Rabbit abscesses

Causes of lumps, or swellings under the skin:

  • Abscesses
  • Dental disease
  • Fractured bones
  • Tapeworm cysts
  • Tumours (uncommon)

How do we determine which is which?

The physical examination by the vet determines whether the lump is soft or hard and what structures are near by. We will then be able to tell if it is just under the skin or involves other structures such as bones, ear canals, tear ducts, or possibly tooth roots. We may ask to take a needle aspirate of the contents of the lump to determine if it is clear fluid (tapeworm cyst), blood (injury), pus (abscess) or soft tissue (tumour or other). We might advise sending the sample to the lab for microscopic examination or culture to determine its nature and then be able to advise you on the most appropriate treatment.

Treatment

Medical:

They will not heal with medications alone, as the medication cannot effectively enter the cystic structures surrounding it. Post-operative medications may be advised to reduce or avoid recurrence.

Surgical:

Abscesses and tapeworm cysts must be surgically excised. Merely draining the pus from a rabbit abscess is usually ineffective as the capsule surrounding it contains most of the infective material. The underlying cause of an abscess must be found and removed. This is sometimes straightforward such as in the case of a bite wound but can be more elusive such as in the case or dental disease, ear infections and migrating grass seeds. Further investigation or multiple surgeries may be needed. 
See our other information sheets on treatment of fractured bones and on dental disease in rabbits.

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