Rabbit Respiratory Illness Help

by Fioon
(Gloucester, UK,)

Treatment Having No Effect?

Treatment Having No Effect?

Treatment Having No Effect?
Unknown Illness - Could it be bacteria?
Rabbit Lung Structure
Nature's Antibiotic

I have a small rabbitry, with nine Netherland dwarf bunnies (now), I used to have ten, but we lost one a week before Christmas with a respiratory illness.

Although she had been seen by the vet, and given antibiotics, she died about 14 hours after being seen by the vet! So I still had a full course of antibiotics left.

12 days ago a second rabbit stated showing the same signs, so I started him on the 10 day course, and he seemed to improve.

But now 2 days later the symptoms are returning, and a third has started showing symptoms this morning, even though they are at opposite ends of the rabbitry, and none of them share bowls, water, feed, hay, hutches or even exercise runs.

With the exception of a one off case of hay fever type allergy in one bunny, I have never had any health issues in 4 1/2 years.

I am now wondering if this could be more viral than bacterial, and maybe a more natural path is better as the antibiotics have now failed two rabbits.

Any advice would be appreciated!


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Jan 18, 2016
Process of Elimination
by: Kerry

Hi Fioon,

So sorry to hear of your current and very worrying situation with your Nethies.
It's awful when you have a devastating problem and you just don't know what
it is.

Hopefully with the help of this page, between myself and the people reading
this post, we can find the problem and possible solutions to your dilemma. But
for now let's try a process of elimination before it's too late!

There must be something that is 'different' in play here as you have not had
any health issues before, so we need to look at what factors are different and
think carefully about each one, because it is only when we find the cause that
we can correctly treat the effects.

So let's look at the most common causes of respiratory disease in rabbits...

Common Causes of Upper Respiratory Disease in Rabbits

Dental Disease / Malocclusion

Rabbits with dental disease are prone to developing upper respiratory diseases.
This is because the tooth roots pass very closely to the tear duct as it drains
from the corner of the eye to the nose. When the teeth become maloccluded (do
not meet), the tooth roots push upwards and can obstruct the tear duct. This
blockage prevents normal drainage of tears through the duct and allows dangerous
bacteria to grow.

Poor Ventilation

Rabbits kept in poorly ventilated hutches may also be prone to developing respiratory
problems. The build-up of fumes from urine can be very dangerous for internal

Contaminated / Infectious Carrier

Sometimes rabbits that are bought from careless breeders or unaware pet shops
are already infected with the Pasteurella virus. This is a bacterial virus that
is very infectious and can easily be transferred from rabbit to rabbit or from
handler to rabbit. Isolation and strict quarantine routines must be put in place
to limit the spread. The difficult thing about this highly contagious bacterial
disease is that sometimes the host carrier shows no outward symptoms (runny
nose and eyes, mouth breathing etc) of the disease at all. In cases like these
it is best to have a vet carry out a test for the disease so you know what procedures
you will then need to follow. It is not uncommon for breeders to have their
whole stock wiped out in a matter of months due to this terrible killer disease.

Dust Particles

Poor quality hay or certain types of wood shavings, eg cedar, may cause irritation
to the eyes and possibly trigger upper respiratory illness and other problems
and diseases such as snuffles. Snuffles is a term used to describe the symptoms
of runny eyes, runny nose and sneezing in rabbits. The cause of these symptoms
is often a chronic bacterial infection in the tear ducts and nasal sinuses.
The bacteria involved are usually Pasteurella spp or Staphylococcus spp. Snuffles
is a respiratory disease and in severe cases, can result in pneumonia which
requires very intensive treatment - and unfortunately is often fatal.

You can find out more on rabbit diseases, symptoms and treatments here...


Care & Prevention


Ensure that your rabbit's living quarters are well ventilated and are regularly
cleaned-out to prevent the build-up of fumes from urine. Also do not use cedar
or wood shavings for bedding.


Recent research by veterinary surgeons and rabbit food companies has shown that
there is a strong relationship between rabbit's diet and dental disease. Rabbits
with dental problems are prone to respiratory disease, so the best way of protecting
your rabbits, is to ensure that their teeth are healthy and this may require
changes to your rabbits diet.

Extra Hay

Rabbits in the wild eat a very high-fibre diet consisting predominantly of grass,
hay and bark, and they rarely suffer from dental problems. As rabbit's teeth
grow throughout their life, they need to be continually worn down by the action
of chewing on food. The major constituent of your rabbit's diet should be grass
and hay. Only a small amount of commercial rabbit mix should be fed. If you
do need to alter your rabbit's diet, introduce the changes gradually over a
minimum period of 2 weeks, to allow the rabbit's digestive system to adjust.

Natural Antibiotics

Much research has been done on a more natural route to curing bacterial infections
and Colloidal Silver is just one of many solutions that many rabbit owners (including
myself) have had extraordinary results with.

You can find out more about colloidal silver and other 'natural antibiotics' here...


I hope you find this information useful and I encourage anyone reading this
with experience of this awful situation to offer the benefit of their advice
in any way they can.

I wish you the very best of luck in your finding a cure.

Warmest wishes

Kerry Greener

Just Rabbits Limited

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