Is It Normal for Rabbits to Sneeze a Lot?

Sneezing – we all do it, even our furry friends. But is it normal when your rabbit can’t stop sneezing up a storm? Frequent rabbit sneezing can be concerning, raising questions about possible illness or distress. Get ready to hop down the rabbit hole into the causes and cures for chronic sneezing in these adorable yet delicate pets. From innocent irritants to problematic infections, we’ll outline why rabbits sniffle, snort and struggle for breath. You’ll also learn expert tips on treating everything from simple allergies to sinus-clogging sneeze storms. Join us on this informative journey to keep your bunny’s nose twitching with joy, not germs! Discover what’s behind the sneeze to keep your rabbit happy and healthy for years to come.

Why Do Rabbits Sneeze?

Rabbits sneeze for a variety of reasons, some more concerning than others. Here are some of the main causes of sneezing in rabbits:

Irritants or Allergens

Like humans, rabbits can sneeze when they inhale dust, pollen, litter particles, or other irritants. Sneezing is a protective reflex that helps clear irritants from the nasal passages. Mild, occasional sneezing due to irritants is usually normal and not a cause for concern. However, frequent sneezing may indicate the rabbit is sensitive or allergic to something in the environment.

Common triggers include dust, perfumes/household sprays, smoke, pollen, bedding materials like scented litters or hay. Try to identify and remove any irritants from the rabbit's environment. Switch to unscented, dust-free litter and hay to relieve allergies.

Respiratory Infections

Sneezing can also be a sign of an upper respiratory infection, which is common in rabbits. The most frequent causes are the bacteria Pasteurella multocida and Bordetella bronchiseptica. These bacteria naturally reside in the respiratory tract of many rabbits. When a rabbit's immune system is lowered by stress or other factors, the bacteria can multiply rapidly and cause infection.

Upper respiratory infections lead to inflammation of the nasal passages, trachea, and sinuses. This irritation triggers reflexive sneezing as the rabbit tries to expel mucus and infectious organisms. Other symptoms accompanying sneezing may include nasal discharge, eye discharge, reduced appetite, lethargy, and difficulty breathing.

Dental Disease

Rabbits' teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. This means their teeth can easily become overgrown or misaligned if they do not wear down through normal chewing activities. Dental disease is very common in rabbits, especially as they age.

The roots of rabbits' teeth extend high into their nasal sinuses. Overgrown molar roots can puncture or become infected, extending infection into the sinuses. This can cause sneezing along with eye/nose discharge, loss of appetite, and facial swelling or abscesses. Regular dental exams and teeth trimming can prevent these issues.

Foreign Objects

Sneezing is also the body's way of trying to expel foreign objects that have become lodged in the nose. Hay or bedding can accidentally get inhaled by inquisitive rabbits exploring their environments. More active snorting or shaking of the head usually accompanies foreign object sneezes. Carefully examine the nose and remove any debris.


Stress can be an underlying factor in many rabbit health issues. Stress weakens the immune system, allowing opportunistic bacteria like Pasteurella to proliferate and cause upper respiratory infections. Signs of stress in rabbits include lethargy, hiding, decreased appetite and tooth grinding. Minimizing stressors in a rabbit's environment can help prevent stress-related sneezing.

In summary, mild sneezing is normal for rabbits, but frequent, forceful sneezing warrants an exam by a rabbit-savvy veterinarian. They can diagnose the underlying cause and prescribe appropriate treatment to resolve sneezing and prevent more serious complications. Maintaining proper husbandry and nutrition, providing mental enrichment, and watching for signs of illness are the best ways to keep rabbits sniffle-free.

Rabbit Sneezing with Discharge

If a rabbit is sneezing frequently along with nasal discharge, it is most likely caused by an upper respiratory infection. Here's what you need to know about sneezing with discharge in rabbits:

Types of Discharge

The consistency and color of the nasal discharge can indicate different underlying causes:

  • Clear, watery discharge is typical of viral infections like rhinitis or a simple irritation of the sinuses

  • Thick, opaque, white/yellow discharge points to a bacterial infection like Pasteurella

  • Bloody or reddish discharge could mean a foreign object lodged in the nose or a mass/tumor

Causes of Infection

Infections leading to nasal discharge are typically due to:

  • Bacteria – Pasteurella and Bordetella are the most common

  • Viruses – Rhinitis, corona virus

  • Fungal – Aspergillosis, cryptococcosis

  • Dental disease spreading infection into sinuses

Other Symptoms

Rabbits with nasal discharge often show additional signs like:

  • Sneezing, snorting

  • Noisy breathing, congestion

  • Rubbing/scratching at nose and face

  • Red or swollen eyes (conjunctivitis)

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lethargy, hiding


To identify the specific cause of the infection, the following diagnostic tests may be performed:

  • Physical exam of nose, eyes, mouth to check for any lesions, injuries or foreign objects lodged in nasal passages

  • Nasal flush to collect discharge sample for bacterial culture

  • Biopsy of nasal tissue or sinus tap to examine cells under a microscope

  • CT scan or X-rays to evaluate sinus structure and check for tooth root involvement

  • Blood tests checking white blood cell levels to indicate infection


Treatment options for sneezing with discharge include:

  • Antibiotics if bacterial infection – often a 3-4 week course

  • Anti-fungal medication if fungal organism identified

  • Flushing the nasal passages to remove discharge and improve air flow

  • Corrective dentistry procedures if dental roots involved

  • Temporary nasal decongestants, anti-inflammatories

  • Increasing hydration and nutrition support

  • Nebulization to deliver medications directly into respiratory tract

  • Surgery to remove any masses or foreign objects found

The key is addressing the underlying infection early before it spreads to lungs or other areas. With appropriate treatment guided by cytology or culture results, most cases of sneezing with discharge can be cured or well-managed. Maintaining proper husbandry and nutrition also helps prevent recurrence.

Rabbit Sneezing with No Discharge

While most sneezing in rabbits is triggered by upper respiratory infections, rabbits can occasionally sneeze without any nasal discharge. Possible reasons for sneezing without discharge include:

Mild Irritation

Inhaled dust, pollen, litter particles or other mild irritants may cause enough inflammation of the nasal passages to induce some sneezing, but not a full-blown infectious process with mucus production. The sneezing is the body's attempt to clear the temporary irritation.

Early Stages of Infection

The early phase of an upper respiratory infection may involve sneezing before any discharge develops. It takes some time for infectious organisms like Pasteurella or Bordetella to multiply and inflame the sinuses enough to stimulate mucus secretion. So sneezing may be the first symptom noticed as infection sets in.


Allergic reactions are another potential cause of sneezing without discharge. Rabbits can develop allergies to dust, pollen, scented litters, hay, or other environmental irritants. The allergens cause inflammation of the nasal lining leading to sneezing spells.


Stress can also play a role in sneezing. Stress hormones weaken the immune system and allow opportunistic bacteria like Pasteurella to overgrow, causing sinus irritation and sneezing episodes.

Related Symptoms

Other more subtle symptoms associated with sneezing without discharge could include:

  • Rubbing nose and face on objects

  • Squinting eyes or light sensitivity

  • Mild lethargy

  • Decreased appetite


Diagnostic tests help differentiate the cause:

  • Physical exam looking closely within nasal passages for any lesions, masses or foreign material

  • Allergy testing – intradermal skin testing or blood IgE levels

  • Fungal culture if aspergillosis is suspected

  • CT scan or X-rays to examine sinus structure in detail


  • Remove any identified irritants or allergens from environment

  • Oral antihistamines for allergic reactions

  • Antifungal medication if fungal infection found

  • Increase hydration to keep nasal passages moistened

  • Nebulization with saline to ease inflammation

If sneezing persists more than a day or two without discharge, a re-examination and further diagnostics are warranted. Bacterial or fungal cultures of the nasal passages may identify an underlying infection before it becomes severe. Starting medication quickly provides the best prognosis.

Frequent sneezes without discharge are not normal. While it may be only a minor irritation initially, ongoing sneezing can indicate infection brewing. Scheduling a veterinary exam is recommended to determine the cause and provide appropriate treatment. With a prompt diagnosis, non-infectious cases can often be managed with simple environmental changes and supportive care.


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