Exposure to common toxic substances, such as pesticides and herbicides, can prove fatal to rabbits. However, these substances generally don't kill by affecting the lungs. Rabbit lung ailments usually result from infection and death can occur quickly. As prey animals, rabbits are adept at hiding illness until it's too late. Get your pet to the vet at the first sign of any respiratory problem.
Mold in Feed
It's important to make sure that your rabbit doesn't consume any moldy feed or hay. Inhaling the mold spores can cause respiratory illness in a bunny. Eating moldy foods can kill him. Moldy feed or hay smells bad. You might see blue-green mold on feed, while mold in hay causes dust and turns the fibers gray or black. If you're not sure whether or not hay or feed is moldy, follow the old adage: "When in doubt, throw it out." To avoid mold problems, store feed properly in metal containers and don't allow it to get damp. If you purchase small amounts of hay at a pet store and use it quickly, you're unlikely to experience mold. If you purchase bales of hay, don't allow them to sit on the ground or get wet.
Too Much Fat
Obesity isn't healthy in any animal, but too much fat can affect a rabbit's lungs. Not only can the excess weight cause breathing difficulties, but if your rabbit gets sick, excess fat makes diagnosing an illness via an X-ray difficult. A veterinarian might not be able to determine the location of the lungs, chest wall and heart in a radiograph of a fat bunny. Ask your vet about the right diet to keep your bunny at a healthy weight.
Bacteria and Lung Disease
Rabbits are vulnerable to certain bacteria that cause lung infections. Among the most common is Pasteurella multocida, which can result in the extremely contagious disease known as pasteurellosis. This disease often leads to pneumonia, which can be fatal. Affected rabbits cough and experience breathing difficulties. They stop eating and appear lethargic. If your rabbit displays any of these symptoms, get him to a vet immediately. Prompt antibiotic treatment might save your pet.
Rabbit Lung Tumors
Rabbits can develop tumors in their lungs. These tumors generally develop in the lung lining, but spread to the abdomen or other parts of the body. Signs of lung cancer in rabbits include eye bulging, shortness of breath and rapid respiration, muscle weakness and swelling around the head and upper half of the body. The tumor can obstruct your bunny's airflow, with surgical removal the only treatment. After surgery, your vet might prescribe steroids to reduce inflammation and your pet might undergo radiation therapy. If the cancer has spread, the prognosis isn't good, but if it hasn't metastasized and the entire tumor is removed, your rabbit might recover.
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Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.