Differential diagnosis for difficult of noisy breathing



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Video showing an older female rabbit that presents a stertorous (noisy) breathing. Causes are yet unclear.

Since the rabbit appears relaxed (rabbits often sleep with open eyes), the nostrils are closed, it may relate to physical obstruction of air

through the throat or nose (stertor). Is the soft palate weak and floppy, or elongated, as has been observed in some older animals ?

It may alsobe indicative of nasal deformation of the sinus due to chronic upper respiratory disease, allergy to dust, among others.


Videos: courtesy of Tal Saarony

 Bacterial diseases


Staphylococcus sp. infection

Bordetella sp.

Pseudomonas sp.


Mycoplasma sp.

Presence of abscesses in the lungs

Bacterial pneumonia


 Fungal diseases

Mycobacterium sp.

Aspergillus sp.


Parasitic causes


Reed SD, Shaw S, Evans DE. Spinal lymphoma and pulmonary filariasis in a pet domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus). J Vet Diagn Invest. 2009 Mar;21(2):253-6.


 Metabolic diseases


Metabolic alkalosis (Alkalosis of the lungs may be caused by too much air coming into the lungs (hyperventilation).


Mechanical problems

Aspiration of a foreign body, like a piece of hay

Lung injury or trauma

Extensive pulmonary hemorrhages

Tumors or vascular abnormalities involving the brain stem


Stertotous breathing / Snoring

Snoring caused by the vibration of respiratory structures, due to obstructed air movement during breathing while sleeping, relaxing.

Narrowing at the back of the throat, while the amount of air passing through this smaller opening does not change. The tissues surrounding the opening start to vibrate, which in turn can cause the sounds of snoring. In all cases, the noise results from particles in the air that form sound waves

Elongation of thickened soft palate.

Weakening of the soft palate. With aging, the soft palate may become weak and floppy, which can lead to increased snoring during sleep. Increased snoring has been observed in older animals when resting, e.g. dogs or cats.

Deformation of the nasal cavity, e.g. complications associated with the roots of teeth.

Sleep apnea, as has been observed in other animals, e.g. dogs and cats



Environment causes

Environmental stress, e.g. barking dogs, street works

Emotional stress, e.g. projection of disease


Central nervous system diseases

Neuromuscular disease

Disorders of the peripheral nervous system


Neoplastic diseases

Abdominal mass (e.g. thymoma)

Lung metastasis

Presence of a tumor in the trachea


Cardiac diseases

Presence of a pulmonary edema

Chronic cardiovascular diseases

Congestive heart failure


Autoimmune or chemically induced


Ammonia vapors



Overdosage of a sedative or anesthetic drug



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