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Abscesses in Rabbits

By: Dr. Branson Ritchie

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Abscesses in rabbits can be a serious problem. They are accumulations of pus that are formed by tissue degeneration and surrounded by inflamed areas. Abscesses form when infectious agents such as bacteria, fungi or parasites or foreign bodies like splinters, lodge in tissue and cause a persistent inflammatory response. Abscesses are filled with a creamy material called pus and can form in any tissue in the body.

The most common causes of abscesses in rabbits are bite wounds that become infected, tooth root infections, and tear duct infections. The danger with abscesses is that they often rupture internally and cause septicemia, which can be fatal.

What to Watch For

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Signs of irritation or pain
  • Excessive grooming
  • Itchiness
  • Discharge
  • Moistened fur
  • A firm, painful mass
  • Drooling
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Facial swelling
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss


    Your veterinarian will not only have to diagnosis your rabbit's abscess – he will also have to determine the causative agent. Some tests that might be ordered are:

  • History and physical examination
  • Complete blood count
  • Blood chemistry
  • Cytology (microscopic evaluation of cells)
  • Biopsy and microscopic evaluation of affected tissues
  • Culture and antimicrobial sensitivity testing
  • Radiographs (X-rays)
  • Ultrasound


    Treatment of your bunny will involve ridding the body of the abscess and making sure your pet remains healthy. This will include:

  • Surgical removal of affected tissues
  • Surgically opening and flushing the abscess
  • Antibiotics
  • Fluids and supportive nutrition

    Home Care

    Proper care at home is critical, especially if your rabbit does not rapidly improve. Your veterinarian will give specific instructions for helping to care for your pet.

    Keep infected rabbits in isolation during treatment. If your pet has an abscess on the skin, make certain that the site remains open so it will heal from the inside to the outside. Monitor fecal and urine output daily to assure proper food and water consumption and monitor weight daily.

    Preventative Care

    There are some important things you can do to help prevent your rabbit from forming an abscess. Keep sharp objects away from your rabbit and keep his living area clean and sanitized.

    Avoid contact between rabbits and other animals that may result in puncture wounds from teeth or nails. To prevent life-threatening foot infections (pododermatitis), make sure your rabbit does not become obese. Use a soft bedding material and keep it dry.

    Prevent your rabbit from chewing on sharp or fibrous objects that may cut the gums or inside of the mouth or that may splinter and cause penetrating wounds in the mouth.

    If your companion rabbit is scratched or cut, see your veterinarian as soon as possible so the wound can be properly cleaned and treated.

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