Rabbits are increasingly popular pets in Ireland. People nowadays are under pressure for time, money and space. Rabbits need little of each of these, and they are no longer just being bought as the token animal for the pet-mad child. They are now being chosen as the main family pet in preference to dogs and cats. ‘House rabbits’ is the term used to describe rabbits that live free-ranging in the family home, using a litter tray like a cat.
Rabbits tend to be healthy creatures, and visits to the vet are generally infrequent. However, vaccines are recommended for serious viral infections such as myxomatosis. Rabbits are prone to some problems such as overgrown teeth, eye infections and sore ears.
When Inqui developed a soft swelling on the underside of his lower jaw, I knew at once that he was suffering from another common rabbit problem: abscesses. These are swellings under the skin, caused by bacterial infection and the accumulation of pus.
In other species, such as dogs and cats, abscesses are simple to treat. A small operation is needed to open the abscess and drain away the fluid. A course of antibiotics ensures that the infection is completely eradicated.
In rabbits, abscesses are much more complicated. For some reason, they do not respond well to the same treatment as in dogs and cats. The infection can be impossible to cure completely, and is prone to recurring time after time. Rabbit experts now say that rabbit abscesses should be treated in the same way as cancer in other pets. Treatment can involve radical surgery, removing the abscess and the surrounding tissue in the same way as you would remove a tumour. Even then, the problem can recur. There are specialised techniques that include implanting special beads impregnated with antibiotics to try to stop the abscess from reforming.
Poor Inqui had a very large abscess, extending along the entire length of his lower jaw, like a large, water-filled balloon bulging at the side of his head. It did not seem to be bothering him at all. He was eating well, and behaving normally. When I discussed the possibility of surgery with Clara, she was worried about the pain and discomfort that would be involved. Inqui is five years old, so he is already an “older” rabbit.
We decided to take an easier route of treatment. Inqui is now on long-term, daily antibiotics. They will not cure him, but they should help to slow the progress of the abscess. Meanwhile, he is a happy rabbit, living out the fullness of his natural lifespan in Clara’s household.
- House rabbits are the newest pet trend in Ireland
- Rabbit need vaccinations like dogs and cats, but in other ways, they are very different animals, needing very different types of treatments