Pasteurella is present in its carrier state in a large percentage of the rabbit population. There are a number of different strains, some more harmful than others. Rabbits normally do not develop much immunity after infection and as many carriers of the disease do not show symptoms it is difficult to detect in healthy animals. It can survive for a couple of days in moist secretions or water.
“Snuffles” is caused by pasteurella and results in sneezing, discharge from the nose and often the eyes. The rabbit’s front paws can become encrusted with discharge on the inside edges where it has tried to clean its eyes and nose. Although ‘snuffles is the most common manifestation of pasteurella, it can also cause ear infections, eye infections and pneumonia. It is transmitted via nasal discharge from infected animals as they sneeze.
Rabbits can occasionally have a middle ear or lung infection caused by pasteurella and yet a nasal culture comes back negative. Pasteurella is also one of the bacteria which may cause abscesses.
If you suspect your rabbit may be infected you will need to get it checked out by a veterinary surgeon who can prescribe antibiotics. Untreated rabbits can develop pneumonia which can be fatal if not caught early enough.