Bacterial Pneumonia in Rabbits and Ferrets

Summary Information
Diseases / List of Bacterial Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names See also:
Disease Agents
In Rabbits
In Ferrets
Infectious Agent(s In Rabbits

In Ferrets 


  • Streptococcus zooepidemicus
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Pasteurella pneumotropica
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Listeria monocytogenes


Non-infectious Agent(s) --
Physical Agent(s) --
General Description
Clinical signs
In Rabbits
  • Poor exercise tolerance, increased respiratory rate - these may not be noticed in e.g. hutch-kept rabbits. (B602.17.w17)
  • Anorexia and depression may occur in severe cases. (B601.7.w7, B614.8.w8, J10.36.w1)
  • Dyspnoea, cyanosis. (B601.7.w7)
  • Note: sometimes no clinical signs are observed before death. (B614.8.w8, J10.36.w1)
In Ferrets
  • Nasal discharge. (B232.6.w6, B602.7.w7, B627.14.w14, B628.11.w11)
  • Dyspnoea, shortness of breath. (B232.6.w6, B602.7.w7, B628.11.w11)
  • Increased abdominal movement associated with breathing. (B232.6.w6, B601.7.w7, B627.14.w14)
  • Blue mucous membranes. (B232.6.w6, B602.7.w7)
  • Lethargy. (B232.6.w6, B602.7.w7, B627.14.w14)
  • Anorexia. (B232.6.w6, B602.7.w7, B627.14.w14, B628.11.w11)
  • Possible high temperature. (B232.6.w6, B602.7.w7, B627.14.w14)
  • Lung sounds may be increased. (B602.7.w7, B628.11.w11)
  • Note: Sudden onset pneumonia with sepsis can cause sudden death. (B232.6.w6, B602.7.w7, B627.14.w14)
  • In kits, dyspnoea, open-mouth breathing, nasal discharge (serous to suppurative) and death within 24 hours if not treated with antibiotics has been seen. (B627.14.w14)
Gross pathology
In Rabbits
  • Pulmonary: In a study, lesions included red consolidation of the anteroventral lobes of the lungs, with or without emphysema; red and grey consolidation of the anteroventral lobes; diffuse red or red and grey consolidation; diffuse red and grey consolidation with emphysema or with lung abscesses, fibrinous pleuro-pneumonia and fibrinous pleuro-pneumonia with lung abscesses. (J35.159.w3)
  • Note: severe lung lesions may develop without many clinical signs having been noted. (J10.36.w1)
  • With disseminated staphylococcosis, fibrinous pneumonia or pulmonary abscesses may occur. (B602.17.w17)
  • Final diagnoses in one study included acute haemorrhagic pneumonia, acute suppurative pneumonia and fibrinohaemorrhagic bronchopneumonia with fibrinous pleuritis. (J35.159.w3)
In Ferrets
  • Pulmonary:
    • Suppurative inflammation may be present in and around the bronchial tree, or in major portions of the lung lobes. (B627.14.w14)
    • In the bronchi, purulent material may be found. (B627.14.w14)
    • Consolidation of the lung lobes in the cranioventral region. (B232.6.w6)
    • Necrosis of the alveoli and airways. (B232.6.w6)
    • There may be granulomatous tissue present. (B232.6.w6)
Further Information
In Ferrets
  • Susceptibility is increased by Influenza in Ferrets, chronic disease (e.g. cardiomyopathy), metabolic disease, immunosuppresive therapy and post-surgery. (B627.14.w14)
In Rabbits
  • Clinical signs.
  • Radiography. See: Imaging in Lagomorph Diagnosis and Treatment
    • In a rabbit with severe respiratory compromise, initially it may be possible only to obtain a conscious dorso-ventral radiograph of the thorax. If possible, a lateral view of the thorax should be taken, with the front legs drawn forwards. (B601.7.w7)
    • Assessment may be difficult due to the small thoracic cavity as well as intrathoracic fat which may be present. (B601.7.w7)
    • Obtaining an inspiratory film is challenging due to rapid, shallow respiration. (B601.7.w7)
In Ferrets
  • History. (B232.6.w6)
    • Note: If the ferret is immuno-suppressed, this can allow latent infections to become active. (B602.7.w7)
  • Physical examination. (B232.6.w6, B601.7.w7, B628.11.w11, B631.26.w26)
  • Radiographs of the thorax. See: Imaging in Ferret Diagnosis and Treatment (B602.7.w7, B628.11.w11, B631.26.w26)
    • Increased lung density may be seen, with e.g. air bronchograms or hilar oedema. (B232.6.w6)
    • Bronchial patterns may suggest primary airway disease. (B602.7.w7)
    • Pleural effusion may be seen. (B631.19.w19)
  • Haematology (B601.7.w7, B628.11.w11, B631.26.w26)
  • Cytology and culture of fluid taken from the trachea via lavage. (B232.6.w6, B602.7.w7, B627.14.w14, B628.11.w11, B631.26.w26)
    • This should be send for bacterial and fungal cultures. (B601.7.w7)
Differential diagnosis
In Ferrets
In Ferrets
  • Oxygen should be given if breathing is difficult. (B232.6.w6, B602.7.w7, B628.11.w11)
  • Diuretics may help with gaseous exchange in the lungs. (B232.6.w6)
  • Fluid therapy should be given. (B232.6.w6, B602.7.w7, B628.11.w11)
  • Provide very palatable foods; force feeding may be necessary. (B232.6.w6, B602.7.w7, B628.11.w11)
  • Antibiotics should be given whilst waiting for a culture result. (B631.26.w26)
  • Note: A combination of these antibiotics may be required. (B602.7.w7)
  • Treatment is usually given until clinical signs have stopped and the ferret's lungs are clear on radiographs. (B631.26.w26)
In Ferrets
  • Prognosis depends on the severity of the pneumonia, but generally ferrets respond well to antibiotics and supportive treatment. (B602.7.w7)
In Ferrets
  • Isolate animals that are infected, to prevent further spread of the infection. (B232.6.w6)
Associated Techniques
Host taxa groups /species
Disease Author Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5), Bridget Fry BSc, RVN (V.w143)
Referees Brigitte Reusch BVet Med (Hons) CertZooMed MRCVS (V.w127)

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