Inqui, a five-year-old rabbit who had a jaw abscess

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.

Tips

  • 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

4 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for interesting article, just to say one or two things that come to mind …I would say that in Ireland those that are not free range -the majority have far too little space…hutches that are tiny and cramped. Also isn’t it true to say rabbits are far happier kept in pairs-creatures need their own kind. I feel these things are important to be said in educating the public about keeping stress free rabbits.

  • Michael wasko says:

    Hi I would like to share my story and amazing abcess treatment a few days ago I noticed my six year old flemish giant satin mix had an abcess on her lower jaw not having money for a vet i started looking on the web for a home remedy still no luck the only thing I came across were the treatments in this article then I remembered a few months ago I had a huge painful boil just under my butt cheek while trying dozens of home remedies i came across a drawing salve called prid in a horse riding forum it worked on me 100 times better than I could’ve imagined so out of desperation i decided to try PRID on my rabbits abcess its been 2 to three days since I put the PRID on my rabbit just once to my surpise the PRID not only pulled most the infection out it also made the infection more liquidfide to where I could sqeeze the rest out and I am pleased to say the abcess on the outside has scabbed and there is a hole like what the picture after surical removal and to top it all of im sure it was painless having used this product on myself please pass this information along anyone facing this problem they should try PRID before resorting to a costly surgery the cost of PRID was about 6 dollars at walmart and has been around over a hundred years now I am following up with the after surgery cleanings my rabbit is much happier and not in pain this is a trick that all rabbit owners need to know thank you

  • Sue Starr says:

    Surgery for abscesses in elder buns can be worthwhile- my 7 year old lop had TECA-BO for ear abscesses and is now 9 years old and still enjoying life with her husbun. She had a Fentanyl patch after surgery, so it must be considered very painful, but she ate by herself after surgery, indicating that the pain was adequately managed. Some rabbits dislike medication being syringed into them daily; my bun had AIPMMA beads placed. My other 9 year old bun is booked in for surgery next week for a chin abscess.

  • Margaret Sullivan says:

    Is PRID available in Ireland? I have a bunny with an abscess in his mouth, after 2 rounds of antibiotics [Baytril] it cleared up but is back again. The vet is offering an antibiotic in penicillin form which I ‘m cautious about as it can damage the gut, it’s a high risk dose. Yesterday I started him on Manuka honey [but there’s still pus coming out ] I wonder if it’s safe to use Epsom salts in the mouth, hoping it might clear the infection.

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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