4 Things Rabbit Owners Need To Know About Pneumonia

Posted on: 16 October 2015


Pneumonia is a life-threatening lung infection that, unfortunately, is common in pet rabbits. Here are four things you need to know about pneumonia.

What causes pneumonia?

The most common cause of pneumonia is pasteurella bacteria. Other types of bacteria can also lead to pneumonia, but this is less likely.

Pasteurella is a very contagious bacteria that can lead to respiratory problems in rabbits. The early stages of pasteurella infection are known as snuffles and involve cold-like symptoms such as sneezing and sniffling. If snuffles isn't treated, the bacteria can move deeper into your rabbit's lungs where they will cause pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of pneumonia?

Pneumonia leads to inflammation of the lungs, so rabbits with this infection will have difficulty breathing. You may also see discharge around your pet's nose. Your pet's tongue and lips may become blue due to not being able to take in enough oxygen.

You may also notice that your rabbit is acting strangely. Rabbits with pneumonia tend to sit upright with their heads tilted back; this is not a normal sitting position. Your rabbit may also become lethargic and spend much of its time lying down instead of playing or eating like it normally does.

Rabbits with pneumonia will usually die within a week of developing symptoms, so don't delay taking your pet to the vet. Early treatment can make the different between life and death.

Can it be treated?

Pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. This treatment tends to fail because people often don't notice that their rabbit has pneumonia until it's too late. If you get your rabbit to the vet in the early stages of the infection, your pet's chances of survival are better.

Your rabbit may need supportive treatments like oxygen therapy or intravenous fluids to keep them comfortable while the antibiotics work. Prepare yourself for the possibility that your rabbit will need to stay at the vet's office instead of coming right home after their appointment.

Once your rabbit is healthy enough to go home, you'll need to watch them closely to make sure they keep recovering. If your rabbit isn't eating, your vet may tell you to hand feed them as going without food for too long can hurt a rabbit's digestive system.

Can it be prevented?

You can prevent pneumonia by seeking prompt treatment for milder respiratory conditions, like snuffles. If your rabbit is sneezing, get them treatment instead of assuming it's nothing serious and waiting for them to get better.

If you think your rabbit has pneumonia, see a vet (like those at Animal Emergency Clinic) immediately.