Nasal Swabbing in Rabbits (Disease Investigation & Management - Treatment and Care)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords Collection of nasal swabs.
Collection of deep nasal swabs
  • Restraint: 
    • Sedation or anaesthesia is advised to decrease the risk of iatrogenic damage to the nasal mucosa and turbinates. (B600.13.w13, B601.2.w2)
  • Technique:
    • Insert a small (no. 4) sterile calcium alginate swab into the nasal cavity slightly ventrally and medially and then advance at least 1 cm along the nasal septum (preferably deeper - up to 4 cm). (B601.2.w2, B601.7.w7, B602.17.w17)
      • The nasal swab may be advanced up to the level of the medial canthus of the eye (it is a good idea to pre-measure this distance). (B601.2.w2)
    • Repeat on the other side of the nasal cavity because the nasal infection may be unilateral. (B601.7.w7, B602.17.w17)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Investigation of nasal discharges or clinical signs of upper respiratory disease of unknown origin by obtaining samples for bacterial or fungal culture and cytology. (B601.2.w2)
Appropriate restraint
  • Sedation or anaesthesia is advised for this procedure. (B600.13.w13, B601.2.w2)
  • A bacterial pathogen that is causing rhinitis will often be found in almost pure culture from the nares. Multiple sensitivity tests are not necessary on normal nasal flora that may be found in a mixed culture. (B602.17.w17)
  • To maximise the success of recovering Pasteurella multocida (see Pasteurellosis in Lagomorphs), the swab should be inoculated directly onto a blood agar plate or at least within a short period. Cary-Blair transport medium is recommended if the specimen has to be transported to a laboratory. (B602.17.w17)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Iatrogenic damage to the nasal mucosa and turbinates
    • This is more likely to occur if the procedure is attempted on a conscious rabbit; sedation or anaesthesia should be used. (B601.2.w2)
  • Even with deep swabbing, environmental bacteria may be recovered and cultured. (V.w125)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Small sterile swabs:
    • No. 4 calcium alginate swab (B601.7.w7; B602.17.w17)
    • A fine sterile swab or microculturette (B601.2.w2)
Expertise level / Ease of Use This procedure should only be carried out by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience.
Cost / Availability
  • Equipment is inexpensive.
  • Cost of equipment for in-house testing
  • Cost of external laboratory fees.
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery." (see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).
Author Nikki Fox BVSc MRCVS (V.w103)
Referee Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5); Molly Varga BVetMed DZooMed MRCVS (V.w125)
References B600.13.w13, B601.2.w2, B601.7.w7, B602.17.w17

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