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Pasteurellosis is an infection due to the bacteria species Pasteurella multocida. It is commonly also referred to as Pasteurella. Rabbits are often coinfected with other bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Moraxella catarrhalis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Mycobacterium spp., and various anaerobes.[1]

Pasteurellosis can be passed to humans through animal bites and can cause painful wound and skin infections.[2] In more severe cases, it can cause widespread infection throughout the body and might even affect the nervous system. To prevent pasteurellosis, protect yourself from bites and seek veterinary care for pets that appear sick.

BunnyVac is a USDA-licensed vaccine (USDA Code: 2701.02) which can prevent Pasteurella infections in rabbits.


Rabbits can be asymptomatic, depending on virulence of the strain and the rabbit's immune system.[1]

Active symptoms can include the following:

  • Rhinitis (snuffles) - sneezing, nasal discharge, staining of the front paws
  • Drooling (ptyalism), facial swelling.
  • Watery eyes (epiphora)
  • Head tilt, rolling, involuntary eye movement (nystagmus).
  • Labored breathing (dyspnea), large intrathoracic abscesses.
  • Pneumonia. The disease can be acute and rapidly fatal.[3]:456
  • Anorexia, depression, pain from skeletal abscesses.
  • Lameness
  • Subcutaneous swelling with mammary abscess.


Transmission may be through direct contact, air, or indirectly through objects. Most rabbits are infected at birth from does with vaginal infection or shortly after birth.[1]

Neonatal and young rabbits are more susceptible to due an immature immune system. Unhealthy animals with a concurrent disease are more likely to show active symptoms of pasteurellosis. Stress, corticosteroid use, and poor husbandry (dirty housing and poor nutrition) are additional factors in the outcome of the disease.[1]


Antibiotic choice should ideally be based upon the results of culture and sensitivity testing. Depending on the infection severity, long-term antibiotic therapy is required (4-6 weeks minimum to several months or intermittent, to lifelong).

Oral antimicrobial drugs generally effective against pasteurella include enrofloxacin (Baytril), marbofloxacin (Zeniquin), and trimethoprim-sulfa (Tribrissen, Septra, Bactrim, Cotrim, Sulfatrim), chloramphenicol, and azithromycin. Injected antimicrobial drugs that are generally effective include penicillin, penicillin G benzathine, or penicillin G procaine. Remember, penicillin-type drugs should never be prescribed as an oral drug as it can cause fatal enteric dysbiosis and enterotoxemia.[1]

Meloxicam or carprofen may also be given for pain management.[1]

Further reading

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Oglesbee, B. (2011). Blackwell's five-minute veterinary consult: Small mammal. (2nd ed.).
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Small Mammals > Diseases. Retrieved 06 Jan 2016 from
  3. Varga, M. (2013). Textbook of rabbit medicine. (2nd ed.).