This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.
When I first had rabbits, I’d panic every time one of them sneezed. If you put ‘rabbit sneeze’ into google there’s just a lot of panic about how rabbits can’t get colds so they probs have some death disease and anyway you should really start planning their funeral.
And then I got a sneezy rabbit.
Why was he sneezy? Well, we never actually got to the bottom of that.
We got George (and his non-sneezy partner Alice) when he was 18 months old. They’d been neglected and abused and George was a bit sickly (Alice wasn’t, but unfortunately passed away from a genetic condition when she was 5).
We were back and forth to the vets for a good few years because George was permanently, er, gooey. He sneezed a LOT and had discharge from his eyes.
The vets did initial examinations but George was a Vet Biter. He was the SWEETEST little guy outside of the vets, but man, he hated vets. He wouldn’t ever bite us – if we annoyed him he’d be way more likely to pee on us.
So all the stuff vets normally do quite easily (checking teeth, flushing tear ducts) had to be done under anaesthetic. Yes, it’s a pain, but George was young, had a lot of muscle but wasn’t fat, and was a Dutch rabbit (which are a fairly standard medium size so easy to dose with anaesthetic and they’re not particularly ‘bred’ – a Dutch rabbit looks v similar to a wild European rabbit – so less likely to have an underlying health issue).
So we had the anaesthetic. This allowed us to have blood tests, a really good look at his teeth, eyes, ears, and all that good stuff.
There. Was. Nothing. Wrong. With. Him.
His teeth were beautiful and he didn’t have any hay, grass, dust, or anything that they could find.
We were left with two diagnoses:
- He just sneezed a lot or
- He got hay up his nose a lot.
The vet said it’s probably 1. since the hay would probably only get up his nose a lot if it was particularly dusty or small, and if that was the case, Alice would be the same. He and Alice were littermates and practically identical (he had white socks and she had a white nose) and she barely ever sneezed.
George lived until he was nearly 12, and sneezed every damn day.
Sometimes rabbits just sneeze.
Is it normal for rabbits to sneeze?
Yes and no.
Some rabbits sneeze a lot, due to the size of their nostrils, the hay they have, their natural, er, sneeziness BUT I would ALWAYS recommend a vet visit just in case.
Sneezing and general gooiness can be a sign of illness/infection but it can also be a symptom of dental issues, which are super common in rabbits.
Rabbits go downhill quickly, so always check with a vet if you’re worried. 99% of the time the checks that will be done can be done there and then. It’s only because George was a frighteningly accurate biter that he needed to be sedated. He didn’t just draw blood – the vet would have blood pouring out.
It’s terrible really – that would be totally unacceptable in a dog, but because rabbits have such a cuddly reputation, I think vets feel like they have to soldier on. I would feel worse, but I warn them – one vet LAUGHED and then he charged (oh yeah, he’d charge – he’d get really mad).
Rabbits sneeze when they have the snuffles
The snuffles has similar symptoms to a cold in humans but is a bacterial infection and it’s very serious.
The internet makes it seem like it’s common, but I’ve never had a rabbit that had it.
Anyway, it can be very serious, which is why it’s so important to get your rabbit to a vet as soon as you notice they’re unwell.
If caught early, you’ll probably be given anti-inflammatories and antibiotics and be sent on your way.
More severe cases will require hospitalisation, because if your rabbit is struggling to breathe, they may need oxygen. It’s doubly difficult with rabbits because if they feel poorly they may stop eating, and stasis is the last thing we want to bring on here.
A snotty nose is more likely to be an indication that your rabbit has some dental issues going on, which is why it’s so important that your rabbit eats their fair share of hay.
Not only do rabbits teeth grow constantly (so they need to be worn down) but they grow spurs and weird bits as they get older which can cause them pain as well as eye and ear infections.
I mean, it’s true of humans too – ever had toothache because of a cold (because of course what ou want when you’re sick is to worry that all your teeth are about to fall out)? it’s because you can end up with bacteria in your sinuses, which sit above your teeth.
Rabbits sneeze because something is irritating their nose
This one is usually fairly easy to identify, because you’ll get a lot of head shaking too, as well as your rabbit looking like they’re batting themselves in the face with their paws.
In my experience, after a few minutes of sneezing and huffing, whatever it was (usually hay) will dislodge itself and all will be well. If this behaviour continues, you may have to catch your bunny and see if you can aid in foreign body removal. If you can’t see anything, it’s vet time.
If your rabbit seems to be getting this a lot, it could be that they’re moulting. Brush them regularly to remove as much loose fur as you can, though beware – it’ll go up your nose and make you sneeze too.
Rabbits sneeze because of allergies
Rabbits can be allergic to hay/dust/grass/whatever just like humans BUT it’s rare. More often than not, something else will be the issue. A common culprit is wood shavings, so switch to a paper bedding, which are usually hypoallergenic.
Lack of air movement can result in hay particles hanging around in the air and they can irritate your rabbit’s nose. A fan would help, but opening windows and letting fresh air in regularly will help a lot.
Rabbits sometimes just…sneeze
Just like humans. They get itchy noses so they sneeze. If it’s just one solitary sneeze, don’t worry about it.
Also like humans, some rabbit sneeze multiple times in a row. Again, if it’s an isolated incident, no big deal, though check for any nasal discharge (read: goop) just in case.
When should you take your rabbit to the vet because they’re sneezing?
I take my rabbits to the vet when I notice unusual behaviour, and I recommend you do too, though I appreciate that if you’ve only just got a rabbit it can be hard to tell.
If you’re not sure that you should take your rabbit to the vet, that’s probably a sign that you should – if you’re not sure that you should, then you’re also not 100% sure something isn’t wrong, and like I said, rabbits deteriorate quickly.
But also don’t panic. Vet trips can be expensive, but meds are much cheaper than an overnight stay, so catching it early will be cheaper in the long run.