Pasteurellosis is a rabbit disease that happens when the rabbit's immune system is overcome by pasteurella bacteria.
Snuffles is a common term used when the symptoms occur in the respiratory system, and aptly describes the sneezing jags these sick rabbits experience.
With up to 100% of ALL DOMESTIC RABBITS being exposed to, or carrying the bacteria P. multocida, it is very important for breeders to become aggressive with their breeding and culling.
Outwitting pasteurellosis happens through
consistent culling of all sick rabbits. The animals that remain will be the ones with
HEALTH fixed in their genetic code and immune systems.
IF you’re willing to cull any rabbit that gets sick, whether you have a trio of meat rabbits in the backyard, or a show herd of a hundred or more, you can still have all healthy animals within two or three years by following these simple guidelines. And even if each litter contains just 1 healthy bunny in a litter of 8 to start out with, it IS possible to arrive at a healthy herd within several years.
(These instructions assume that you are reasonably confident that Pasteurella multocida is the cause of disease in your barn.)
By following these guidelines, you’ll sharply reduce your losses to pasteurellosis, and might pull up an unprofitable enterprise into the black. Your customers are likely to return to you again and again, knowing they’ll get healthy animals or healthy meat.
Years ago, we decided to start raising rabbits afresh after a short hiatus. This time we planned to start right, by obtaining breeding stock from the winningest breeders we could find in our area. So we drove twelve hours to a renowned breeder so we could see their operation and bring home some fine breeding stock in our chosen breed, rex rabbits.
My first clue to trouble was the wall of odor that hit me when they opened the rabbitry doors. Sharp ammonia odors burn rabbits' lungs and predispose them to pasteurellosis.
It was hot outside, and they had a swamp-cooler going. I don’t know what the rate of air-exchange was in that building, but the limited space with three tiers of rabbits...I don’t know, it was pretty rank. But okay, this was a renowned, winning breeder.
My second clue to trouble was a shelf that was nearly buckling under the weight of dozens of bottles of antibiotics. I can’t believe I ignored this very alarming observation. Maybe it was because I was so anxious to believe the best about this breeder. After all, surely a winning breeder should have excellent foundation breeding stock.
The third strike should have catapulted me the heck outta there, 12 hour drive or no 12 hour drive. Down on the bottom tier, a ways down the row from the swamp cooler, was a mother doe with her very young litter. She was snuffling and snorting repeatedly, and blowing rings of white snot. Every sneeze flung white droplets everywhere, including all over the little kits.
Yikes. The breeder made some excuse about the rabbit being from someone else’s barn. Since the swamp cooler was blowing the air away from the rabbit I was considering for purchase, I didn’t leave.
The castor rex buck the breeder showed me looked really nice. He had been shown once already and won Best Opposite Sex of Breed. Meaning, a rex doe had won best of breed and he had been deemed the best Rex buck on that day. His fur was lush and dense, with an amazing rufus red ring.
I paid a LOT of money for this animal, loaded him into the truck, and headed home. By the time we pulled into the driveway 12 hours later, HE was blowing the white snot rings of pasteurellosis.
I was NOT HAPPY. My delusions of kindness wore thin - it seemed obvious that the rabbit had been medicated with antibiotics to mask his symptoms, which flared the minute he missed a dose and underwent the stress of a long drive to another rabbitry.
For various reasons - the money paid, the excellent type, fur and density, and not to mention he was our only rex buck at the time, I decided I had to keep this animal and use him (briefly) in my breeding program.
Step back and picture the two scenarios:
In the big scheme of things, it is far more unkind to nurse along many sick rabbits, than to dispatch the sick ones and develop a consistently healthy and happy herd of robust rabbits.
The world is not a better place for preserving the lives of animals that will never ever get well, no matter what remedies you use to combat pasteurellosis.
That’s our opinion, yes, but look also at the results of our strict culling:
Our sick castor buck was with us for a year. After he had distributed his genetics among the various does, we humanely culled this animal.
A year later, the distinct improvement in rabbit health within the herd was noticeable.
After 3 years, we could practically rub their noses in it.
The animals remained healthy. This is
because we’ve only kept animals whose immune systems are strong and who have
natural immunity to this dreaded rabbit illness. We have refused to use rabbits with weak
immune systems, and we don’t medicate.
And I think that when the majority of breeders will find that courage, the losses of rabbits from snuffles will drop to nearly nothing within two or three years, while the percentage of HEALTHY rabbits, both among show and pet rabbits, will soar.
(Note: Vaccination is NOT needed for this plan to succeed. And in fact, vaccinating in a show herd is a ticket to failure.)
Your comments or experiences can help others who read them. So, comment away, and if you have pictures, you can post up to four of them. Pictures are always helpful.
(Have questions? Perhaps your question was already asked, and answered, below. If not, Karen has answered hundreds of your questions in her book: Rabbit Raising Problem Solver, covering every aspect of pet rabbit and livestock rabbit care as well as rabbit health and disease. We recommend it!)
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