ISSN 2398-2969      




  • Cause: bacterial infection caused by many different serotypes of PasteurellaPasteurella multocida  Pasteurella multocidaa gram-negative bipolar staining, non-spore forming, facultatively anaerobic, coccobacillus is often isolated.
  • Many serotypes and strains exist and are typed according to their capsular and somatic antigens.
  • The majority of serotypes isolated from rabbits are capsular type A.
  • More severe disease has been associated with A3 and D strains.
  • Pasteurella multocida appears to be a commensal bacterium of the respiratory tract in most pet rabbits; prevalence increases with age.
  • The pathogenesis of Pasteurella multocida infection depends on the virulence of the strain and host resistance. In the 1920s Webster and Smith published a series of papers establishing pasteurellosis as the primary cause of respiratory disease in domestic rabbits. They established that rabbits challenged with Pasteurella multocida can either:
    • Resist infection.
    • Spontaneously eliminate infection.
    • Become chronic carriers.
    • Develop acute rhinitis, pneumonia or bacteremia.
    • Develop chronic disease.
  • Signs: rhinitis, sinusitis, otitis, conjunctivitis, dacryocystitis, pleuropneumonia, bacteremia, abscesses within subcutaneous tissues, bone, joints or internal organs.
  • Diagnosis: clinical signs, blood work, imaging to assess overall health. Definitive diagnosis based on culture and sensitivity, and Pasteurella PCR assay.
  • Treatment: based on clinical signs and severity. Symptomatic treatment, nebulization, antibiotics based on sensitivity testing, surgical removal of abscesses. 
  • Prognosis: depends on chronicity. Guarded to poor for chronic disease. Recovered animals intermittently shed Pasteurella.


Many tooth root abscesses are not Pasteurella associated, but rather, are due to anaerobic bacteria.

  • Bacteremia, causing acute generalized disease, pyrexia and death.
  • Genital infections (orchitis, pyometra Pyometra) and mastitis Mastitis.

Print off the Owner factsheet on Pasteurellosis to give to your clients.

Geographic incidence

  • Worldwide.

Age predisposition

  • No age predilection, however neonatal/young rabbits may have an immature immune system.

Breed predisposition

  • Some reports suggests some rabbits are more genetically susceptible to developing disease with the Chinchilla breed Chinchilla being more susceptible than the Blue Beveren breed Blue Beveren.

Public health considerations

  • The zoonotic risk presented by pasteurellosis should not be overlooked. In 2006, a fatal case of pasteurellosis was reported in a farmer from Suffolk in the UK, following contact with the viscera of an infected rabbit.
  • Direct transmission from inhalation of infected respiratory secretions, and indirect transmission via contact with infected fomites postulated but unproven.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Scarff D (2008) Skin diseases of pet rabbits. UK Vet: Companion Animal 13 (2), 66-75 VetMedResource.
  • Keeble E (2006) Common neurological and musculoskeletal problems in rabbits. In Pract 28 (4), 212-218 VetMedResource.
  • Rougier S, Galland D, Boucher S et al (2006) Epidemiology and susceptibility of pathogenic bacteria responsible for upper respiratory tract infections in pet rabbits. Vet Microbiol 115 (1-3), 192-198 PubMed.
  • Ruzauskas M (2005) Development and assay of inactivated pasteurella vaccine for rabbits. Biologija 2, 35-39 VetMedResource.
  • Peshev R & Christova L (2003) The efficacy of a bivalent vaccine against pasteurellosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus. Vet Res Com 27 (6), 433-444 PubMed.
  • Confer A W, Suckow M A, Montelongo M et al (2001) Intranasal vaccination of rabbits with Pasteurella multocida A:3 outer membranes that express iron regulated proteins. Am J Vet Res 62 (5), 697-703 PubMed.
  • Takashima H, Sakai H, Yanai T et al (2001) Detection of antibodies against Pasteurella multocida using immunohistochemical staining in an outbreak of rabbit pasteurellosis. J Vet Med Sci 63 (2), 171-174 PubMed.
  • Sanchez S, Mizan S, Ritchie B W et al (2000) Pasteurellosis in rabbits. Comp Cont Educ Pract Vet 22 (4), 344-351 ResearchGate.
  • Suckow M A (2000) Immunization of rabbits against Pasteurella multocida using a commercial swine vaccine. Lab Anim 34 (4) 403-408 PubMed.
  • McKay S G, Morck D W, Merrill J K et al (1996) Use of tilmicosin for treatment of pasteurellosis in rabbits. Am J Vet Res 57 (8), 1180-1184 PubMed.
  •  Suckow M A, Martin B J, Bowersock T L et al (1996) Derivation of Pasteurella multocida-free rabbit litters by enrofloxacin treatment. Vet Microbiol 51 (1-2), 161-168 PubMed.
  • Mähler M, Stünkel S, Ziegowski C et al (1995) Inefficacy of enrofloxacin in the elimination of Pasteurella multocida in rabbits. Lab Anim 29 (2), 192-199 PubMed.
  • DiGiacomo R F, Deeb B J, Brodie S J et al (1993) Toxin production by Pasteurella multocida isolated from rabbits with atrophic rhinitis. Am J Vet Res 54 (8), 1280-1286 PubMed.
  • Broome R L & Brooks D L (1991) Efficacy of enrofloxacin in the treatment of respiratory pasteurellosis in rabbits. Lab Anim Sci 41 (6), 572-576 PubMed.
  • Suckow M A, Chrisp C E, Foged N T (1991) Heat-labile toxin-producing isolates of Pasteurella multocida from rabbits. Lab Anim Sci 41 (2), 151-156 PubMed.
  • Deeb B J, DiGiacomo R F, Bernard B L et al (1990) Pasteurella multocida and Bordetella bronchiseptica infections in rabbits. J Clin Microbiol 28 (1), 70-75 PubMed.
  • DiGiacomo R F, Deeb B J, Giddens W E Jr. (1989) Atrophic rhinitis in New Zealand white rabbits infected with Pasteurella multocida. Am J Vet Res 50 (9), 1460-1465 PubMed.
  • DiGiacomo R F, Jones C D, Wathes C M (1987) Transmission of Pasteurella multocida in rabbits. Lab Anim Sci 37 (5), 621-623 PubMed.
  • DiGiacomo R F, Garlinghouse L E Jr, Van Hoosier G L Jr (1983) Natural history of infection with Pasteurella multocida in rabbits. JAVMA 183 (11), 1172-1175 PubMed.
  • Lu Y S & Pakes S P (1981) Protection of rabbits against experimental pasteurellosis by a streptomycin-dependent Pasteurella multocida serotype 3:A live mutant vaccine. Infection & Immunity 34 (3), 1018-1024 PubMed.
  • Webster L T (1924) The epidemiology of a rabbit respiratory infection: I. Introduction. J Exp Med 39, 837-841 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Hedley J (2014) Respiratory Disease. In: BSAVA Manual of Rabbit Medicine. Eds: Meredith A & Lord B. BSAVA, UK. pp 160-167.
  • Varga M (2014) The Rabbit-Friendly Practice. In: BSAVA Manual of Rabbit Medicine. Eds: Meredith A &Lord B. BSAVA, UK. pp 59-79.
  • Oglesbee B (2011) Pasteurellosis. In: Blackwell’s five-minute veterinary consult: small mammal. 2nd edn. Ed: Oglesbee BL. Wiley-Blackwell, UK. pp 476-478
  • Deeb J D (2004) Respiratory Disease and Pasteurellosis. In: Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents. Clinical Medicine and Surgery. 2nd edn. Eds: Quesenberry K E & Carpenter J W. Saunders, USA. pp 172-182 .
  • Langan G P & Schaeffer D O (2000) Rabbit Microbiology and Virology.In: Laboratory Medicine: Avian & Exotic Pets. Ed: Fudge. Saunders, USA. pp 325-333.
  • Kpodekon M, Rideaud D & Coudert P (1999) Pasteurelloses du Lapin: Revue. Revue de Médecine Vétérinaire 150 (3), 221-232.
  • Deeb B J (1997) Respiratory Disease and the Pasteurella Complex. In: Ferrets, Rabbits & Rodents; Clinical Medicine & Surgery. Eds: Hillyer E V & Quesenberry K E. Saunders, USA. pp 189-201.
  • DeLong D & Manning PJ (1994) Bacterial Diseases. In: The Biology of the Laboratory Rabbit. 2nd edn. Eds: Manning PJ, Ringler DH & Newcomber CE. Academic Press, UK. pp 131-170.
  • Whittaker D (1989) Pasteurellosis in the Laboratory Rabbit: A Review. In: The Veterinary Annual. Scientechnica, UK. pp 285-291. 
  • Bourne D & Fox N (online) Pasteurellosis in Lagomorphs. Website: 

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