Pet Factsheets

Snoring can be caused by the rabbit's breed, a foreign body or bacterial infections, but some rabbits can truly snore!

Snoring is a sound made when the rabbit has partially obstructed nasal cavities. As rabbits are obligatory nose breathers, meaning they cannot breathe through their mouth if their nose is blocked, any partial nasal obstruction can be stressful and life-threatening requiring emergency attention by your vet.

However, anything that obstructs the rabbit's nasal passages or causes a narrowing may mean that the rabbit emits a 'snoring' noise when breathing.

What causes snoring?

There are many reasons why a rabbit's nasal passages may be narrow or partially blocked.

Many breeds of rabbit, especially lop-eared breeds have flattened faces (brachycephalic) which can result in shortened, narrow nasal passages. Like with flat faced dog and cat breeds, snoring can be a common sound as the animal breathes. This is a congenital problem caused by the animal's breeding and can be life-threatening, as these animals tend to have a reduced capacity to breathe sufficiently during exercise, or in warm temperatures, causing them to quickly become overheated.

Foreign bodies such as grass, hay, seeds, hair, and dust may be inhaled by the rabbit and can partially block one or even both of the nasal passages. If this occurs, the rabbit may begin sneezing and nose rubbing in an attempt to dislodge the foreign matter. In these cases, veterinary advice and attention should be sought as soon as possible.

Rabbits often snore as a result of a mild bacterial infection in their lungs and airways. The most common bacteria that is found is Pasteurella multocida. This often strikes fear into rabbit owners as the bacteria can be responsible for a host of rabbit health related problems (abscesses, respiratory infections, etc), but in truth many rabbits carry the bacteria, often for their entire life without any problems arising. If the rabbits' immune system is compromised (often from another health problem), the immune system may be weakened so is no longer able to keep the Pasteurella 'in-check'. This is when disease can take hold and some form of clinical signs associated with swelling of the nasal cavities.

How can I tell if my rabbit is in respiratory distress?

If you rabbit is distressed, agitated, attempting to breathe through its mouth, rubbing the nose, has a blue tinge to the ears or nose, or is hunched in an unusual posture and resistant to move, seek veterinary attention without delay as this a life-threatening emergency situation.

Why does my rabbit only snore when sleeping?

Some rabbits do simply seem to snore when they are asleep, much like people. This is often the case in rabbits who may be slightly overweight or as the rabbit ages.

Snoring can be totally harmless and normal for some rabbits, but if your rabbit is in any way distressed or it happens suddenly without any previous episodes, then it is always best to seek veterinary advice to rule out any potential problems.

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