A runny nose in rabbits refers to abnormal or excessive nasal discharge which may be clear, yellowish or white in color and the discharge may vary in viscosity i.e., thick, serous, thin (watery) or be bloodstained (have blood tinge).
This is not a disease but sign or symptom of an underlying condition or disease.
Also, depending on the underlying cause, the discharges may be accompanied by several other symptoms including sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, labored breathing, open mouth breathing, anorexia among others.
While looking at the various causes, we will mention more symptoms associated with each cause.
Rabbits of all ages can be affected by infectious causes predominant in young bunnies and older rabbits.
On the other hand, tumors and dental problems often affect middle-aged to older bunnies. Other causes including myxomatosis, trauma, foreign bodies affect rabbits of any age.
Signs of a rabbit runny nose
One of the evident symptoms or signs of this condition is seeing a discharge coming out of your rabbit’s nostrils. Therefore the nose area will be wet and the fur near it will also be wet and it may be matted.
Also, you will not wet or matted fur on their paws since they will use them to wipe any wet area including their nose. This will be the case if this animal has watery eyes and you need to keenly check if the problem is watery eyes or nasal discharge.
Furthermore, bacterial infections often cause a lot of discharge that might be bloodstained as well as yellowing in color (and in some cases greenish).
Other possible symptoms include lethargy, intolerance to exercise, epistaxis, depression, weight loss, among others.
Causes of a runny nose in rabbits
Nasal discharges are often triggered by anything that irritates or inflames the nasal mucous membrane or sinuses. Rhinitis is the inflammation of nasal mucous membrane while sinusitis is inflammation of the sinus.
The causes can both the infectious when causes by various microorganisms including bacteria, fungi or viruses or it could be non-infectious when caused by other problems or disorders. Here are the most frequently noted causes.
Snuffles is a non-specific term used to refer to the various upper respiratory disease, with the most common one being pasteurellosis caused by Pasteurella multocida. Other bacterial microorganisms can also cause snuffles including Bordetella bronchiseptica, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, among others.
Besides the mucopurulent nasal discharge which could be watery to thick, white to yellow color, other symptoms include sneezing or snuffling sounds, wheezing, coughing, runny eyes, head shaking (if ears are affected), inflamed skin around the nose among others.
Your vet will conduct diagnosis and if snuffles are the cause of the nasal discharges, he or she may recommend various antibiotics including enrofloxacin, tetracyclines, trimethoprim, ciprofloxacin, as well as NSAIDs among other medications and treatment options
Pneumonia in rabbits refers to the inflammation of the lower respiratory system including lungs that can be caused by bacterial, viral or fungal infections or other problems including dental disease, foreign bodies, swallowing difficulties, among other causes.
Common bacteria that cause this inflammation include Bordetella bronchiseptica, P. multocida, Staphylococcus aureus Pseudomonas spp. and Klebsiella pneumonia, among others while coronavirus, herpesvirus have also been noted as possible causes.
Common symptoms that pneumonia may show include anorexia, fever, eye and nasal discharges, dyspnea, tachypnea, cyanosis, malaise among others. Coughing blood, weight loss, hypothermia shock, noisy breathing, and mouth breathing will be noted in severe cases.
Once your vet has diagnosed the condition, treatment includes fluid and electrolyte therapy, the use of painkillers, antibiotics, antifungal or antiviral medications, and surgery in case of an abscess, among others.
Allergic reactions may occur in some bunnies if they inhale various substances including dust (in some feeds, litter or bedding material), pollen grain, air conditioners, carpet cleaning agents, cigarette smoke among other allergens.
These allergens may trigger allergic reactions which may have symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, nasal discharges, labored breathing, and so on.
Investigate and get rid of possible allergens through things such as changing the bedding and litter tray substrate brands, detergents you use to wash, and so on. If the allergic reaction is so severe, contact your vet for further treatment.
“Foreign objects can penetrate the nasal cavity and dental orifices, causing problems such as infections, sneezing, and discharge.” Seeds, bits of hay, and other debris could be the possible foreign objects that might irritate your nasal cavity causing the above symptoms.
Endoscopic examination may be necessary to be able to see foreign bodies (in case they are not visible) during diagnosis.
Finally, treatment will involve removal of the foreign body where your vet will consider the location before coming up with the best removal way. Surgery may also be considered if other methods of removal fail.
Facial abscess, dental problems, and growths
Abnormal facial and skull bone growth, facial abscesses, tumors, nasal polyps, dental disease, spurs or intrusion of molars and premolar can cause pressure on the nasal cavity, blocked tear ducts, and so on that may be characterized by sneezing, inflammation, eye, and nasal discharges.
Treatments including treating tooth abscess, some teeth may be removed where necessary, surgeries may be performed to correct abnormal skull bone growth, as well as flushing of blocked tear ducts, among others.
- Poor living conditions such as overcrowding, poor ventilation (ammonia smell in their urine), sudden temperature changes, and stress which will weaken your rabbit’s immunity system and make it vulnerable to various diseases and conditions.
- Terminal stage of rabbit hemorrhagic disease may cause blood and frothy nasal discharges.
- Head trauma that may result during an attack by a predator
Diagnosis will involve looking at the clinical signs, physical examinations, urinalysis, CT scans, conducting blood tests, deep swabs for testing various diseases in the lab, imaging, endoscopy, biopsy (if tumor suspected) among others.
We have seen some of the main treatment for rabbits with a runny nose. The treatment option will depend on what diagnosis shows as the cause.
Hospitalization, nostril cleaning, oxygen therapy, nutritional support, nebulization, and anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to help improve your pet’s quality of life as it is being treated.
Did I give my rabbit cold?
If you have a cold, do not worry, human colds do not affect these pets and they are not the reason why they have nasal discharges.
Rabbits are obligate nasal breathers and discharges will cause a lot of discomfort to them. Since there are many causes as we have seen, your best shot is seeing your vet for diagnosis and treatment.
Only try treatments or home remedies whose intent is to reduce the various symptoms and not to treat them including things such as having humidifiers.