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Rabbits/Allergies or Snuffles

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QUESTION: Hi,
 First of all I would like to thank you for taking time to answer my question.  We recently purchased a male dutch rabbit.  He was approximately 8 wks old.  We also have another dutch, almost 2yrs.  They are kept indoors always and are not housed together.  The older one has been neutered.  At first we had their cages sitting next to each other.  My older rabbit did not like this so I moved the younger rabbit upstairs in our extra bedroom.  In this bedroom we have a large cage with 6 parakeets.  Once he was in the room a few days we noticed he started having sneezing fits.  By this time he was probably 10 wks. Which is about the time snuffles show up. Took him immediately to the vet.  She decided to place on Baytril for a week. Still sneezing,only little clear wetness by nose.  Can hardly notice.  Acting and eating normal. Tried another week of Baytril.  Still the same.  Now been off medicine for 10days,still the same.  Vet thinks maybe allergy.  I did move cage across hall,but we still let him play in room with the birds.  Is it possible he has an allergy?  And is it safe to have him neutered while having these symptoms?  Planning on having this done end of this month.  Thanks, Maria

ANSWER: Dear Maria,

Since the sneezing started when he went into the room with the birds, it's possible that the dust and dander from the birds is irritating him.  It's more common for a bunny to have upper respiratory infections than allergies (in fact, I've never heard of a confirmed respiratory allergy in a rabbit).  Please see:

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

As an experiment, take him out of the bird room and find him other quarters away from the bird dander.  If the condition clears up when he's away from the birds but comes back when he's with them...well, you might have your answer.

I hope this helps.

Dana

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

QUESTION: So it is possible he still has snuffles even if a little nose wetness with sneezing? No white or yellow thick discharge.  Do you think I should ask vet to look up his nose while sedated for neutering?  I also moved cage downstairs away from the birds.  We'll see how it goes!  I hope it is the birds,but it sounds like it is not so likely.
Maria

ANSWER: Hi, Maria

Well, as the article explains, "snuffles" really doesn't mean much.  "Snuffles" is a catch-all term that some use to describe a rabbit with a runny nose.  But there are dozens of different reasons for a rabbit to have a runny nose, from upper respiratory infection to sinus obstruction to dental problems!  

If there is no white or yellow discharge, that means only that *if* this is bacterial in nature, either there is not (yet) a dense population of bacteria, or that the bunny is not mounting a good enough immune response to produce the white/yellow discharge, which is composed largely of dead white blood cells fighting the infection.

There's not much reason to look up the nose unless you suspect a foreign object.  And unless it's very close to the opening, you'd need an endoscope to really get a good look.  

I hope moving the cage will do the trick.  

Dana

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

QUESTION: Dana,
 So sorry for all these questions. So at this point in your opinion, should we just wait and see?  If yellow/white discharge appears,then take him back to the vet? Can a rabbit live a good life with snuffles? Also, how long before irritation from the birds leaves him?  Maybe a week? Immediately? When we brought him downstairs,he really had sneeze fits.  Maybe brought on by stress/nerves?  Then it calmed down.  Still a sneeze here and there this morning.  Again thanks for all your help. We just really love this little rabbit and I have read that a lot of breeders say to put them down with snuffle.  My 10 yr old daughter would be devastated.  I also fear our other rabbit will get it.  We keep separate always
Thanks,Maria

Answer
Dear Maria,

Rule #1:  Never listen to ANYTHING a breeder has to say about rabbit health.  Breeders are in it for the money or as a hobby, and they generally do not value rabbits as individuals.  

There is absolutely no reason to euthanize a bunny with an upper respiratory infection ("snuffles"), and that type of advice coming from breeders just underlines why I have such disgust for them.  URIs are completely treatable, and even a bunny with a chronic problem can be completely happy and live a full, long life with a little extra help.

The other good news:  This condition is NOT highly contagious.  Rabbits just do not easily share respiratory pathogens, and I've never had a confirmed case of one rabbit "sharing" snuffles with another, even when they are housed together and spend the day cuddling.  The condition is more complicated than just simple contagion.

Stress can suppress the immune system, and that can allow opportunistic bacteria in the system to proliferate and cause clinical signs.  Often, reduction of stress alone will allow the bunny to recover. Sometimes, a little medical help is needed.

But please don't listen to anyone who would tell you that a bunny like this should be euthanized.  That would be like saying a human with a cold should be euthanized because it's just too much trouble to get him well.

I'm glad your bunny is safe with you!

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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