Pasteurellosis, caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida, is a common health problem amongst pet rabbits. The Pasteurella bacterium has several strains which vary in their ability to cause health problems in the houserabbit. Most all rabbits have been exposed to this bacterium, either at birth or through general contact with other bunnies or even through contaminated bedding. As most bunnies carry the bacteria but have no symptoms until stressed, it is basically impossible to control the spread of the bacteria.
Once inside the rabbit, Pasteurella bacteria heads for the upper respiratory tract (nasal cavity), where it can remain dormant indefinitely if the rabbit has a healthy immune system (although it can still be spread to other rabbits, even while causing no problems in the host). With stress, or age, or other health problems, the bacteria can travel into the sinuses and ear canal of its host, into the lower respiratory tract (lungs) and eventually to the rest of the body.
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