The disease can also travel to their eyes, causing conjunctivitis and a resulting discharge. It may also travel to their ears, causing ear infections. These ear infections can then cause 'torticollis' (wryneck - twisting of the neck), head shaking, scratching, a head tilt, disorientation, circling, or inability to stand. The infection can sometimes clear up in the nose, but be persistent in the ears. In some severe cases, a rabbit may develop pneumonia or bacteremia (the bacteria enter the bloodstream). In a few cases, abscesses may form under the skin, in joints, or in the internal organs.
If the strain of Pasteurella multocida is a mild one, and the immune system of the infected rabbit is strong, the symptoms may be mild and the animal will recover without treatment. However, if the strain is aggressive or the animal has a weakened immune response, the disease can be severe, chronic, and even fatal. The goal with treatment is to use an effective antibiotic at the first signs of infection. If the infection goes for days or weeks without treatment, it is likely that it will become chronic and very difficult to eliminate. In most cases, the signs of the disease may disappear, but the bacteria are usually still present, only in smaller numbers. Even in cases that are treated early, some animals will still develop chronic infections in their sinus passages that require long-term treatment, or even lifelong treatment to keep them under control.
The disease can be present in the nasal cavities without the rabbit showing any signs of disease, so a healthy-appearing rabbit can still develop signs later if he is stressed. Reducing stress is also very important in helping a rabbit avoid infections and reducing the severity of the disease if he does become infected. Common causes of stress in rabbits include poor nutrition, improper housing, chilling, overcrowding, or aggression from other rabbits. To prevent stress, provide the best possible housing. Offer a variety of fresh vegetables and free choice timothy hay in addition to a properly formulated pelleted diet. Also, avoid letting your rabbit come into contact with other rabbits, particularly if they are sick. Because this disease can be transmitted through secretions on your hands and clothes, be very careful when handling other rabbits, and always wash your hands and clothes after handling a rabbit other than your own.
Snuffles is a disease that can have devastating consequences to rabbits. Because it is so contagious and widespread, rabbit owners need to be aware of its signs and seek veterinarian attention at the first sign of illness. By understanding the disease and taking precautions against it, rabbit owners can help reduce both the severity and incidence of this disease.