Tag Archives: snuffles

Blame it on the Wind

Someone please tell me they are also hearing Milli Vanilli singing in their brains after reading the post title? Please?! Just in case you missed the joys of being a 90s kid, here you go, in it’s full non-rabbit related splendor:




That’s good stuff, that.


Now, about the rabbits. Do you know what? My area has a “red flag warning” issued by the National Weather Service today, regular wind gusts of 40mph-50mph are expected with isolated gusts even higher!


Friends, that’s strong enough that our 3 year old could be knocked off his feet.


Maybe it’s a sad statement, but my immediate reaction to this news was to think of the rabbits in two major areas:

  1. Protection
  2. Sneezing


Protection. Wind is a more threatening weather condition than cold to a rabbit. Rabbits, with their nice warm coats of fur, can be extremely happy in below freezing weather. They thrive in brisk temperatures and breeders in very extreme cold climate report great success with their rabbits. Give them a bunch of hay or a box and they can withstand almost any temperatures (assuming they also have access to non-frozen water).


But the wind. Oh the wind.


There is something about wind that can take a rabbit’s life in an afternoon. I don’t fully understand it myself but I know it is true because of the experiences of multiple friends in our town. When the rabbits don’t have a wind break they can go fast.


Please, give your rabbits a wind break. A wind break that won’t go flying in the gusts! Our location has strong winds all spring and we’ve actually had to put several things in place to shelter the rabbits. One is the tall fence of our yard, another is a structure to block the wind, another is using the natural vegetation to block the wind. In areas that might still get wind we also put corrugated metal sheeting.


The tricky part is to block the wind while not removing the potential air flow that is also necessary for your rabbit’s health! Study where your wind typically hits and adjust on that side accordingly!


Sneezing. If you’ve been reading this blog for long you’ll know that we have a zero tolerance attitude toward rabbits with respiratory issues. If we suspect something is off we remove them from the herd. We practice quarantine religiously. We are those types of anal retentive people.


That being said, we occasionally have rabbits who sneeze. Our first spring having rabbits I heard a sneeze and that rabbit went directly to the cull block … where we found not a single thing awry with it upon autopsy. The second rabbit sneezed…. and we had a repeat, second verse, same as the first.


When the third rabbit sneezed my spouse (who tends to be pretty reasonable) said, “The last few days have been the windiest this year so far… and we have a dirt yard… and your own eyes are almost swollen shut with allergies… and I think we need to stop bopping them on the head only to discover they’re totally healthy. Animals sneeze. That’s life… not always a pure indication of illness!”


And he is right. Completely accurate. We need to be reasonable in our animal raising. If there is crazy wind and something sneezes, it’s absolutely possible they have dust in their nose and are trying to clear the way they’ve been designed to clear dust: by sneezing it out. If a rabbit sneezes after drinking water, it’s absolutely logical that it has water up its nose and it’s using its natural defense structure against drowning correctly: by sneezing it out.


It’s absolutely wise to isolate a rabbit that’s sneezing and observe it. If it’s just wind then the sneezing will subside. If the rabbit is unhealthy, it will become evident within a few days. Don’t be hasty.


It is right to be vigilant about the health of your herd, but also remember to be reasonable. It’s an Occam’s Razor idea: “Among competing hypothesis, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected” or — in other words — don’t bop the bunny on a windy day!






Diagnosing Snuffles

Pan American Vet Labs has announced they will offer a service to diagnose pastuerella.

Pan American Vet Labs has announced they will offer a service to diagnose pastuerella.

If you’ve been reading here for awhile you’ve probably figured out I have a bit of a personal problem. I get very nervous about germs.


On a human stand point this means that I groan internally every time I use a public bathroom, get totally freaked out if someone offers to let me drink after them, and one of my “must haves” on a husband list was that the poor man had never had cold sores. Yep. I was in to the important stuff.


From the rabbit side my germophobia has caused several arguments with my husband about proper rabbitry ventilation and sun exposure, two separate quarantine areas, and a slightly neurotic fear of any rabbit that sneezes. That fear of sneezing is also a fear of snuffles, and my desire to just plain not have to worry about it brought us to a decision to vaccinate every show rabbit we have with BunnyVac before we ever put it on a table.


Awhile ago we were at a show and happened to be set up next to some rabbits that sneezed. At the first sneeze I was completely alert and aware of everything those rabbits did. I calculated the four foot radius around their carriers and breathed a sigh of relief when I realized my rabbits were far enough away that those rabbits would have to be expectorating ninjas to infect my rabbits with anything. Then I settled down and watched.


The rabbits in question were consistently sneezing. I even saw snot from them on occasion as I observed. However, their eyes were bright, they ate food from their dishes, they drank water, their ears were perky… they didn’t seem sick. They just sneezed.


This is a problem. I live in a world where I like things to be black and white and a sneezing rabbit needs to be clear to me that it has pastuerella or snuffles. After hours of observation of those rabbits across the way, to this day I still can’t be sure what I was observing. Sure, a sneeze is suspicious but in the spring time with things blooming coupled with the 50 mph wind gusts in our area… how can you know for sure what that sneeze means?


I’ve discovered another tool in the tool box of diagnosis. Pan American Vet Labs in Texas, the same company that produces the BunnyVac, has recently made a diagnostic option available to the general rabbit breeder.


The bacteriologic culture service toolkit contains a snot extractor (that’s my non-official name for the instrument that snatches the boogers out of the rabbit’s nose) and mailing supplies. Breeder supplies postage. As I understand it, if you have a rabbit that is looking suspicious, you can grab a mucous sample from the nose or an abscess using the “sterile culturette swab,” put it in their media kit, and mail it off. (Samples should be shipped within 12 hours of collection by a service like FedEx or Priority Mail that can deliver to the lab within 72 hours.)


PavLab will test the sample for pastuerella, bordetella, staphylococcus, and streptococcus. Additional identification is possible for E.Coli, pseudomonas, proteus, and similar enteric bacteria may also be done. Generally they have about a 48 hour turn around before you get an email identifying exactly what’s going on with your rabbit, giving you the clarity that I (and the other type-A germophobes in this world) may desire.


It’s not exactly cheap – the toolkit costs $4 per culturette (plus shipping which is about $7 in the US). The culturettes have a year or two shelf life, so you can keep the swabs on hand until needed. At the time the culture is sent off there will be an additional $30 charge to run the diagnostic test to culture and identify bacteria.


For what it’s worth, Pan American Vet Labs is not the only place you can get this service, but it seems to be the cheapest. Here is information complied by Kelly P. on the facebook forum that discusses other options:


I spoke to several labs around the USA regarding culturette testing for p. multocida and bordetella. I live in California, so most of the labs were here in my area. I also limited my research to labs that accept culturettes and excluded labs that require a serum specimen, since most rabbit breeders don’t have the means to extract serum from whole blood. Here’s what I found:

•UC Davis, Ca
oUC Davis’ PCR lab doesn’t test for p. multocida, but does test for bordetella. Since I am interested in both, I didn’t ask their pricing. The other labs on campus only deal with large animals. The direct phone number for the PCR lab is 530-752-7991. If you’re interested in checking out their website for these tests and others, go here: http://www.cahfs.ucdavis.edu/lab_tests/
• Zoologix, Inc in Chatsworth, Ca
oTests for both p. multocida and bordetella, uses culturette swabs, but each test costs $85 (that’s $85 for p. multi and $85 for bordetella). Their phone number is 818-717-8880 and their website is http://www.zoologix.com/rodent/Menu.htm 
•Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL)
oTVMD tests for both, uses a culturette, and charges about $30 per animal (pricing varies whether you live in Texas or are out-of-state). I spoke with Dr. Naikari who works in the Amarillo lab. He was very polite, professional, and happy to answer questions and explain procedures. The number to the Amarillo lab is 888-646-5624 and the web address is http://tvmdl.tamu.edu/ 

It was a little difficult to obtain the bacterial transfer media. I discovered they’re sold on the Internet, but only in bulk quantities much greater than I’ll need before they expire. I called a local hospital, a (human) medical supply company, and several pharmacies. None were willing to sell me less than a case. I also called about five vets before finding one that was willing to sell me a handful of them. If you’re unable to obtain these locally, along with the appropriate shipping material, you can order them from TVMDL.

When you purchase the culturettes, be sure to get the kind with the suspension in them (bacterial transport media). According to Dr. Naikari, the suspension helps preserve the bacteria and also keeps it from drying out. I found culturettes on the Internet that are “dry” and won’t work if you plan on shipping to a lab. TVMDL’s website has a very informative page on all the rules and procedures for shipping lab samples. It can be found here: http://tvmdl.tamu.edu/products-services/shipping/



In the end, at approximately $1/rabbit/year it’s still cheaper to vaccinate your whole herd than test individually for sickness, as it will likely be about $50/rabbit to run a diagnostic test. But for those who have that special rabbit and need to know whether to cull or treat, or whether it’s allergies or pastuerella, it’s really nice to know this is an option!


I haven’t used this myself, so I can’t speak for this service personally. However, I do appreciate knowing what options exist. I’m certain if you have any questions you can contact Bob Glass, bglass@pavlab.com and he will respond to your specific concerns.


Bunny Vac

We vaccinated everyone today using Bunny Vac.

We vaccinated everyone today using Bunny Vac.

Today, after a lot of thought, we vaccinated our herd against pasteurella using the Bunny Vac from PanAm Labs. (Here’s a Q&A with Bob Glass describing how the vaccination works.)


I’m a little nervous about this, because we are inherently against using any non-organic substance with our rabbits. However, we discovered we really like to show our rabbits and we’ve invested a bit into getting great quality show animals. The risk of having a chance sneeze from another bunny undo the work we’ve been doing just isn’t worth it.


Plus, every time I hear a sneeze my heart stops in my chest. To be fair, we’ve been experiencing 35 mph -50 mph winds around here and you can see the dust in the air everywhere… but I keep thinking, what if that simple sneeze is the start of what can wipe us out?!


I’ve been inspecting our rabbits noses for about a month now, getting right up close and into their personal space as I try to peer into their nostrils. My husband finally told me I had to stop freaking the rabbits out like that or I couldn’t go into the rabbitry. Ha!


So today we vaccinated everyone except those who are midway through pregnancy or slated to be dispatched in the next few weeks. Tomorrow we go to a show and hope to be competitive with our newly strengthened herd.


I’ll be sure to keep you posted about our experiences with the Bunny Vac. So far, the vaccination of the herd was time consuming but painless.

Snuffles, the Rabbit Boogie Man

For the past two months I’ve had an over-riding fear in my gut about our rabbitry. I’ve been gobbling up knowledge on the Facebook rabbit groups, researching, and gaining information from my friends… I’ve been on high alert and on edge, ready to jump at the first sneeze from one of our rabbits.

Snuffles. What on earth is Snuffles and why is it so awful?!

Snuffles is a term for a rabbit virus called Pasteurellosis. It’s associated with colored snot and is the herald of death for a rabbit.

I recently learned that another rabbitry blog I follow is in the midst of a Pasteurellosis outbreak and has lost 75% of the rabbits in only days. He linked to a thread on RabbitTalk that covers how another rabbitry lost every rabbit in their herd over the course of three months after picking up one unknown bunny from the feed store and bringing it home. On one of my Facebook threads I’ve learned that rabbits brought to a national-level show were infected with the virus and sneezing. The rabbits exposed to those have returned to their homes all over the country and come down with snotting and sickness.

This stuff is serious. That’s Serious with a Capitol “S”.

My friend Lisa put together a great description of Snuffles and how and why it is so deadly to a rabbit. She said I could quote her here, so I will!

“Pasteurellosis is like an untreatable plague that can be prevented through culling and quarantine but it cannot be defeated or treated. All rabbits are carriers, normally. They show no symptoms because their body has kept the virus in check.

But a virus overload can happen when they are around other rabbits sick with snuffles because the virus overloads their system to the point where they can’t fight it … it’s like the parasite load gets to be too much and kills its host.

Think of it like an airborne bunny HIV or AIDs – it weakens the immune system to the point that any other virus that comes along – boom! – they’re dead. And because it’s so contagious you will definitely lose your herd if you don’t cull at the first sign of snot. Think of it like a smoker that constantly coughs and can’t breathe – the virus makes it so that the cilia that line their lungs become so damaged that little particles of dust, etc. can get lodged and cause major damage.

Rabbits have never shown a resistance to pasteurellosis so it doesn’t make sense to let snuffles “run its course” in hope of creating a rabbit with immunity. It’s in an area of the nose that doesn’t have much access to blood so it will propagate and continue to develop and be released into the blood stream.”

What makes this harder to get a handle on is that the Pasteurellosis infection is carried in pretty much all rabbits and is seen in practically all large-scale rabbitries and most of the smaller ones. It’s present in laboratories and wherever rabbits tend to congregate.

Here are a few things researchers have discovered about Pasteurella:

  • Snuffles does not usually occur in very young animals whose sinuses have not yet developed.
  • Snuffles is seen more in closed sheds than in hutches in the open air.
  • Affected rabbits sneeze and cough. Their front paws become matted from wiping their noses.
  • Snuffles will become apparent at times of stress such as travel, cage change, pregnancy, etc.
  • The most common cause of death for a rabbit with Snuffles is actually pneumonia.
  • Snuffles is extremely contagious and can be transferred via sneezes, on cage equipment, or even on food dishes, water bottles, or the clothing of the herd caretakers.
  • Traditionally a terminal cull is the only option to stop an outbreak.

There is a treatment for rabbits, Baytril, which can mask the symptoms of Snuffles for awhile in a rabbit, but it looks like two injections a day and a price tag of approximately $75/month. It’s only available with a prescription and only recommended for pet homes where no one will be coming in contact with other rabbits.

A brand-new option is the Bunny Vac. I actually have ours on order and will vaccinate as soon as it comes. We are against putting medicines into our rabbits, but after weighing the options and our desire to take our rabbits to shows, it makes sense to vaccinate our herd. The BunnyVac works to boost the rabbit’s natural immunity and give the rabbits more time to build up their antibodies so they can fight the infection themselves. It’s rather groundbreaking and we hope that it works as promised – clinical trials have had 100% effectiveness in rabbits exposed to Pasteurella not succumbing shortly after. Here is a video with more information and here is a fact sheet put together off of a discussion on the ARBA Facebook page.

Here is a link to an article talking about different rabbit respiratory diseases. Not every sneeze and snot is Pasteurella – but really nothing that is a sneeze or a snot is good news for your rabbit.

A few things you can do to avoid a Snuffles outbreak in your herd:

  • Keep your rabbitry clean. A build up of ammonia from urine and feces can and will irritate your rabbit’s lungs, making them vulnerable to Pasteurelliosis.
  • Quarantine any new rabbits. Keep new rabbits separated from your main herd for a minimum of six weeks (this gives the virus time to make itself known if it is present). Rabbits should be a minimum of three feet from any other rabbits, have a barrier put up between cages (as simple as a feed bag), and be fed and watered with different utensils than the regular herd.
  • Close your rabbitry. Do not allow any people, other rabbits, or possible contaminates into your rabbitry. Do not offer stud service. Produce your own stock or only acquire stock from rabbitries you know breed healthy rabbits with strong immune systems.
  • Terminally cull any rabbit who sneezes colored snot. There is a chance they could be reacting to an allergen or have something stuck in their nose. If you think this is a possibility, isolate the rabbit that sneezed, remove the possible allergens from its environment, and watch it for a minimum of six weeks. If it snots in the meantime, do not give it the benefit of the doubt.

These are pretty hard bits of advice, but this is a harsh disease that can wipe out a herd in a matter of weeks. Sacrificing one rabbit with quick action has the potential to save many other rabbits for the long term.

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