SNUFFLES AND RESPIRATORY AILMENTS
Lana wrote me with some questions about what Snuffles is and what to look for with new rabbits, and so I decided it was time to tackle this issue on the blog. If this post educates just 5 rabbit breeders about this disease, then I will feel all my time working on this blog has been well spent. So write me if you learn something new. Some Angora rabbit breeders do not consider the condition of a bunny's immune system, rather concentrating on fiber quality, body size and rate of growth as they choose stock. Back when I was new at this business, I bought a $175 pedigreed buck whose owner said he had a "cold". He was dead in 14 months from pneumonia.
SNUFFLES is an advanced case of severe bacteriological respiratory invasion. It is a permanent bad cold, put in human terms. It will never go away as the bacterium that causes it lodges in the nasal/sinus bones of the rabbit, where it cannot be eradicated with antibiotics (enough to do so would kill the rabbit). Symptoms include any or all of the following that REAPPEAR ON A REGULAR (every 4 - 6 months) basis: sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, and nasal thick mucus discharge. The symptoms will become more severe as the rabbit experiences stress. The bacterium that is commonly the culprit is Pasteurella Multocida, although other bacteria can trigger "colds". Once the P. Multocida organism has a firm hold in the rabbit's system, and it reigns unchecked, then the rabbit simply loses vitality and slowly fades away. Snuffles can be around a LONG time, and is considered, like AIDS in humans or Feline Leukemia in cats, a chronic condition. While the rabbit is "fading", which can takes years, he is prone to other things cropping up: abscesses on the body (feet and genitals); pneumonia; wry neck (dizziness and crooked posture) and other assorted ills.
There are any number of reasons why a rabbit sneezes, and while only one of them is from a bacterial invasion causing a respiratory response, one has no way of knowing by looking at the rabbit. Finding out what is going on with your sneezing rabbit takes a LONG time. Sneezing spreads large colonies of P. Multocida, as well as Bordatella, another culprit in Snuffles. If you have other rabbits, it is a good idea to quarantine your sneezer and take precautions to lessen the chance of infecting another rabbit.
Snuffles takes a long time to fully develop. In the meantime you have fleeting sneezing/discharge symptoms that crop up when stress occurs. Stress can be excess fright, excess heat, excess cold, excess wind, and excess ammonia from urine, breeding and lactation. These symptoms do NOT have to develop into Snuffles IF, and this is a big if, your rabbit possesses a strong immune system, and you work quickly to make him more comfortable and calm.
The first time you see any sneezing/nose dripping/eyes watering you should IMMEDATELY (and not tomorrow):
1. Separate bunny from the others. 20 feet minimum. There is some evidence that 10 feet is enough.
2. Bleach all cages and food/water bowls within 10 feet of where bunny was.
3. Set up a separate food source for bunny's feed. Feed the sneezer LAST and change your clothes/wash your hands before you visit another rabbit. Never feed your other rabbits from this food source.
4. Put water soluble Terramycin 343 in his drinking water. This needs to be mixed fresh daily and used for at least 2 weeks, or a full 7 days past any sneezing. If this is not available, use VetRx for Rabbits (herbal mixture that is FABULOUS for stress). I sell it here at Countrywool
5. Consider using ophthalmic eye ointments for drippy/runny eyes. Two that I keep on hand are Chloramphenicol and Erythromycin. Use one as prescribed by your vet for 2 days, and if the eye does not clear, use the other one.
6. For the full-bombing treatment of suspected bacteria, Enrofloxacin injectible (Baytril), used twice/day for 4 days, will divert the bacteria. Dosages are outlined in RABBIT PRODUCTION by McNitt, Patton, Lukefahr and Cheeke, or check with your vet.
I give each potentially breedable rabbit one chance to get over a sneezing attack. If it goes away with minimal fuss (VetRx in the water and more attention to a calm environment) and stays away for a full 12 months, then the rabbit has, in all probability, a good immune system that is taking care of little negative bacterial invaders well. After all, anyone can sneeze from dust and allergies, and sometimes it takes bacteria triggering the immune system for the body to resist the bacteria, with a week of sneezing as it copes. But, rabbits that need this kind of treatment to STAY symptom free should never, and I repeat, never, be bred. You are diluting the possibility of a healthy and strong immune system for future generations.
So, new rabbits get quarantined for a full 6 weeks before they are mingled with your herd. Rabbits to be considered for breeding should be observed for a full 12 months, through a year of changing seasons and conditions, to see how their immune system is coping. Rabbits that show signs of developing Snuffles should be considered pet quality and kept away from other rabbits and breeding stock. But, after all is said and done, I have known pet rabbits with Snuffles who lived until the age of 6 when kept inside and treated carefully when a "cold" surfaced. So, single bunny pet owners can offer a fine life to a Snuffly bunny.
Posted by countrywool
at 2:58 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 16 July 2004 5:55 AM EDT