Rabbit respiratory problems?

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Well-Known Member
Sep 17, 2019
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Pennsylvania, United States
My giant papillon Gus has some problems!
(I put an * next to questions I have.)

Every few months or so, he starts getting wet eyes, and starts scratching them a lot.
Sometimes it even leads to him getting sores around his eyes because he won't leave them alone.
He also starts getting sneezing fits, where he just sneezes over and over for a solid 30-45 seconds at a time.

We've taken him to the vet several times for this over the past 2 years. They have checked his teeth and haven't found any dental problems.
At this point, they are familiar with him, so they usually just prescribe him an antibiotic for upper respiratory infection.

We figured maybe it was his hay, so while ago we switched from using hay from a local farm, to hay we got from the rabbit rescue, to store-bought Oxbow timothy hay. We've been using the oxbow for over 6 months now.
It's a LOT more expensive for two giant rabbits who eat a lot of hay, but we've made room in our budget for it.
We shake/filter the hay as well as we can before giving it to him to try and get dust out of it.
But he just keeps getting these problems.

*The timing (every few months, but hasn't happened in winter, usually sneezing happens midday) makes me wonder if it's possible for a rabbit to have seasonal allergies?
He is indoors, but we use window AC units, so I wonder if something from outside is getting in and bothering his sensitive little nose.

*If not that, then I was wondering if anyone knows a way to get dust out of hay other than trying to just shake it out well?

*Also, should I try bugging the vet more to see if they can investigate the problem further?
The only problem is that vet bills are a bit out of our budget right now unless it's an emergency.
This is why they usually prescribe the medicine without an office visit now.
I'm a little concerned about continuing to give him antibiotics every time though, and would like to prevent this from happening in the future.
They are giving us another bottle of the antibiotic but I haven't gotten it yet. I can't remember if it's difloxacin or doxycycline, but it's one of those.


Jenny - Health & Wellness Mod
Staff member
Sep 10, 2012
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Utah, , USA
A bacterial infection won't cause itchiness like that. He could have seasonal allergies if it's just clear discharge and not sticky white discharge. Allergies aren't a common thing with rabbits, but they can occasionally happen. If it's not a particular type of hay causing it, certain litters can also cause issues, household cleaners, scented toiletries, and outdoor allergens.

About the only treatment I've seen for allergies in rabbits(besides removal of the allergen) is children's benedryl(diphenhydramine). Piriton syrup(chlorphenamine) is also used, but that's only available in Europe that I know of. You could ask your vet about giving benedryl a try when the symptoms occur again, to see if you notice an improvement. I think it's only the cherry flavored benedryl that doesn't have artificial sweeteners.



Well-Known Member
Aug 11, 2018
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Another thing that could irritate his eyes and airways is ammonia fumes from the peed litter--or the litter itself. What kind of bedding do you use and how often does it get changed?

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