What is Snoring and Nasal Obstruction?
As snoring is a symptom, rather than a condition this may indicate a range of conditions including abscess, bacterial infections, neoplasia, dental disorders or rhinitis among other diseases, If you notice your rabbit snoring or showing signs of nasal obstruction, it is important to contact your veterinarian for a clinical examination to investigate the underlying cause of this condition.
Snoring in rabbits is often caused by inhaled air passing through an abnormally narrowed upper airway due to partial nasal obstruction. As rabbits are obligate nasal breathers, obstruction may cause discomfort and dyspnea, leading to anxiety for the pets.
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Symptoms of Snoring and Nasal Obstruction in Rabbits
Symptoms caused by nasal obstruction in rabbits vary depending on the underlying cause of the condition, however may include the following:
- Nasal discharge
- Ocular discharge which may be purulent
- Constant sneezing
- Facial deformity or swelling
- Crusted nose
- Matted fur on the front feet
- Dyspnea or tachypnea
Causes of Snoring and Nasal Obstruction in Rabbits
- Dental diseases such as abnormal dental growth causing tooth root penetration and secondary infections leading to abscesses
- Trauma from facial injury such as animal attack or crush injury
- Neoplasia of the face or respiratory tract
- Rhinitis or sinusitis – due to bacterial infections or allergic or irritant factors
- Foreign body obstruction
- Trauma due to repeated intubation
There are a range of risk factors for rabbits to develop these conditions such as:
- Inadequate dietary fiber causing poor dental health
- Poor environmental; high ammonia concentrations from dirty, urine-soaked bedding; over-crowding
- Stress due to change of environment or hutch mates, presence of predators
Diagnosis of Snoring and Nasal Obstruction in Rabbits
Your veterinarian will perform a full clinical examination on your pet. Your veterinarian will carefully auscultate your pet’s lungs and upper respiratory tract in order to determine the site of increased respiratory noise. This may indicate the area of blockage or concern. Your veterinarian will gently palpate along your pet’s jaw for signs of abscess that may be causing the condition such as swelling, lumps or bumps. They will examine your pet’s teeth for signs of overgrowth, malocclusion or trauma. Although the incisor teeth can be easily visualised to check for tooth root abscesses your pet may require a general anesthetic for the cheek teeth to be assessed. Other diagnostic tools that may be used are:
- Blood chemistry to provide a baseline on your pet’s health, particularly beneficial if anesthesia is indicated; in bacterial infections these may also show signs sepsis
- Urine tests to check for urinary tract infections secondary to a bacterial infection
- Radiographs of the thorax to visualise lung density if pneumonia is suspected
- Skull radiographs or computed tomography scans may also be performed under anaesthetic that may show masses of the upper respiratory tract, facial bone deformity or foreign object obstruction
- Cytology and microbiology investigations can be performed using a nasal, tracheal or bronchial sample; these are beneficial due to their ability to confirm bacterial pneumonia and identify causative bacteria, allowing targeted systemic antibiotic treatment for your pet
Treatment of Snoring and Nasal Obstruction in Rabbits
Depending on the underlying condition, your pet may require admission into the hospital to be closely monitored in a quiet, warm environment. If need for analgesia is indicated during your pet’s treatment anti-inflammatories or opiates may be given, haematology investigations will allow your veterinarian to assess the safety of these drugs and any contraindications your pet may have such as renal disease.
In pet rabbits who are fed on diets predominantly containing easily crushed pellets and inadequate amounts of fiber, overgrowth may occur due to insufficient crown wear. This can cause the root to grow into bone leading to the formation of an abscess and subsequent nasal obstruction. If your pet is suffering from a tooth root abscess, any affected teeth, as well as affected tissue, should be removed under general anesthetic to increase the chance of full recovery without reoccurrence. Your veterinarian will carefully remove the affected teeth and dissect the abscess. Saline irrigation will then be used to flush the site to decrease the risk of further contamination from the abscess. Your veterinarian will likely send a sample of the exudate to perform a culture and sensitivity test to identify the causative bacteria and most effective antibiotic treatment.
Rhinitis can be caused by a variety of factors including bacteria, neoplasia, trauma and foreign bodies. If your veterinarian suspects an infection, a sample of exudate may be tested to identify the causative bacteria. The cytology and microbiology results will allow your veterinarian to choose the most effective antibiotic therapy for your pet. In order to be successful, the required systemic antibiotic treatment needs to be aggressive and for 6 weeks or more. Ophthalmologic antibiotic products have been shown to be beneficial when instilled into the pet’s nostril. Nasolacrimal flushes and nebulization with saline solution may also be indicated for your pet. In the cases of neoplasia, surgical excision may be indicated.
If it is suspected your pet is suffering from allergies due to environmental factors such as pollen, molding bedding, or ammonia from urine-soaked bedding your veterinarian will discuss effective husbandry with you to address the issues.
If your pet is suffering from another underlying condition your veterinarian will advise the best treatment for your pet. This treatment may include medication such as antibiotics, analgesia, and in some cases surgical correction or hydration therapy.
Recovery of Snoring and Nasal Obstruction in Rabbits
The prognosis and ongoing care for your pet will vary depending on the underlying condition causing the symptoms. In some cases, your pet may require long term systemic antibiotic treatment following surgery with revisit appointments to monitor recovery.
If your pet required surgery, it is important that you provide your pet with a soft, warm recovery area. In order to reduce further irritation to the nasal passages and support your rabbit’s recovery and immune system, provide your pet with a clean, warm environment free of pollutants and allergens.