What to do if a rabbit's nose is only a little damp?

by Tami

White American doe with just a little moisture around nose and some matting on forepaw.

White American doe with just a little moisture around nose and some matting on forepaw.

I'm not sure what to do about one of my rabbits. I was working with her to prepare for a show, and noticed she had matting on her left paw on Friday. She is in isolation. Saturday she had slight clear nasal discharge, and slight matting. Sunday, dry nose but a little matting on front paws. No white snot ever. Otherwise, appears in excellent condition and health.

No evidence of matting or problems with my other five rabbits.

Our local vet does not do testing for bordatella/pasteurella, and her symptoms are so slight, I am not sure what to do. Watch and wait?

With my chickens, I isolate and watch a little, and cull quickly if they are not completely healthy very soon. This is one of only two rare breed does that i have at this time. This doe comes from a breeder with excellent standards and frequent culling practices.

I like what I read here about your management practices. I've only had rabbits since May, so I am not experienced enough to know if this is serious.

My plan is to scratch her from the show, watch her in isolation (check paws/nose daily) for a week, and if she is worse cull immediately, or if she is the same, consider keeping in isolation and using for a couple of breedings. Does this sound appropriate?

(By the way, the isolation cage is attached to the single pvc frame made from the directions on this site. Thanks!!)

As a new rabbit person, I find your site very helpful. Thanks for your time!

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Feb 27, 2011
Follow Up
by: Anonymous

Hi Karen. I thought I would follow up with what happened to this doe. She remained in what appeared to be good health--excellent size, excellent eater, normal feces, and very light matting on her paws occasionally, and no white snot. She was bred, and produced what appeared to be nice litter of 8. She nursed and raised them to the age of 4 weeks, when I took them from her in the hopes of reducing the kits exposure.

I was very hopeful that all was going to turn out well, but, unfortunately, it did not. At 8 weeks, 2 kits had white snot on their noses, and one had funny breathing. I put the doe and all 8 of the kits down because I did not want to risk the other rabbits. It turned out to be too late for the buck bred to her; he also developed matted paws, and was put down a few days later. In short, pay attention to even slightly matted paws -- even with no obvious nose snot or sneezing. These have been the best indicator of a problem for me.

Sep 28, 2010
Isolate and Watch
by: Karen

For being new to rabbits, you've figured things out very well. Thanks for including the photo - it helps.

A mild wet nose could mean a lot of things, especially in mid-September, if it is hot where you live. 'Panting' from heat normally causes the very minor moisture I can see on the nose of this rabbit. In this case, the moisture dries up when the heat wave subsides, and that will be the end of it.

A runny nose when combined with matting is *usually* indicative of pasteurella, bordetella or both, especially in the absence of heat or other reason that would cause panting. Both germs can cause clear snot without the white thick gunk.

Since you only have a few rabbits, your plan to quarantine, not show, and monitor her health is an excellent one. You don't want to cull a perfectly fine animal, but on the other hand, IF she is getting sick, you don't want to infect the other animals.

If the moisture seems to last much longer than you think it should, and you determine that the doe really is not completely healthy (perhaps other breeders in your area can help you make this determination), getting a litter or two and then culling is also a good plan, but you'll need to do this wisely:

1) The sire of the litters MUST be entirely and completely healthy, to the best of your knowledge. His are the healthy genes that you will strive to concentrate in the future litters, since the dam's are weak (if she's sick).

2) Agree with yourself that 1-2 litters are max, and then the doe goes into the crock pot. Even as I'm butchering such a rabbit, I have felt a sense of gratefulness to God that the doe could give me 10-15 fresh new bunnies from which to perpetuate her good qualities. (At the same time, I know I'll be butchering many of these bunnies. But, a few of them will be just what I need going forward.)

3) Know that it will take up to 3 years of several litters a year, and the culling of possibly a large percentage of the offspring, to finally arrive at (nearly) iron-clad health. If you have the time, then breed the doe. If you don't then go back to the breeder and buy another animal. By now, if she does as you say and culls well, her herd may be even healthier than it was when you initially purchased from her.

I know that some breeders will shudder at the thought of using a doe such as yours for breeding. But, any breeder with consistently healthy rabbits has already gone through this process - breeding his animals, culling out the sick one, and continuing to breed the healthy ones.

So, time will tell whether the moisture around the nose is due to germs, or simply to rapid breathing from, say, heat. I suspect that in the end, the doe *might* show you she did indeed have pasteurella or bordetella, but you'd hate to cull her if it turned out she was fine. Keep her isolated and play the waiting game for now.

Let us know what turns up, okay?

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