ENT infections in rabbits and small furries: what’s up, doc?

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: ENT infections in dogs, cats and rabbits have some similarities but more often differences. In dogs and cats, bacterial rhinitis is generally secondary to a primary nasal disease. In rabbits, the primary nasal disease is bacterial. It is a polybacterial infection, and the most frequent combination is Pasteurella multocida and Bordetella bronchiseptica. Other bacteria often isolated are Pseudomonas spp. and Staphylococcus spp. While plain radiographs and oral/dental examination are common diagnostic steps in all three species, bacterial culture and sensitivity are critical in rabbits. In chronic and advanced cases, a CT scan of the rabbit skull is recommended to evaluate the nasal turbinates and middle ears. Destruction and remodeling of nasal passages and P. multocida spread from the upper respiratory tract to the middle ear frequently occurs in rabbits. Although chronic antibiotic treatment is often used to treat affected rabbits, surgery of the nasal passages and middle ear is required for resolution, as antibiotic treatment failure often occurs. This presentation covers the differences between dogs, cats and rabbits, and what evidence-based medicine has shown to be critical for the diagnosis and treatment of ENT infections in rabbits.

: Sinusitis/rhinitis syndromes are common in rabbits as a part of the condition usually referred to as “snuffles”. Misleadingly this is often referred to as Pasteurellosis. This is misleading because the implication of a primary bacterial cause would infer that a course of antibiotics will treat and cure – this is rarely the case in the pet situation; Pasteurella is not always isolated and may not even be the most common isolate from diseased cases. Sinusitis and rhinitis are often linked though may also occur separately with sinusitis usually being associated with dental disease and the filling of sinuses with pus. These cases generally require a surgical approach with dental therapy and flushing/curettage of the sinuses. Rhinitis has a wider range of causes which may include airborne irritants and foreign bodies. In most cases, removal of potential irritants forms a major part of investigation and therapy. Other therapies may include anti-inflammatories, nasal flushes, and nebulization. In both cases a holistic investigation should be performed that will include a thorough husbandry review as well as imaging (CT or radiography) and nasal endoscopy/biopsy. This talk covers the investigation and the role of non-antibiotic therapies including sinus surgery.

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