Diagnosing Snuffles

Pan American Vet Labs has announced they will offer a service to diagnose pastuerella.

Pan American Vet Labs has announced they will offer a service to diagnose pastuerella.

If you’ve been reading here for awhile you’ve probably figured out I have a bit of a personal problem. I get very nervous about germs.

 

On a human stand point this means that I groan internally every time I use a public bathroom, get totally freaked out if someone offers to let me drink after them, and one of my “must haves” on a husband list was that the poor man had never had cold sores. Yep. I was in to the important stuff.

 

From the rabbit side my germophobia has caused several arguments with my husband about proper rabbitry ventilation and sun exposure, two separate quarantine areas, and a slightly neurotic fear of any rabbit that sneezes. That fear of sneezing is also a fear of snuffles, and my desire to just plain not have to worry about it brought us to a decision to vaccinate every show rabbit we have with BunnyVac before we ever put it on a table.

 

Awhile ago we were at a show and happened to be set up next to some rabbits that sneezed. At the first sneeze I was completely alert and aware of everything those rabbits did. I calculated the four foot radius around their carriers and breathed a sigh of relief when I realized my rabbits were far enough away that those rabbits would have to be expectorating ninjas to infect my rabbits with anything. Then I settled down and watched.

 

The rabbits in question were consistently sneezing. I even saw snot from them on occasion as I observed. However, their eyes were bright, they ate food from their dishes, they drank water, their ears were perky… they didn’t seem sick. They just sneezed.

 

This is a problem. I live in a world where I like things to be black and white and a sneezing rabbit needs to be clear to me that it has pastuerella or snuffles. After hours of observation of those rabbits across the way, to this day I still can’t be sure what I was observing. Sure, a sneeze is suspicious but in the spring time with things blooming coupled with the 50 mph wind gusts in our area… how can you know for sure what that sneeze means?

 

I’ve discovered another tool in the tool box of diagnosis. Pan American Vet Labs in Texas, the same company that produces the BunnyVac, has recently made a diagnostic option available to the general rabbit breeder.

 

The bacteriologic culture service toolkit contains a snot extractor (that’s my non-official name for the instrument that snatches the boogers out of the rabbit’s nose) and mailing supplies. Breeder supplies postage. As I understand it, if you have a rabbit that is looking suspicious, you can grab a mucous sample from the nose or an abscess using the “sterile culturette swab,” put it in their media kit, and mail it off. (Samples should be shipped within 12 hours of collection by a service like FedEx or Priority Mail that can deliver to the lab within 72 hours.)

 

PavLab will test the sample for pastuerella, bordetella, staphylococcus, and streptococcus. Additional identification is possible for E.Coli, pseudomonas, proteus, and similar enteric bacteria may also be done. Generally they have about a 48 hour turn around before you get an email identifying exactly what’s going on with your rabbit, giving you the clarity that I (and the other type-A germophobes in this world) may desire.

 

It’s not exactly cheap – the toolkit costs $4 per culturette (plus shipping which is about $7 in the US). The culturettes have a year or two shelf life, so you can keep the swabs on hand until needed. At the time the culture is sent off there will be an additional $30 charge to run the diagnostic test to culture and identify bacteria.

 

For what it’s worth, Pan American Vet Labs is not the only place you can get this service, but it seems to be the cheapest. Here is information complied by Kelly P. on the facebook forum that discusses other options:

 

I spoke to several labs around the USA regarding culturette testing for p. multocida and bordetella. I live in California, so most of the labs were here in my area. I also limited my research to labs that accept culturettes and excluded labs that require a serum specimen, since most rabbit breeders don’t have the means to extract serum from whole blood. Here’s what I found:

•UC Davis, Ca
oUC Davis’ PCR lab doesn’t test for p. multocida, but does test for bordetella. Since I am interested in both, I didn’t ask their pricing. The other labs on campus only deal with large animals. The direct phone number for the PCR lab is 530-752-7991. If you’re interested in checking out their website for these tests and others, go here: http://www.cahfs.ucdavis.edu/lab_tests/
• Zoologix, Inc in Chatsworth, Ca
oTests for both p. multocida and bordetella, uses culturette swabs, but each test costs $85 (that’s $85 for p. multi and $85 for bordetella). Their phone number is 818-717-8880 and their website is http://www.zoologix.com/rodent/Menu.htm 
•Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL)
oTVMD tests for both, uses a culturette, and charges about $30 per animal (pricing varies whether you live in Texas or are out-of-state). I spoke with Dr. Naikari who works in the Amarillo lab. He was very polite, professional, and happy to answer questions and explain procedures. The number to the Amarillo lab is 888-646-5624 and the web address is http://tvmdl.tamu.edu/ 

It was a little difficult to obtain the bacterial transfer media. I discovered they’re sold on the Internet, but only in bulk quantities much greater than I’ll need before they expire. I called a local hospital, a (human) medical supply company, and several pharmacies. None were willing to sell me less than a case. I also called about five vets before finding one that was willing to sell me a handful of them. If you’re unable to obtain these locally, along with the appropriate shipping material, you can order them from TVMDL.

When you purchase the culturettes, be sure to get the kind with the suspension in them (bacterial transport media). According to Dr. Naikari, the suspension helps preserve the bacteria and also keeps it from drying out. I found culturettes on the Internet that are “dry” and won’t work if you plan on shipping to a lab. TVMDL’s website has a very informative page on all the rules and procedures for shipping lab samples. It can be found here: http://tvmdl.tamu.edu/products-services/shipping/

 

 

In the end, at approximately $1/rabbit/year it’s still cheaper to vaccinate your whole herd than test individually for sickness, as it will likely be about $50/rabbit to run a diagnostic test. But for those who have that special rabbit and need to know whether to cull or treat, or whether it’s allergies or pastuerella, it’s really nice to know this is an option!

 

I haven’t used this myself, so I can’t speak for this service personally. However, I do appreciate knowing what options exist. I’m certain if you have any questions you can contact Bob Glass, bglass@pavlab.com and he will respond to your specific concerns.

 

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One thought on “Diagnosing Snuffles

  1. Mardi Storm May 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm Reply

    Bizarre, UCDavis does test for pasteurella – and its one they can see with the blacklight so it pops up fast and in the 2 instances that I had pasteurella (one from a purchased rabbit and the other from a rabbit bit by a cat) they called me right away. I did end up culling everything in contact with the rabbits and disinfecting everything – what a chore. I am considering that vaccine! There is a lot of different things that can cause a sneeze, many are perfectly treatable. Bordatella can also cause white snot and can be tough – if a rabbit can’t get over it with a round of antibiotics, off they go.
    I purchased a rabbit who has tested positive for Pantoea agglomerans, and he is a high priced animal I have not figured out how to completely eliminate that bug if you turn anything up I’d like to know. He is otherwise healthy and happy and doesn’t sneeze but I can sometimes see some wetness around his nose. He’s been tested 3 times and its only ever been Pantoea agglomerans, and I can’t seem to find trustworthy info on it nor did my vet have it listed in her manual *sigh*.
    I am also paranoid about germs with my rabbits I was told to spray down their carrying cages before putting them back in from the show table, and spray up their nose and feet, with vanodine! I also use my own pen at the bank and carry natural cleansing wipes in the car for those… public places. I don’t get sick much at all.

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