles.  When it gets bad we (me & vet) put her on penicillin (PCN) injections which gets it back under control for awhile. I have a great bunny vet and have asked him in the past if there have been any advances in the treatment of pasturella besides PCN injections and he always says "no".  I have a hard time believing that with the increasing popularity and knowledge of house bunnies that there hasn't been more research on this.  I had read somewhere once about using gentamycin eye drops as nose drops, and I have tried this.  It helps, but doesn't completely take it away.

Do you have any insights or know of new or experimental treatments?

Answer
Dear Danette,

Unfortunately, it's not likely that the Pasteurella (if that's what the problematic bacteria are; you can't know for sure without culture and sensitivity testing) is the primary problem.  In older rabbits, the problem can be blocked maxillary sinus that sets up a hospitable environment for opportunistic pathogens like the ones causing your bunny's runny nose.  You can read more here:

http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/dental.html

As bunnies age, they lose bone mass everywhere, including the skull.  As this happens, the tooth "roots" (they're not true roots) can grow into the skull as well as downward into the mouth, and this can pinch off tear ducts and block sinuses in the head, reducing air flow.  A nice, moist cave like this is perfect for growing bacteria, and it's only so long before the bunny's immune system just can't keep up and it's back on the antibiotics to knock things back to manageable levels.  :(

This is going to be a chronic problem.  There is no way to kill off every single potentially harmful bacterium in the body without doing serious harm to the beneficial ones (which is most of them).  So we're kind of stuck in a rocking horse cycle of on-again/off-again antibiotics to keep things under control.  That's not only annoying, but can set up the problem of our selecting resistant bacteria that eventually will grow populations no longer killed by the antibiotics that once worked, forcing us to switch to a new antibiotic.

I'm sorry I don't have better news.  But that's where we are.  It's one of those unfortunate side effects that humans and other animals suffer, since we are really just walking meat puppets striving constantly against microbes who would love to have us for lunch.

Hope that helps at least with understanding and mentally dealing with this common and distressing bunny problems.

Dana

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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Expertise

I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:
THE INTERNET IS NOT THE PLACE TO SEEK HELP IN AN EMERGENCY.

...it is an EMERGENCY.

Find a rabbit vet at www.rabbit.org/vet for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.


RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.

Experience

I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Organizations
Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Publications
Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Education/Credentials
Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology
(http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare)

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