rabbit, sneezing, upper respiratory tract infection


Posted by Daniel on 23 September 2022

How to Manage Pasteurellosis in rabbits

Pasteurellosis is a common disease in many domestic animals including rabbits. It can appear to be a respiratory disease, inflammation, and many other conditions. 

This can give you concern, especially if your bunny happens to be showing signs of it. Understanding what pasteurellosis is all about is an important step in helping your affected rabbit get better. 

Hence, in this article, we'll be looking at this disease in rabbits, its symptoms, effects, and how to manage it more effectively. 

Keep reading below… 


rabbit, sick, pneumonia in rabbits

What Causes Pasteurellosis in a Rabbit

Pasteurellosis affects both wild and pet rabbits. And the pathogen behind this disease is known as “Pasteurella multocida” (a gram-negative bacteria). It’s among the many species under the Pasteurella genus. Unlike other species, P. multocida brings about various diseases. 

So, it’s not just one way your rabbits can be infected but different ways. What's more, this pathogen can spread from one area of the body to other parts through the blood.

How Do Rabbits Get the Pasteurella Multocida Bacteria? 

Rabbits can have Pasteurella in their bodies naturally. Moreover, they can also contact it. These bacteria normally stay in the mouth and respiratory tract of the rabbit. And it can remain there for as long as possible without causing any harm. 

Reports from several studies revealed that if a test is conducted on a group of bunnies, about 20-60 % will carry the Pasteurella bacteria without signs of any infections. So this means that the outcome of this disease relies on something more than the pathogen itself.

On one hand, some infected rabbits can suffer a wild range of health issues caused by the P. multocida pathogen. On the other hand, some rabbits have strong immunities that control or get rid of the bacteria. This way, it doesn’t lead to diseases. 

All rabbits aren't the same and you can't assume your pet has strong immunity to fight the bacteria. Pasteurella infections come with different symptoms, which will be discussed next. 

bacteria, pathogen, infectious pneumonia in rabbits

Symptoms of Pasteurellosis

Rabbits affected by the P. multocida bacteria will show some common clinical signs. Here are the symptoms that indicate the presence of this pathogen in a rabbit. 

  • Watery Eyes

  • Running Nose

  • Sneezing

  • Matted Fur

  • Tilting of head

  • Sores on the Skin

rabbit, sneezing, upper respiratory tract infection

Health Issues Caused By Pasteurella Multocida

Certain health conditions can result from the Pasteurella multocida infection in rabbits. See the below:

Upper respiratory Tract infections

This a very common way Pasteurella can affect your rabbits. This bacteria can affect your rabbit’s respiratory tract which consists of the nasal cavity, mouth, larynx, pharynx, and sinuses.

As a result, rabbits can suffer an upper respiratory disease depending on the affected area. These kinds of diesases include:

  • Rhinitis - Inflammation of the nasal cavity

  • Sinusitis - Inflammation of the sinus cavity

In addition, this upper respiratory infection is also called “snuffles” and it comes with various clinical symptoms. A common one is sneezing. 

In addition to this, you might notice nasal discharges from the rabbit's nasal cavity. They appear milky in color. Moreover, this nasal discharge can be uniformly thick or thin with the presence of lumps of white materials.

rabbit, nasal discharge, lung infection

Eye Infections: Conjunctivitis and Dacryocystitis

An affected rabbit can also experience an eye infection, which normally accompanies an upper respiratory disease. One of them is conjunctivitis where the rabbit's eyes look pink and inflamed. 

Another eye condition is known as dacryocystitis. Here, a rabbit suffers inflammation of the tear sacs, which results from a blocked tear duct. This issue can be painful with clinical signs like watery eyes and eye redness.

Ear Infection (Otitis Media)

Pasteurella multocida can easily get to a rabbit’s middle ear through the nasal passages. And when this happens, it can result in a disease known as otitis media. 

If your pet bunny is scratching the base of its ear, this is a clinical sign that it’s already experiencing this disease. When pus build-ups in the infected part, it can further create vestibular diseases. 

And the common signs of this disease are tilting of the head and uncontrolled movements of the eyes. Furthermore, this middle ear infection can cause a lack of muscle control and coordination. This condition can affect the movement and balance of your pet rabbit.

Rabbit eye infection, discharge

Pneumonia and Lower Respiratory Infections

This is another respiratory disease that’s associated with Pasteurella multocida infection. But this time, it’s the lower respiratory tract that’s affected. 

Parts of the lower respiratory tract of a rabbit include the lungs, trachea, and bronchi. And when they're affected, they can eventually cause pneumonia in rabbits. 

Affected rabbits can also experience coughing and difficulty breathing. And in most cases, mouth breathing may occur. Mouth breathing isn’t a good condition for rabbits as healthy bunnies only breathe through their noses. 

Lowers respiratory infections lower the amount of oxygen a rabbit receives. As a result, the affected rabbit can become weak and reluctant to move around.

What’s more, a lower respiratory disease is very critical. It can send your pet to the vet immediately. 

bandage, first-aid, medical treatment for rabbits


This condition is also caused by the Pasteurella multocida infection and it can be pretty difficult to treat. An abscess is an inflamed area that surrounds a cluster of pus. 

It forms anywhere on a rabbit’s body. What’s more, it can form inside their bodies too. As Pasteurella is mostly found in the nasal cavity, it can easily get into your rabbit wounds when they lick and groom themselves. 

If this happens, abscesses may occur on the infected wounds. This is how abscess mostly forms on a rabbit's body.

Genital Infections

Pasteurella can cause infections in the genital areas of rabbits. Male rabbits, they’ll experience inflammations in one or both testicles (orchitis). This disease can be painful and your male bunny can become sterile.

On the other hand, the uterus of females gets infected. This disease is known as pyometra and can also make them barren. Hence, if you need your rabbit to produce young ones, this condition is something you have to take seriously. Visit the vet immediately for the necessary treatment.

domestic rabbits, relaxing

Ways To Manage Pasteurellosis in House Rabbits Effectively 

Eliminating Stressors

Stress is a major trigger of these bacteria in rabbits. And you don’t want these bacteria to cause health issues for your pets. So you must try to keep stressors far from your pet rabbits. 

Rabbits shouldn’t experience heat as it can stress them. These creatures even tolerate cold environments much better. Bunnies are social pets and love company. 

So keeping them alone can stress them. Make sure you get a cage mate for your rabbit. However, you should never allow their cage to be overcrowded. 

It stresses them too! Getting them cage mates doesn’t mean including lots of rabbits in a cage. Above all, the goal is to make your pet happy and comfortable.

rabbit, field, run, scared rabbit, stressed rabbit

Improving Your Rabbit's Nutrition

A proper diet helps optimize your rabbit’s health to battle pathogens in its body. And Pasterulla isn’t an exception here. 

We’ve seen in this article that most rabbits have stronger immunity that helps them control the Pasterulla in their bodies than others. Now that you know this, you need to make sure your pet is eating right. 

Hence, you need to offer your bunny steady hay and grass every day. Moreover, include moderate amounts of pellets, fruits, and veggies. Most importantly, you should always give them fresh water. 

Feeding your rabbits will help strengthen their immunity against the Pasteurella pathogen. Poor nutrition will do the opposite. 

rabbit, healthy eating, healthy breathing

Proper Hygiene and Sanitation

A clean environment is necessary to keep your pet comfortable and healthy. Take your time to create a good living environment for your rabbit. 

Clean their cages regularly and most importantly, keep the water clean at all times. This is basic care and it's very important if you want to prevent Pasteurella multocida from making your bunny sick.

Isolating Affected Rabbits

Since Pasteurella multocida is transmittable, you should isolate affected rabbits from the healthy ones. This is important to keep other rabbits safe while trying to treat the affected ones. 

Moreover, if you have other pet animals in the house like dogs or cats, you should keep them away from rabbits affected by Pasteurella. Doing this is necessary so you don’t add more to your problems.

antibiotic treatment, bacteria, antibiotics injection

Diagnosis and Treatment (concurrent Medical Issues)

Most times clinical signs aren’t enough to prove your rabbit is suffering from a Pasteurella infection. Pasteurellosis comprises health conditions that have similar symptoms to many common diseases. 

So the best way is to visit a vet for a thorough checkup and tests. A culture and sensitivity test is a common one. However, a vet can also run a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, which is more effective. 

Through these tests, a vet can confirm if the disease your bunny is experiencing is caused by Pasteurella multocida or not. And this is pretty helpful so you know what exactly you’re treating and the best treatments for it.

Antibiotics can come in handy in treating infections associated with Pasteurella multocida. Some of the effective ones include:

  • Enrofloxacin

  • Chloramphenicol

  • Trimethoprim

  • Penicillin G

  • Azithromycin

  • Trimethoprim sulfa

vitamins, antibiotics, parsley

Related Questions:

Can I Get Pasteuralla From My Pet Rabbit?

Pasteurella in Rabbit is contagious to Humans. This equally means you can get it from your pet rabbit, especially when s/he is already showing symptoms of the infection. 

A rabbit carrying Pasteurella can transmit it to you mostly through direct contact with its nasal discharges. Moreover, this pathogen is transmittable through the air. 

When your rabbit sneezes, the pathogens are released into the air. And you can contact them when you breathe, especially during inhalation.

Can a Rabbit Survive Pasteurellosis without Treatment?

It depends on the strain of Pasteurella multocida. Not all strains of P. multocida have serious consequences If it’s mild and the rabbit has strong immunity, there’s every possibility for the rabbit to get better without any treatment. 

However, the rabbit will become a carrier and the bacteria will live in them. Moreover, this shouldn’t be a concern. Rabbits with visible symptoms of it can live till old age

house rabbit, pneumonia in rabbits prevention

In Summary:

Pasteurellosis is a very common issue in rabbits. Rabbits normally carry the pathogen behind this health issue – P. multocida. Moreover, this is an easily transmittable pathogen. 

However, the health issues associated with Pasteurella can come with many clinical signs. And the earlier you spot the signs of the infection, the easier it is to treat it. A chronic condition might be difficult to treat.

As a conscious bunny parent, you can reduce the chances of Pasteurella making your pet sick. Mae sure your rabbit is happy and living without stress. Feed your bunny properly and make sure it stays in a clean environment. 

Above all, do not hesitate to take your pet to the vet if it experiences health issues likely caused by the Pasteurella pathogen.

Visit our FacebookVisit our Instagram
Copyright © Rabbit Advisor 2023
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram