Sometimes as a rabbit owner, you experience a rabbit sneezing or having a snuffy nose. We often experience this ourselves in winter. Everyone has caught a cold at some point. But can rabbits also catch a cold?
Rabbits can catch a cold. But you should not take it lightly. A cold in rabbits can easily become deadly pneumonia if left untreated. Therefore, pay attention to possible symptoms and see a veterinarian if you suspect your rabbit has a cold.
Colds are not as harmless in rabbits as they are in us humans. It can quickly develop into something more serious. To help you recognize a cold in your rabbits, we will describe the possible symptoms.
It’s also important to know that certain factors can trigger or exacerbate a cold or respiratory illness in rabbits. We’ll show you these factors below.
We will also explain how a cold or respiratory illness is treated in rabbits and what you can do to help treat it.
Do Rabbits Get a Cold?
Rabbits, just like us humans and also many other animal species, can catch a cold. Unfortunately, however, colds or respiratory diseases, in general, are more dangerous in rabbits than in us.
If such an infection is not treated, your rabbit can easily develop pneumonia from it. Pneumonia is often fatal in rabbits.
Therefore, you should always consult a veterinarian if you suspect that your rabbit has a cold. There are certain signs or symptoms that are indicative of a cold. If you discover these symptoms in your rabbit, it is better to go to the vet once too often than once too little.
A cold in rabbits is usually treated with antibiotics. However, you can help the treatment by inhaling with the rabbit, optimizing its diet, and treating it with heat. Since antibiotics attack the intestinal flora, it is also important to rebuild it afterward.
How to Recognize a Cold in Rabbits?
The first identifying sign of a cold or pneumonia is usually frequent sneezing and coughing. You might also notice an increased brushing in the head area.
In advanced stages, you might also see nasal discharge and a stuck nose. Weight loss and refusal to eat might also occur when rabbits have a cold. Also eye discharge and stuck eyes, and often severe flank breathing and shortness of breath are common symptoms.
Clearly audible rattling or bubbling breath sounds are also indicative of pulmonary disease. Sometimes you will also notice a head tilt in your rabbit. At the same time, an ear infection may occur.
If you don’t treat the respiratory disease, the rabbit will become apathetic in the further course. It will finally die within a relatively short time.
So at the first sign of a cold, you should immediately consult a vet. Otherwise, as mentioned, a simple cold (rhinitis) can otherwise very quickly become pneumonia (pneumonia)!
A variety of different bacteria and viruses. can cause respiratory diseases. P. pneumotropica, Streptococcus, Sendai virus, Pasteurella, Bordetella, Staphylococcus are all possible pathogens for a cold or respiratory illness.
However, you need the expertise of a vet to accurately determine the pathogen or the causes of the infection.
What Factors Promote Respiratory Disease in Rabbits?
The bacteria and viruses that usually cause the disease are often also present even in healthy rabbits. Such a disease usually only breaks out when other unfavorable factors occur.
There are many factors that can cause stress in rabbits. We would like to describe the most important factors below.
Any form of stress can cause the animals’ immune system to slacken. Various factors can cause stress:
- Wrong group composition
- Frequent socialization with new rabbits
- Solitary confinement
- Frequent temperature changes by moving from the apartment to cold outdoor areas
- Having the rabbits to endure wild children’s games or forcing them to cuddle
- An unsuitable, noisy enclosure location
In a too infrequently cleaned, damp enclosure, diseases are naturally more likely to occur.
If you clean and disinfect the enclosure too often with harsh cleaners, it irritates the rabbits’ respiratory tract. They can not build up defenses and their immune system weakens.
There is a warm humid climate in plastic houses or cages with plastic covers. In these types of enclosures, bacteria can multiply strongly. Also, a lack of movement favors diseases.
If the enclosure is directly next to a window or the doors are left open, there will be a draught that causes illness. Rabbits kept indoors do not tolerate this well.
Dry Heated Air
Too low humidity dries out the respiratory tract.
Poorly insulated hutches and constant winter cold can be stressful for rabbits and can cause the immune system to weaken. Especially very young, very old, and pre-diseased rabbits tolerate permanent cold temperatures only poorly.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies weaken the animals’ defenses. You should reconsider the diet and change it if necessary.
Existing other diseases can put the rabbit under stress and disturb the immune system.
Cigarette Smoke and Room Scents
If someone smokes near the rabbits, this massively irritates the respiratory tract. It can lead to recurring respiratory problems. Room fragrances, scent sticks, and perfume also massively irritate the animals’ respiratory tract.
Poisonous Plants In or Around the Enclosure
Many different plants can produce toxic pollen or other substances that massively irritate animals’ respiratory systems.
Even though rabbits may tolerate some of these plants as food in small amounts, large amounts of the pollen can cause massive irritation. So check to see if potentially dangerous plants are growing near the enclosure.
Can Humans Infect Rabbits?
Rabbits can also become infected by you, their owner, or your family and visitors! For example, if you have a strep infection like tonsillitis or cold where it is not clear if it is viral or bacterial, you can infect the rabbits with it.
Be careful in the case of a cold or other infection. You should approach your rabbits only with a mouthguard and gloves. Also, make sure to use thorough hygiene measures during daily care!
Infections caused by viruses are not contagious. Infections caused by bacteria can be contagious, though. And usually, you do not know exactly where your infection comes from.
How to Treat Respiratory Diseases in Rabbits?
We will not give any instructions for self-medication, because a layman can not distinguish pneumonia from a harmless cold. So you should always let a vet take over the treatment.
In the following, we go into the most common methods of treatment. You can read up here again after the vet visit and carry out further care measures correctly.
Respiratory disease is usually treated with an antibiotic. Your veterinarian will tell you which antibiotic to use.
You should continue treatment with an antibiotic for at least five days. Continue even after the symptoms have gone. However, give the drug as directed by your veterinarian. You should not discontinue it until your vet confirms that your rabbit has fully recovered.
If the antibiotic given first does not work, a secretion swab should be examined in the laboratory. This way, it is possible to determine the pathogen more accurately. The vet can then suggest an appropriate antibiotic.
Be careful not to give the antibiotic in too low a dosage or over too short a period of time.
In consultation with the veterinarian, you may also give vitamin or supplementary supplements to support the patient’s condition.
It is possible to vaccinate rabbits against Pasteurella multicida and Bordetella bronchiseptica. This vaccination lasts for about 6 months. It must never be given together with myxomatosis vaccination!
Pasteurella multicida and Bordetella bronchiseptica are two of the most common pathogens responsible for rabbit rhinitis. However, this vaccination is controversial. Some rabbit owners believe that the vaccine is not completely harmless after all.
It is even reported that vaccinated animals only became ill as a result of the vaccination. In addition, these are only two pathogens out of many that cause rabbit rhinitis, so vaccination does not provide very reliable protection.
Another supportive measure is inhalations. But you should use infusions of chamomile, thyme, fennel, or lime blossoms only for a very short period of time and only when the rabbit is very mucous.
Inhalations help to loosen the mucus better but have a drying effect on the mucous membranes when used continuously. Cold inhalations with an appropriate device are good. Inhalations with sea salt are especially useful.
You should not use other essential oils in rabbits. They can cause severe irritation of the mucous membranes. Preparations for small children are sometimes suitable.
But how can you do inhalation with rabbits? First, you should preferably place the rabbit in a transport box or a smaller cage. It is important that there is food for the rabbit. This provides a little stress relief.
Place the bowl with the hot herbal infusion or the cold inhaler next to the box or cage. You should cover the bowl with a sieve to avoid injuries. Then place a thick cloth over the box and bowl, so that the vapors can draw directly into the box.
Do not cover the cage or box completely. Leave a small gap at the bottom to ensure adequate air circulation. In acute cases, you can do inhalation with your rabbits 2 – 3 times daily.
Rabbits with rhinitis can no longer select food sufficiently well! They are no longer able to recognize incompatible or even poisonous plants. Their sense of smelling simply does not work properly. It can happen they then also eat poisonous plants that they would otherwise avoid.
In some cases, they even prefer to eat harmful plants because these then taste right to them. This is the case since they do not perceive the components that warn them not to eat them. Therefore you must pay attention to giving only very high-quality food!
Sick rabbits need very high-quality food. Especially fresh green fodder would be useful. Fresh herbs can also support the recovery:
- Basil has a decongestant and calming effect
- Dill has an antispasmodic effect and stimulates appetite
- Peppermint has a decongestant effect
- Chamomile has an antibacterial, calming, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and analgesic effect.
You can also serve chamomile and peppermint as a highly diluted, lukewarm, or cold tea.
In acute cases of illness, the rabbit may refuse to eat. In this case it may be necessary to temporarily feed or even force-feed the animal. Feeding means stress for rabbits. You should really only use feeding or force-feeding in the case of total food refusal.
Sick rabbits need heat. So it is a good idea to set up a red light lamp. Make sure to illuminate only one corner of the enclosure. The animal should be able to choose for itself whether to lie in the heat or not.
The temperature should not be warmer than hand-warm. Even better than red light, however, special heat pads have proven to be effective. Moor heat bottles wrapped in a towel keep the heat for a good 3 hours.
The ideal heating solution is the Snuggle Safe*. This is a special heat pad that you can heat in the microwave. It keeps its heat for up to 10 hours.
The intestinal flora of your rabbit may be damaged by the administration of an antibiotic and the changed eating behavior due to the disease. It must be rebuilt after the treatment.
Veterinarians usually recommend Bene Bac* for this purpose. This gel consists of freeze-dried bacteria that help the intestinal flora to regulate itself again. However, some Bene Bac products contain sugar. Sugar further damages the intestines. So make sure you use a product without sugar if possible.
A simple solution to strengthen the intestinal flora is to offer the animals blind intestinal feces from healthy rabbits. The rabbits often try to steal this excrement from their fellow rabbits.
As a human, however, you will unfortunately hardly get this feces. It is sufficient, however, to dissolve fresh droppings from healthy animals and mix them into the feed mash or give them pure.
Alternatively, you can give Flora*. These capsules are actually intended for humans but also work very well in rabbits. Dissolve the contents of the capsules in water.
For acute diarrhea, give 1/10 capsule per 1 pound weight of your rabbit throughout the day. Half the amount is also sufficient for subsiding diarrhea.
Conclusion: Can Rabbits Get a Cold?
Rabbits can catch a cold. But a cold is more dangerous for rabbits than for us humans.
If the cold is not treated, it can lead to the death of your rabbit. Therefore, if you suspect it, it is better to consult a veterinarian.
There are several symptoms that indicate a cold. Many of these symptoms are quite similar to those seen in humans.
If your rabbit has a cold, it is usually treated with antibiotics. However, you can also support the treatment with other measures.