Allergies

TIP – If you suspect your bunny has an allergy you must try to find ways to help relieve the symptoms, the risk of not doing so could lead to chronic infections.

Allergies in rabbits do not appear to have been recognised up until recently. Consequently, there is very little information on rabbits having allergies & there is no allergy test for rabbits.  I currently have a rabbit, Rumble, who is suspected of having an allergy of some kind.  The biggest problem for Rumble is obtaining a solid diagnosis. The suggestion that he has an allergy, as time has progressed would seem to confirm it.  If he had a virus or infection the symptoms would have grown a lot worse & he would not be heading for 9 years of age.  My only experience of an allergy in a rabbit is Rumble.

Rumble

Rumble was 6 months old when I adopted him & within weeks he was displaying symptoms likened to an allergy. The symptoms were:

  • Excessive sneezing. He can easily sneeze up to 40 times in one session & these sessions can occur several times a day.
  • A runny nose. Usually clear liquid & his left nostril is worse than the right nostril.
  • Noisy breathing. I hear different sounds, sometimes a rattle, wheeze or a sort of clicking noise is the only way I can think to describe it.
  • Runny eye. His right eye will sometimes have excess tears usually clear but have also been milky & yellow.

 

As Rumble aged some of his symptoms had grown worse. He had more frequent episodes of a runny eye. The runny nose & noisy breathing were always there.
The problems caused for Rumble by this allergy is when he had his sneezing episodes of 40+ several times in one day, he was very tired afterwards this in turn, on occasion has caused gut stasis. The excessive sneezing also caused him to have a lot of mucus & he has ended up with the odd infection.

I decided to keep a log to see if it could help me identify what was the cause of Rumble’s irritation.  I kept the log for several months. Initially, I took into account the daily pollen counts to see if that was a cause. It didn’t seem to make a difference. If the count was high he was no worse than if it was low. Initially, it looked like he was better in winter than he was in summer but when I recorded his symptoms there was no difference.  I do know that hay can set him off & if one of the other bunnies is digging in sawdust or shredded paper that does seem to set him off too. The problem is it isn’t consistent. For example I have given him hay the same as previous times & he’s been fine, other times he’s had a sneezing fit. The same has to be said for the paper & sawdust. Also if you ruffle hay, stir sawdust or shredded paper most of the other bunnies can have a good sneeze too. Rumble no longer has sawdust just newspaper & shredded paper in his pen.  I do not throw or shake the shredded paper around when I put it in his pen to reduce the amount of dust.  As for his hay I tend to put a couple of handfuls in his pen but do not shake it out once again to minimize the amount of dust.

Treatments Tried

All the treatments tried were thoroughly discussed with my vet & dosages relate specifically to Rumble.

  • Piriton Syrup. Piriton is a child’s syrup used to calm symptoms of an allergy. Tried over the spring & summer months until the bottle was finished.
    Dosage: 1ml twice a day orally. Bottle should read 0.4mg per ml of the active ingredient Chlorphenamine Maleate.
  • Bisolvon Powder. Bisolvon is for use in cats, dogs, pigs & cattle. It is an aid to the symptoms of respiratory diseases where mucus is a complicating factor.
    Dosage: A pinch once a day.
  • Asthma Inhalers. The first tried was the blue inhaler containing the active ingredient Subutamol . It relieves tightened airways by opening them up. Gives instant relief.
    Dosage: One spray.
    The second inhaler tried was the pink Fostair 100/6 containing active ingredients Beclometasone Dipropionate (steroid medication) & Formoterol Fumarate Dihydrate (is a long-acting bronchodilator). This is a preventer inhaler.
    Dosage: One spray.
  • Nebulizer combined with the Bisolvon Powder. A nebulizer is a machine that helps you to breathe in a medicine as a mist. I initially used the nebulizer without the Bisolvon powder & administered it by using the mask. I have now started to administer the mist & Bisolvon by placing Rumble in a basket with towels over. It is now easy to administer.
    Dosage: Container filled to maximum with warm water & a sprinkle of Bisolvon powder.

 

Results

Piriton –  No improvement in Rumble. Was difficult to administer. Rumble hated being handled twice a day & it caused a fair bit of stress.

Piriton Syrup.

Bisolvon Powder – Did see a slight improvement in the mucus. There was definitely less overall but it was inconsistent as he still had very bad days of mucus. Was easy to administer. I poured the sachet into a salt pot & sprinkled a little on to his favourite treat. I dampened his treat so the powder would stick.

Bisolvon powder
Salt pot containing the Bisolvon powder.

Inhalers – The Blue Subutamol inhaler definitely worked when he needed to have his breathing eased. It was instantaneous. Easy to administer. Initially, I used a toilet roll tube to administer the spray but poor Rumble got a little bit of a shock as the spray was released. After further investigation I found an aerochamber. This is used for easy administration of an inhaler to babies & very young children. There was no shock for Rumble & he adapted to the mask very well. I held the mask over his face for 30 seconds & gave him a treat afterwards to reinforce it as a positive experience.

Blue Inhaler.
Toilet roll method tried with the blue inhaler.

The Pink Fostair 100/6 inhaler made no difference at all. It could possibly have been due to the way it was administered. The aerochamber, with a bit of modification, worked great for the blue inhaler but the pink inhaler’s particles are heavier so may not have carried across the chamber as well resulting in Rumble getting a very small dose. At the moment I can’t think of a better way to administer it.  The big downside to this medicine is rabbits do not get things on prescription from the NHS. The cost of just one of these is nearly £50 & that doesn’t include the prescription fee. I did think this inhaler’s ingredients would help Rumble as one of them is a steroid & my vet has suggested steroids may help.

Pink Inhaler.
Aerochamber with blue inhaler attached.
Aerochamber showing the mask section.
Rumble about to use the Aerochamber. The mask has yet to go further over his face.

Nebulizer with the Bisolvon Powder – Initially I used the mask to administer the mist as I thought Rumble would adapt to the mask with ease after the aerochamber, this was not the case, it did cause a fair amount of stress. I then started to put Rumble is his pet basket covered in towels & administered the mist into his basket. He was much more relaxed & happier with this.

The Nebulizer.
The mask & container.
Rumble using the mask.

Initially, it was hard to tell if the nebulizer was actually doing anything, he was very inconsistent in his bad & good days. However, after a couple of weeks I did start to see a small improvement. After a discussion with my vet, it was decided to nebulize Rumble twice a week for 20 minutes each session. The aim of the nebulizer was to help all the crud out of his lungs & nasal passages to break up & come out.  It seemed to be working as after his nebulizing sessions he would be very snotty but a few days later it was less. However, Rumble did have a set back a few months into using the nebulizer, he managed to have a bad chest infection.  It is possible that with all the crud being broken up that may have contributed to it. Rumble was put on antibiotics & ended up continuing them for 5 weeks. After the 5th week Rumble seemed to be a lot better so the antibiotics were stopped, all throughout he was still being nebulized twice a week. It was at this point I decided to add the Bisolvon powder.
Rumble has been using the nebulizer since January 2019 & after the bad chest infection in June 2019 he has vastly improved. His sneezing has reduced & he no longer sneezes 40+ times in a session, the sessions themselves are less frequent & he no longer has a runny eye. The mucus is definitely a lot less & out of a week I would now say he only seems to have a couple of days with white mucus coming out of his nose, this is usually after being nebulized too, which is to be expected. Looking back I wonder if he had to have the really bad days & infection as the crud was being broken up & coming up. It seems to me that maybe his nasal passageways & chest are now pretty clear & after each nebulizing session, any build up is being broken up & coming out. If this is the case then Rumble should now remain stable & hopefully, any infections will stay away. In conclusion I think I might just have found some way of maintaining him, which is my aim as I know he can’t be cured.

The warm water with the Bisolvon powder mixed & the container to be filled to maximum.
Rumble is his basket with the nebulizer container attached to the door.
Rumble being nebulized with most of the basket covered by towels. It is important not to cover the basket completely & regular checks were made on Rumble to make sure he wasn’t getting too hot.
Rumble in the mist of the nebulizer.
Rumble after being nebulized.

Note – My vet thinks that steroids would work but the negative side effects of continuous steroid use outweigh his current symptoms. In fact, that is why I tried the pink inhaler as it contains a steroid.  Long term steroid use via an inhaler is much less harmful than other methods as the spray just goes straight into the part of the body that is targeted.  Only a very tiny amount may enter the rest of the body which I understand is an insignificant amount. That is why I was happy to use a steroid in that instance.

24th May 2020 dearest Rumble passed away. Basically, all the years of having to deal with his allergy & what that brought, the infections, constant sneezing & his immune system always working flat out, eventually caught up with him. Rumble ended up with another infection & was put on antibiotics, they appeared to be working but his breathing became difficult. Even though he was put in an oxygen chamber he lost his fight. What I didn’t understand at the time was why did his mucus from his nose improve, one nostril even became dry & the other was just a little damp, no yellow or even white mucus. My vet said it was near on impossible to explain what ultimately happened, it’s possible he had abscesses in his chest which would have walled infection in so the antibiotics wouldn’t have touched them, or whether he became septicaemic despite the antibiotics. Ultimately, if lung disease is so marked then the other organs begin to fail and especially with rabbits the heart is not good at coping with the stress of it all. I also learnt that every time Rumble had an infection in his chest, it would leave scarring making his lungs weaker every time. I wonder if he had been nebulized right from when we suspected an allergy, perhaps the infections could have been stopped over the years. The sad thing is because there is nothing for rabbits, not even a way of diagnosing, it’s all research & trial & error. So I hope if anyone can help their bunny through Rumble’s experiences then at least he didn’t go through all that for nothing.