What you love about him is his little nose that constantly wiggles, oscillates up and down to sniff the air and be systematically alert. With rabbits, everything goes a bit through their nose, as if everything went through their mouths for dogs, eyes for cats or hands for us. Although cute, the rabbit’s nose is a very fragile part, sensitive to external aggressions, a place conducive to the development of rhinitis (the rabbit’s cold), discharges and sneezing which are not so harmless.
Why is the rabbit’s nose so fragile?
Behind its small nostrils, surrounded by nasal wings conjoined with the upper lips, hides a complex and narrow system, through which the air circulates. Nasal breathing is mandatory in rabbits, it cannot be done through the mouth. It is for this reason that the rabbit’s nasal cavities are very sensitive and highly exposed to all dust, contaminants, viruses… When your rabbit sneezes too frequently or has a liquid, continuous nasal discharge, which sticks its hair around the nostrils , this is the sign of an irritation of his nasal cavities which evolves very quickly into inflammation.
We will then speak of coryza, nasopharyngitis or cold to describe these symptoms. If a consultation is not carried out at this stage to determine the origins, complications arise quickly: thick, purulent discharge, this is then a sign of illness with sometimes complex origins.
The quality of the environment is paramount
As soon as the first signs of a runny nose appear, remember to check the exposure factors to which your rabbit is subjected: air that is too dry, too humid or too hot (> 25°C), surrounding dust, particles which may emanate from dirty or perfumed or resinous litter, interior perfumes, drafts, cigarette smoke, volatile household products. A trifle can irritate his nasal mucous membranes and trigger inflammation. Allergy or the poor quality of its environment are the first factors of rhinitis in rabbits. At this stage, by quickly intervening in the environment and administering an anti-inflammatory treatment adapted to rabbits, its respiratory comfort will quickly be regained.
Coryza, a serious infectious complication
When your rabbit has recurrences or the treatment of inflammatory, allergic or environmental rhinitis comes a little too late, we can then suspect a secondary bacterial infection, such as coryza, which takes advantage of this fragility to develop. The bacteria that are most often identified and responsible for a muco-purulent, thick, slightly yellow discharge are Pasteurella, Bordetella, Staphylococci and Pseudomonas. Your rabbit will then have serious difficulty breathing, a whistle may be heard and pulmonary aggravation may set in very quickly due to the very low lung volume and the narrowness of its airways.
If these symptoms evolve, difficulty eating, a weakening of his general condition will alter his immune defenses causing bronchopneumonia. Hospitalization is often required, with chest X-rays to assess the level of severity of the disease, antibiotic treatments, nebulizations to help the rabbit breathe and sometimes therapeutic laser sessions on the sinuses and nasal cavities.
A runny nose: a sign of another problem?
A peculiarity in rabbits is the often abnormal positioning of their teeth, sometimes of congenital origin as in dwarf breeds or the Aries rabbit, often due to lack of food wear or trauma and further complicated by the continuous growth which deforms the tooth if it does not find enough space in the oral cavity. A dental infection can then result in discharge that evacuates directly into the nasal cavity, infecting the respiratory tract of your rabbit as a second intention. Good dental and food hygiene is therefore essential. Dental malocclusions are to be taken seriously, treated in time, they will avoid these frequent complications. Spikelet season is not without remains, since it is also possible to find these twigs of hay in the nostrils of your rabbit. Not easy to detect, it is often after multiple recurrences of rhinitis, unresponsive to any treatment, that a foreign body is suspected. To remove it, deep sedation is essential, the rabbit’s nose being so narrow and so reactive, that it is unthinkable to do otherwise to place an endoscope there and remove it without risk. Sometimes these spikelets that lodge deep in the tissues gradually destroy the nasal and bony structures, the intervention becomes more difficult.