Our first blog-emailed question comes from Angy K. in Baltimore, MD:
Q: Hello Rabbit Advocate! I recently adopted a bunny named Toby. Overall he seems to be doing well in my house, he hops around, stays out of trouble and seems to be adjusting well. However, I noticed that he seems to now be sneezing a lot. At least, thats what it sounds like to me. Is it possible he has an allergy?
A: If your rabbit is experiencing frequent sneezing, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian to check him for an upper respiratory infection (colloquially "snuffles") or pneumonia. If these tests come back negative, your rabbit could have allergies.
Believe it or not, rabbit allergies are actually quite common. And I'm not referring here to the kind humans develop to rabbit fur or pet dander. Rabbits get allergies too! Some rabbits are much more sensitive to dust particles in the air than others and will develop recurrent sneezing, runny nose, and teary eyes.
Here are some things you can do to alleviate your rabbit's symptoms:
1) Experiment with a different type of litter. Dusty clay cat litter is a common irritant and the clumping kind should be avoided at all costs because it is dangerous when ingested. Cedar chips can also cause allergic reactions in your rabbit. The best litter I've found is Yesterday's News cat litter. Very absorbent, odor-reducing, affordable and non allergenic. It's also good for the environment, as it is made from recycled newspapers.
2) The hay that you're feeding to your rabbit is covered in dust and could be the culprit. Try buying a higher quality hay, as these are fresher and less dusty. Another thing you can do is shake the dust out of the hay before giving it to your rabbit.
3) If your rabbit's cage is right under a window and it's summer or spring, your rabbit could be reacting to allergens in the air, just like we often do. Moving your rabbit away from the window or door is one preventative measure. Talk to your vet also about the possibility of administering a low-dose antihistamine.4) It's also possible your bunny is allergic to a new toy/treat/or food. Eliminate any new objects or edible items you've recently introduced and see if the sneezing stops.
Rabbit allergies are quite annoying for your pet and can even be worrying to watch, but they're not causing permanent damage. Adjusting certain environmental factors is your best bet in alleviating symptoms. Good luck!