My Rabbit Has an Abscess
See files for Rabbits
Abscesses in rabbits are a relatively common disorder and can be more or less dangerous depending on their location and development. Even some large abscesses can be very treatable in certain situations. This does not mean we should ignore any abscess we find in a rabbit. However small, any lump in the rabbit's skin may be a symptom of an underlying condition, so immediate veterinary treatment is essential. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the right treatment if necessary.
In our article on my rabbit has an abscess, AnimalWised looks at the possible causes of this condition and what treatment will be needed for them.
What are abscesses in rabbits?
An abscess is an accumulation of pus which develops under the rabbit's skin in their tissue. The area becomes inflamed, it may increase in size and you may see reddened skin. They are not usually painful and may be either of soft or hard consistency. The cause of an abscess is usually due to bacterial infection. The bacteria which cause them include:
- Pasteurella multocida
- Streptococcus sp.
- Staphylococcus sp.
- Pseudomona sp.
- Clostridium sp.
This bacteria enters the tissues, replicating and leading to the purulent inflammation. Abscesses are most commonly seen on the face, neck or inside of the rabbit's mouth, although they can appear on almost any part of the body. They can even exist internally on the tissue of various organs, but these are much more difficult to detect.
Symptoms of abscesses in rabbits
While the inflammation presented as a lump is the most obvious symptom of an abscess, there are different observations depending on the abscess location. For example, if the abscess is present on the face or inside the mouth of the rabbit, concurrent symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Hair loss
The reason for these concurrent symptoms is because the abscess makes it difficult to eat. Abscesses on the belly can also put pressure on the gastrointestinal system and create related problems. Pain is also an issue, especially when the rabbit is touched. This can lead to generalized stress and anxiety, something particularly detrimental to these already very sensitive animals.
Causes of abscesses in rabbits
Since the cause of the abscess usually stems from a bacterial infection, the indirect cause of the abscess may be a trauma. If the rabbit cuts themselves, bacteria may enter the wound site and lead to an abscess. Hygiene is a big issue. If they are very dirty, bacteria may enter the skin's pores and lead to abscesses. Also, if the rabbit is malnourished for any reason, the bacteria will be better able to act on their body. Their lowered immune system means they cannot fight off the abscess efficiently.
Finally, an underlying disease or pathology may lead to abscesses as a secondary symptom. As we state above, the lowered immune system caused by a disease might impact on the cause. This is another reason taking the rabbit to the veterinarian is so important as the treatment may be very specific. Finally, if a foreign body enters the tissue of a rabbit, whether getting stuck in their mouth or caught in their skin, it can lead to abscesses.
Diagnosing abscesses in rabbits
As we state above, the causes of an abscess in a rabbit are varied. The lumps under their skin may indeed be abscesses, but it is also possible they could be a neoplasm. Neoplasms are lumps which can either be benign or malign, cancerous tumours falling into the latter category. When we take the rabbit the veterinarian, they will be able to run several diagnostic tests to determine the cause. This will likely involve using a hypodermic needle to insert into the abscess and remove some of the purulent fluid.
The veterinarian will either observe the sample themselves or send it off for tests. A diagnosis will be found when the cells are checked under a microscope. They may run other diagnostic tests such as blood or urine sampling. This will be especially the case if they are trying to rule out the presence of a tumor.
The most common causes of abscesses in rabbits are dental problems. We will take a closer look at this specific issue in the section below.
Dental abscesses in rabbits
As dental abscesses are the most common type in rabbits, the veterinarian will need to perform an oral examination to initially suggest a diagnosis. However, the problem is not always visible to the human eye, so they will likely also need to carry out an X-ray to determine the extent of infection. While the dental or oral abscess is usually due to an issue with the rabbit's teeth, it is also possible a foreign body is causing the issue. Tumors or malocclusion will also need to be ruled out.
Part of the reason oral abscesses are so relatively common in rabbits is due to how their teeth grow. Unlike most other mammals, a rabbit's teeth do not stop growing. To prevent dangerous growth, the rabbit will chew on pieces of wood or other surfaces to grind them down. Even regular chewing of hay helps them to keep the teeth in order. However, if the rabbit does not have the right tools at hand or is not chewing for another reason, abnormal growth can occur.
Depending on the extent of the oral abscesses, surgery may be required. This will completely drain the abscess, but will also allow the veterinarian to remove any teeth or other affected parts. If the abscess is retrobulbar, it mean the pus has collected behind the eye. Surgery will be required to go behind the eye, drain the pus and prevent any further damage. If the surgery is not sufficient, it is possible the rabbit will be left with deformities or euthanasia may even be considered.
Corneal abscesses in rabbits
It is common we may see our rabbit has something white in their eye, in addition to the eye being swollen. In these cases, it is likely there is an abscess in the eye. Of course, there are other possible causes for such white spots on the rabbit's eye, including cataracts.
A corneal abscess is one which exists on the cornea of the eyeball. It is usually caused by a scratch from another animal or sharp object in its environment (for example a piece of cage wire). Corneal abscesses more commonly occur in households where other animals are present, especially cats. The other animal may only be playing, but the result may still be dangerous.
Since the infection is on the cornea, treatment can be difficult. Antibiotics taken orally may not have much affect on the eyeball tissue. Additionally, these types of abscesses can burst easily and aggravate the clinical picture, risking blindness. Very close veterinary monitoring is necessary for its management. Even in these circumstances, healing may not always be complete and there may be some irreversible symptoms.
To avoid general health issues in rabbits, it is imperative we provide them with annual vaccinations. This will need to be discussed with your veterinarian.
How to drain an abscess in rabbits
If your rabbit has a lump on their neck, mouth or any other body part, you should know that treatment will depend on its underlying cause. The location and severity of the clinical picture have particular impact on treatment. This is why there is not a single option on how to drain a rabbit's abscess and it is not something we should attempt unsupervised at home. The veterinarian will not only have the right tools and skills to drain the abscess, but they will have the knowledge to intervene if anything goes wrong. Draining a rabbit's abscess will likely be done under local anaesthetic and when the rabbit is calm.
In the most complex abscess cases, surgical intervention will be carried out under general anaesthesia. During this surgery, the veterinarian will need to completely drain the abscess, clean the area and remove any fistulas. Abscesses located on or around joints may require limbs to be amputated. However, in minor cases, it is possible an antibiotic treatment may be able to treat the issue. This treatment will usually last a couple of weeks.
The cavity left by an abscess will need to be disinfected properly with products such as chlorhexidine or povidone iodine. Cleaning will need to continue until the site of the abscess has healed. A veterinarian may show you how to do this so you can continue the treatment at home. Diet is also an important aspect of recovery, so they will need to have proper nutrition to aid recovery. This will include plenty of hay, green leaf vegetables and plenty of water. For recovery from a dental or oral abscess, the food may need to be administered with a syringe.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Rabbit Has an Abscess, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.
- Brieva-Rico, C., Naranjo, O. F., Patiño, J. R., & Vásquez, C. (2008). Abscesses in Rabbits. Internal Conference of Medicine and Use of Wildlife, Exotic and Non-Conventional, 4(2), 5-7.
- Fernández, J. M. (2009). Oral pathology in exotic animals: new advances in the treatment of dental abscesses in rabbits. V National Congress of SEOVE.
- Laguía, Guillermo. (2018). Corneal abscess in rabbits. Retrieved November 6, 2019, from
- Tabares, N., & Sánchez, R. (2015). Purulent abscesses in rabbits. Retrieved November 6, 2019, from