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Upper Respiratory Infections and Eye Infections

Upper Respiratory Infection

Upper respiratory infections (U.R.I.s) are quite common in pet rabbits. One of the most common seen is caused by the germ Pastuerella. However, all U.R.I.s cause the same symptoms.

Symptoms: They can cause nasal discharge, frequent sneezing and, in severe cases, difficulty breathing. If you see any symptoms, get your rabbit to a qualified veterinarian as soon as possible. You may notice nasal discharge(it can be white, gray, green or yellow), eye discharge or sticky patches on their front feet where they tried to wipe it off. If the rabbit has stopped eating, it is an emergency. Unfortunately, Pastuerella  and other U.R.I.s can be difficult to cure. Some rabbits end up having light symptoms for life or they may have recurring bouts of U.R.I.s.

What your vet will do: They will take the bunny's temperature to check for fever. Your vet may want to do a culture. This is important as it tells them what bacteria is causing the infection and what antibiotics should be used to treat them. If they think the lungs are involved, they may suggest a chest x-ray.

Treatment: Usually, a vet will start them on oral antibiotics right away. Early intervention and longer treatments give you a better chance of curing the infection. Do not give a rabbit another animal's antibiotics, they can die very quickly if given a dog's medicine. Antibiotics such as Clindamycin, oral Penicillin or Amoxicillin can kill them in hours by stripping their G.I. tract of all necessary bacteria. This alone is one major reason to seek a qualified vet. The good news is that unlike guinea pigs and other small animals, rabbits are less prone to pneumonia. There are many safe medications that can be given to rabbits, such as Bactrim or Baytril. They can even have injectable penicillin, but it must be given by someone qualified to prevent accidental ingestion. For severe or chronic cases, a nebulizer may also be used.

Vet costs. Having a pet rabbit is equally as expensive as a cat or dog. A vet visit for U.R.I. in the Midwest will run around $50. Meds can be anywhere from $10-$100. X-rays may need to be done if the vet feels there is lung involvement, these typically run about $90 per view. Cultures are over $100, as is bloodwork.

Another good article on respiratory infections in rabbits can be found here:

Eye Issues

Rabbits can be prone t a variety of eye problems. Among the most common are infections, blocked tear ducts and entropion. They can get bacterial and fungal infections of their eyes. The latter can occur if too many antibiotics have been used for a long period of time.

Eye Infections can be caused by a number of things. They can have blocked tear ducts that cause the eye to become inflamed and infected. Vets can flush the ducts to clear the blockage and test for the blockages with dye.

Another common cause of eye infection is a corneal abrasion. It can be caused by something as simple as a piece of hay. It is very painful and your rabbit might stop eating. Sometimes that might be the only symptom. eventually, their eye will turn red and usually have some sort of drainage coming out of it. It is very important to get your rabbit to a vet any time they stop eating as sometimes it isn't as simple as gas, they may have eye, ear or dental pain that only a vet can find. A vet will stain their eye if they suspect an abrasion and prescribe an antibiotic drop or ointment to cure it, a recheck may be needed.

Peri-ocular infections can also occur if a bunny has an U.R.I. The tissue around the eye will become red and they will have discharge from the eye, often running down towards the nose. Infected Meibomian glands can also be a source of eye problems, basically styes on a bunny. Vet treatment is needed to prevent them from scratching the eye itself. Warm compresses and ointment may be needed, in bad cases, the boils may need to be lanced by the vet under sedation, do not attempt to break them yourself.

Entropion can occur in bunnies, much like it does in cats, dogs and people. Typically, it affects the lower lid, but can impact either. The lid turns in and the lashes can cause corneal abrasions. It can be caused by excess tissue that needs to be surgically removed or by scar tissue from previous infections. Both can be surgically fixed. Simple stitches to flip the lids out may sometimes be all that is needed. Bunnies can also be born with the problem or develop it shortly after birth due to unclean living conditions.

Worst Case Scenario: Enucleation. Sometimes an infection spread too far and an eye becomes ulcerated beyond repair. When the infection is this bad, eye enucleation is the best course of treatment. It saves the rabbit's life and stops their pain. It means removal of the entire eyeball(globe). It is the last resort and life-saving for the rabbit.

Treatments: Eye infections and other conditions can require many different treatments, including ointments, drops, oral antibiotics and potentially surgery.

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