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Rabbits are obligate nose breathers – they prefer breathing through their nose than the mouth. Therefore, mouth breathing should be considered as “respiratory distress and is often accompanied by a blue tinge to the lips and nose.”  In such a case, you need emergency attention as this condition is life-threatening.
Snoring in rabbits is a symptom and not a disease. It is caused by anything that partially obstructs or makes their air passage narrower.
The partial obstruction can cause stertor and stridor (low and high pitched sounds from the breathing airways). When this happens, this animal will produce a ‘snoring’ or a ‘wheezing noise’ as they try to breathe in and out.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms you expect will depend on what causes this problem. Some of the common ones you will notice include the following
- Dyspnea or labored breathing as well as rapid breathing (tachypnoea) that can make these pets anxious and stressed.
- Reduced appetite
- Nasal discharge
- Epistaxis or acute hemorrhage from nasal cavity, nostril or nasopharynx
- Eye discharge that may have pus
- Face deformation and swelling
- A crusted nose
- Some matted fur on forelimbs as these pets try to wipe the discharges from their eyes or nose.
These are the common symptoms you will expect alongside snoring. The underlying cause may also have other symptoms.
Why would rabbit snore – causes
Here are common causes:
- Rabbit breed – Lop-eared breeds with flat noses and faces often make a snoring sound as they breathe. Being a congenital problem, it is not life-threatening unless something else is obstructing their nose.
- Sign of cardiovascular disease – It could be a symptom of a cardiovascular disease that may have other signs including deep coughs, nasal discharge, intolerance to exercise, fatigue among others.
- Foreign bodies – It can occur if grass, hayseeds, hair, or anything gets lodged into the nasal passage and causes some obstruction. This can occur with sneezing, discharges, and nose rubbing. Contact your vet for further help.
- Bacterial infections – bacterial infections by bacteria such as Pasteurella multocida or any other that often harbors inside the respiratory system and lungs can cause abscesses and respiratory tract infection that can make your pet to snore. These bacterial infections are common in aging, immunocompromised or very stressed rabbits.
- Dental diseases – Abnormal teeth growth, infections, and abscesses may cause swellings and possibly obstruct the airways.
- Allergies – irritants and allergens inhaled including insects, dust, chemicals, etc.
- Tumors – will cause this issue if they develop on airways or cause an obstruction
- Physical deformities and trauma – any physical deformities and trauma that affects the nose and face.
- Some disease or conditions – rhinitis, sinusitis, Brainstem diseases or dysfunction of the neuromuscular system including hypothyroidism
- Face swelling – edema and swollen upper respiratory system and face
- Inflammations – inflamed throat, voice box or soft palates
- Stress and anxiety – If they are very anxious or stressed, they may snore. Common causes of stress and anxiety include the presence of predator, frightening environment or loss of a longtime companion.
There may be more other causes, some of them are life-threatening. It is good to inform your vet to conduct a diagnosis. Anything that causes breathing distress such as a blue mucous membrane, requires emergency treatment.
Your vet will determine the origin of the sound, conduct lab tests and radiographs (X-rays for skull or throat) to see any signs of bacterial infection, abscesses, obstructions or deformities.
Also, he or she may conduct microbiology and cytology of discharges to check for signs of pneumonia
Treating snoring and nasal obstruction
Treatment will depend on what diagnosis shows as the cause of this problem and they may include the following:
- Supplemental oxygen in case the cause affects free air movement to the lungs
- Abscesses draining and filing of any overgrown teeth as well as high fiber diets to avoid overgrown teeth.
- Dislodging or removing any obstruction – He or she will remove debris in the nasal and ear cavity. This might include surgery where anesthesia and painkillers are necessary.
- Soft, warm, and calm environment especially after surgery as well as a good diet including leafy greens.
- Various medications including antibiotics in case of bacterial infections such as rhinitis, sinusitis and so on and steroids to reduce inflammation and swelling (steroids may worsen bacterial infections and they must be prescribed by a vet) and analgesia in case of surgery.
Possible complications and living management
Pulmonary edema, fluid retention inside the rabbit’s lungs are possible since this condition is caused by primarily anything that partially obstructs the airways. Let your bunny be hospitalized to help manage such eventualities during treatment.
Snoring while sleeping
Like in the cause of human beings, these pets might snore while they are asleep. This is common in those whose soft palate is a little bit floppy and the snoring is often noted in old as well as overweight rabbits.
If it happens when relaxed or asleep without any other symptom including the ones we have mentioned, you can consider it normal. It is not harmful so long as it does not cause any distress or happens again after treatment