Rabbit Cold: Feared and Contagious

The rabbit has a cold – that sounds harmless at first if it is associated with a typical human cold. In reality, rabbit cold, medically rhinitis contagiosa cuniculi, is a common disease that must be treated. Read here how to tell if your long ear has it and what treatments are needed.

What is Rabbit Cold?

Rabbits are prone to colds, especially if they usually live indoors and are moved from the heated room to the cool garden too soon in the spring. Free-range animals usually have stronger immune systems, but adverse conditions can also make them catch a cold.

However, rabbit cold is not the result of a cold, but a contagious disease that is triggered by mixed infection with Pasteurella and Bortadella bacteria as well as some secondary germs. The disease is usually transmitted from animal to animal by droplet infection, but it can also occur with a time delay through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects. It can even be transmitted from humans to rabbits: you can infect your rabbit with your own cold. In fact, the majority of domestic rabbits in Germany are latently infected with rabbit flu, but the disease does not necessarily break out.

The rabbit cold is favored by mistakes in the keeping conditions: hygiene deficiencies, drafts, stress, or nutritional errors. Above all, infrequent mucking out and changing of the litter promote the spread of bacteria and an increased ammonia concentration in the animals’ surroundings, which contributes to irritation of the respiratory tract. For the layman it is hard to see what exactly is the cause of a cold; In any case, you should bring the rabbit to the vet if you suspect a cold. Regardless of whether it is a cold or viral or bacterial infection: Take respiratory diseases in rabbits seriously. If they are abducted, they can become chronic, develop into pneumonia, or worsen quickly enough to be fatal for the animal.

What are the Symptoms of Rabbit Cold and is Rabbit Cold Curable?

In the early stages, the rabbit cold can easily be confused with a “normal” cold, because the first symptoms are rather unspecific.

Symptoms in the early stages:

  • Mild runny nose: Sneezing, watery nasal discharge, and slight inflammation of the nose are the first signs of the disease.
  • Changes in the secretion: The nasal secretion becomes milky and sticky as the disease progresses.
  • Spread through smear infection: The increased cleaning of the face is another symptom of rabbit cold. Since the rabbit gets the infectious secretion on the paws when cleaning the face, it is spread over the body and the surrounding area.
  • Infection of the eyes and ears: The disease can spread to the eyes and, as a secondary disease, trigger purulent conjunctivitis or manifest itself in otitis media.
  • Breathing difficulties: The sick animal’s free breathing is impaired, which can be clearly recognized by breathing noises and violent flank breathing.
  • Elevated temperature: as the disease progresses, there is also a fever.
  • Chronic respiratory disease: The respiratory tract infection can spread to the bronchi and take a chronic course there.

Recognized and treated at an early stage, rabbit cold can be treated – unfortunately, there is no cure. If the rabbit is otherwise healthy and not weakened by any factors, the chances of treatment are good: the rabbits can lead a largely symptom-free life. However, once infected, many animals are prone to relapses of the disease, as it is almost impossible to completely eliminate the bacterial pathogen. Chronic rabbit flu, which has already led to pneumonia or ear infection, is far more difficult and takes longer to treat.

How Can You Treat Rabbit Cold?

Before treating the sick rabbit, the veterinarian first takes a smear test in order to be able to narrow down the type of cold that is present. For this purpose, the animal’s lungs are also monitored and, if necessary, an X-ray image of the chest is made. Once the cause has been determined and identified as a rabbit cold, the first step in the treatment is to rinse the eyes and nostrils and apply eye drops containing antibiotics. In parallel, he will administer a broad-spectrum antibiotic. The antibiotics should kill the bacterial pathogens or reduce their spread. Depending on the prescription, you have to conscientiously administer antibiotics, sometimes over several weeks.

To support the treatment and treat accompanying symptoms, it is advisable to supplement the diet with vitamins, preferably in the form of green fodder and herbs such as ribwort, thyme, and chamomile. It is important to note that rabbits with respiratory diseases only have a restricted sense of taste and decreased appetite; The instinctive distinction between poisonous and digestible plants is also disturbed. Offer your Mummler particularly high-quality, strongly scented food. Inhalations with essential oils of thyme, fennel, and chamomile have also proven successful. To do this, put the rabbit in a transport box or cage well equipped with hay and place the hot infusion in front of the closed door. Cover the box and bowl with a cloth so that a ventilation gap remains free: this way the rabbit can inhale the vapors for a few minutes several times a day.

If the rabbit cold has not been proven to have been introduced through a new arrival, detour via humans, or contaminated objects, you should also urgently check whether your rabbit husbandry has any weaknesses. This can already be a previously undiscovered draft in the enclosure.

Is There a Vaccination Against Rabbit Flu?

There is a vaccination against the primary pathogen causing rabbit flu, which you can consider if your rabbits live in a large group (e.g. animal welfare) or occasionally travel (to shows or boarding houses). Such a vaccination lasts for about six months and must not take place at the same time as the vaccination against myxomatosis. The benefit of a rabbit flu vaccination in normal private keeping with a few animals is not undisputed due to insufficiently researched side effects: the risk could outweigh the benefit.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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