What is Nasal Duct Blockage?
A blockage of the nasolacrimal duct is often a sign of another underlying condition in your rabbit, such as rhinitis, infections, dental issues, abscesses, or even in very rare cases, cancer. Often, treatment of the underlying problem will solve the issue, with some animals requiring lifelong care.
The nasal duct, or the nasolacrimal duct, runs from the corner of the eye to the sinus cavity. A blockage in this duct will produce signs like runny eyes or nose, wet areas of the skin, and eye and nose discharge.
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Symptoms of Nasal Duct Blockage in Rabbits
Symptoms of a nasolacrimal duct obstruction include:
- Excessive tearing, or epiphora
- Wet fur around eye, face and front feet
- Dried crusts from tears on face
- Fur loss
- Inflamed and painful areas of skin
- Bacterial infections on skin
- Tear staining of hair and skin
- Nasal discharge
- Creamy ocular discharge
- Constant sneezing
Causes of Nasal Duct Blockage in Rabbits
Causes of a nasal duct obstruction include:
- Abnormal growth of molars and incisors
- Dental infections and abscesses
- Injuries to face or eye
- Trauma from medical procedures, such as facial surgery
- Dacryocystitis, or an infection in the nasolacrimal canal
- Cellular debris in the canal
- Impaired lacrimal pump function
- Congenital malformations
- Age related bone loss
- Cancer or abscesses in the duct
- Upper respiratory infections
- Chronic rhinitis
Diagnosis of Nasal Duct Blockage in Rabbits
Once you notice the signs of a blocked nasal duct in your rabbit, schedule an appointment for a complete examination, including an oral exam. Be sure to have a description of your rabbit’s food and general environment to help diagnose issues of allergies or infections. Also, let your veterinarian know the history of your rabbit’s condition, whether it has been a chronic issue, or has arisen recently, perhaps after a trauma or medical treatment. Note any changes in your rabbit’s eating habits or behavior.
Your veterinarian may use many techniques to discern the true cause of the blockage, including X-rays of the skull and jaw, ultrasound, endoscopy, CT scan, and biopsy. Cultures may be taken to determine if a bacterial infection is present, or for any growths or tumors that may be found. Dacryocystorhinography, or an X-ray aided with a liquid injection into the duct, may help to pinpoint a physical obstruction inside the canal.
Treatment of Nasal Duct Blockage in Rabbits
True Blockage and Dacryocystitis
Generally, treatment for a true blockage include antibiotics and a nasal duct flush, also called a nasolacrimal cannulation. Since the flush uses a metal or plastic catheter, there is a small risk of damage to the duct itself. Once the catheter is placed in the duct, a saline solution is gently flushed through the duct. Usually the flushed liquid contains pus, skin cells, grit and other debris. The flush may need to be performed several times to fully clear the blockage. Physical pressure may be needed in tougher blockages, but does run the risk of a duct rupture. Antibiotics will be added to the saline in cases of dacryocystitis, and other infections. This will typically take care of a cellular debris blockage. There may be a fluid swelling from the flushing which usually dissipates without further problems. If the duct becomes permanently obstructed due to scar tissue, which can be a side effect of the flushing, it may result in lifelong epiphora, and treatment will be prescribed accordingly.
If the cause is determined to be conjunctivitis, antibiotic eye drops and corticosteroids will be prescribed. A tear duct flush may also be administered, but it is much more difficult with this condition. Conjunctivitis is transmitted through direct contact from another infected rabbit, so be sure any other rabbits in the same environment are checked, and the bedding is replaced.
If chronic rhinitis is to blame for the condition, it may require antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and even antihistamines, as well as a canal flush. Report your rabbit’s diet, and any environment factors, such as dust from hay or litter. Since rhinitis can be caused by trauma, cancer, bacterial disease or too many foreign bodies inhaled through the nose, your veterinarian will take appropriate measures to treat the underlying problem.
If there is a dental issue involved in the cause, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antibiotic drugs can be prescribed, and depending on the severity, surgery may be required for abnormal root growth. A bone abnormality may cause a permanent block. Generally, the diet is examined, and may be changed to prevent reoccurrence.
Recovery of Nasal Duct Blockage in Rabbits
After a flushing procedure, topical pain relievers, such as NSAIDS, may be prescribed as eye drops. Depending on the underlying cause, your rabbit’s diet and environment may be adjusted. Practicing good grooming habits in cases of lifelong issues will be prescribed, such as regularly cleaning the eyes, face and nose.
If chronic rhinitis was the cause, keep the environment clean of any pollutants or allergens, and well humidified to encourage nasal discharge. A nebulizer may be prescribed for home use. Other serious conditions may come with their own list of home care needs, and will be prescribed as needed by your veterinarian.