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Rabbits/Possible respiratory infection


QUESTION: My pet rabbit Bonnie is twelve years old (maybe older we adopted her fully grown).

About a month ago we noticed she had started making loud sniffing noises breathing. But it was intermittent. We started her on baytril 0.8ml twice a day (she was 4.5lbs at that time) for 10days.

It worked. Her breathing went back to normal but at the end of the course she developed stasis.we got her through it but then noticed she hadn't been eating as much hay or pellets as normal, although she was eating veggies and fruit. We weigh her monthly and weighed her then, she had lost 1/2lb.

We took her to the vet. That was two weeks ago. The vet put her on baytril again but at 0.4ml twice a day. Since then she continues to eat only veggies and fruit. She has lost another 1/3lb and is getting thin. We have started supplementing with critical care. The weird sniffing noises have gone but instead now she is making weird wet grunting congested noises when she eats, and raises her head up and down  like she is trying to toss the food down her throat.

Today we took her to the vet again and are doing a culture. The vet said her breathing was labored. The lungs sounded clear though. Minor tooth spurs but the vet doesn't think that's the issue.  Note she does have a chronic ear infection which has been cultured and treated for the last two years, pasturella the first time, and pseudomonas more recently. The ear infection does appear to be a bit better though.

My question is how long does baytril take to work? Does this sound like a respiratory issue?

ANSWER: Dear Wendy,

Has a chest radiograph been taken?  I'd want to know from an x ray whether her lungs are congested.  Sometimes rabbits with pneumonia just don't sound different via auscultation, but a radiograph reveals a real mess.

At the age of 12, she's a senior bunny lady, and her immune system might not be what it was.  I think if your vet wants to keep her on Baytril until s/he gets to the bottom of this, that would be a good idea as a precaution.  

Not sure what a culture would tell you.  If it's a nasal culture, might not be too reliable, as there will almost always be contaminants.  If the problem is in her lungs, it's pretty much impossible to safely sample for culture.

I was thinking molar spurs.  "Minor" spurs might not be a big deal to some buns, but a big deal to others.  And unless she's been under anesthesia for a really good look, you might not be able to see spurs far in the back, or another oral problem.

The bad thing is:  She's 12.  And if she's having respiratory problems, she may not be the best candidate for anesthesia.  :(

So I'd say:  chest radiograph and continue the Baytril, as the vet suggests.  I hope it will keep her well and that this will clear up soon.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for getting back to me. Her breathing has gotten worse and she is now open mouth breathing. We have her in a room with a humidifier. I called our "rabbit vet" and he has given us duplocillin/bicillin for every 48 hours and gentamicin nose drops to use in combo with the baytril. He mentioned X-rays etc but basically told us all it would tell us was that either she has an upper respitory infection or cancer and since we can't treat the cancer we are continuing to try to treat the infection.

She is still eating a bit on her own and hopping about although we are syringe feeding critical care to keep her weight up.

The culture came back and said it was clear although the continued presence of pus makes the vet think its the baytril working.
Honestly I think she doesn't have long... But if u can suggest anything we can do...

ANSWER: Dear Wendy,

If your vet can prescribe an oxygen tank, that will at least make her more comfortable. The duplocillin is a good idea:  The Pen-G salts work quickly, apparently starting to kill bacteria within 15 minutes!  The Benzathine portion will stay in the system to continue killing bacteria long term.

If you know anyone with an oxygen concentrator (asthma patient?), perhaps you could borrow that and fashion a mask out of a plastic cup that would fit a bunny face.

I am so sorry about this quick downhill turn.  I hope she will be fine, but I'm glad you are with her to comfort her, whatever happens.

Sending healing thoughts...


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for your kind supporting words. What do you mean salts though? She is getting a duplocillin injection.,.

Also I should mention its thanks to you that my other rabbit Pikachu pulled though bad head tilt  a few years ago and is now age 11 and still going strong. She was left with neurological issues that never resolved but she has adapted well and is doing great!

Dear Wendy,

Sorry for the confusion.  Duplocillin (or any brand name of dual-acting penicillin) contains two salts (i.e., an ionic compound formed by the combination of an acid and a base) of penicillin:  Penicillin-G Procaine (benzylpenicillin with a local anesthetic, Procaine) and Benzathine (a diamine that increases the "hang time" of the pencillin, making it last longer in the tissues).  At least that's what I was told by our favorite rabbit-rescuer pharmacologist.  The details are probably not that important.  Just that the drug should help Bonnie.

I'm glad Pikachu is doing well, and I hope Bonnie will be back to her old self shortly!



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


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:

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


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.

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

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

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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