Many new rabbit owners hear a rabbit sneezing and think “Oh, how cute”. I hear my rabbit sneezing and think “Oh no, a trip to the vet”. That’s because, in some cases, a rabbit sneezing can be a sign of an allergy or, in other cases, it can be a sign of something a lot more serious. Something potentially fatal if not treated. So what should you do if your rabbit keeps sneezing? These tips will help.
Is there discharge from your rabbit’s nose? – The first thing you should look at when you hear your rabbit sneezing is if he has any discharge running from his nose. That’s because any discharge, or the color of the discharge, can clue you in immediately to the potential seriousness of the situation.
If he does have discharge running from his nose, you then need to check the color. If it’s milky white or yellow, chances are it’s an infection and it’s caused by a bacteria. An infection in a rabbit can be very serious and can spread quickly from the infected area to other areas around his head, nose and ears, so a visit to a vet is in order — and quickly.
If, however, the discharge is clear, there’s a very good chance your rabbit has an allergy to something in his cage or in his immediate environment. Discovering what it is and eliminating it could quickly solve the problem.
Rabbits can be allergic to household products – One of my rabbits was sneezing a lot a few months ago but, luckily, didn’t have any discharge from his nose. After eliminating a couple of other things from the room first, it eventually turned out it was just a mild allergy to a new brand of hay I was using for his litter box. A brand that seemed to have more hay dust in it than the one I had previously bought. Switching back to the old brand of hay stopped his allergy in its tracks and, within a few days, he was completely back to normal.
The litter you use can cause an allergic reaction in a rabbit, as can too much dust around the house, a perfume you have been using, cigarette smoke, a brand of tile cleaner, and even a room deodorizer. One of my friend’s rabbits was allergic to baby powder, with the sneezing he did a sight to behold. A change to a different brand of baby powder, and all was quite in the bunny cage.
The good news is, however, if a rabbit is sneezing because of allergies, they usually go away as soon as the offending product is removed from the rabbit’s general vicinity, and they tend not to be life-threatening.
What to do if it is an infection – If your rabbit is sneezing because he has an infection, the first thing you should do is take him to the vet. Once there, the vet should take a sample of the discharge and run a culture. As this may take 24-48 hours for the results to come back, you may find he gives you some form of antibiotic as an initial treatment with the hope that it is the correct one.
While this might seem odd, especially as he could be prescribing the wrong antibiotic, in my mind it’s usually better to at least start trying something than doing nothing, as a respiratory infection in a rabbit can turn deadly very quickly.
Just be sure to return to your vet’s office as soon as the culture comes back from the lab, so you can either continue the antibiotic regimen he is already on, or pick up a new one if the diagnosis has changed.
Remember too, you should make sure the entire course of antibiotics is taken by your bunny as, if it’s not, the infection can return and can end up being worse than the first time.