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      Date:   04 April, 2011  

Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs & rabbits

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Facial Abscesses in Rabbits
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
04 April, 2011 
Be Kind To Pets
Veterinary Education
Project 2010-0129
Rabbit case study No. 1. Rabbit facial abscesses was recorded in 1988
Updated April 04, 2011.

Singapore rabbit - head abscess"What is the cause of this big swelling?" Ms Tan asked of her rabbit. It had a habit of picking up its own stools and eating them even at the age of four years.  The round soft lump was below the right eye and the rabbit had rubbed against it, trying to get rid of the abscess which is a wall of dead bacteria and white blood cells in a creamy mass. 

 "It started as a small hard lump. How much it would cost to treat this rabbit?" 

"The cost varies, depending on whether X-rays and surgery are required.. Was the rabbit free to roam about in your apartment?" I asked Ms Tan who travelled a  lot in her work and who read a lot about rabbits.  

"All rabbits will chew their cage wires, telephone wires and everything they can lay their teeth on when let loose in the apartment.  It is possible that the sharp objects may penetrate the inside of the mouth or the tooth root might get infected.

The veterinary treatment of the rabbit would ideally involve general anaesthesia so that there would be no pain when I remove the entire abscess which had a thick wall.

Blood tests, a bacterial check for the abscess and an X-ray to check whether the facial bones were infected would be complete.

This was in 1998 when a white rabbit was worth Singapore five dollars while a pedigree dog was worth much more, above five hundred to a thousand dollars.  

The treatment should involve blood test to check the immune status of the rabbit, X-rays of the abscess to see if the tooth root and bone of the jaw was infected, general anaesthesia and the surgical removal of the abscess as a whole lump to prevent further infection.  The total costs could amount to over two hundred dollars and could be used to buy over forty new rabbits!

Therefore, it was pragmatic to buy a new rabbit if the incumbent had disease, in this case, a big facial abscess which required treatment costing more than a hundred dollars.  
The abscess was lanced with a scalpel and the thick pus, characteristic of all rabbits' abscess was squeezed out. 

This was not a satisfactory method of treatment as the abscess would form again even though antibiotic "beads" or gauze or the dental calcium hydroxide were packed into the abscess to eliminate all bacteria but lancing was the least costly.

The rabbit was not seen again.  The rabbit's pus is thick because it does not have the enzymes to liquefy it, as in the dog or in people. 

Note:  Abscesses in rabbits can be caused by general infection of theSingapore rabbit - head abscess lanced. blood by bacteria. Abscesses of the head may be secondary to dental disease, food packed between the tooth and gingiva, tooth fracture, tooth root abscess, or a foreign body. 

They occur in rabbits of all ages and frequently develop rapidly (in a matter of a few days). The abscess is usually not painful and the rabbit appears clinically unaffected. 

Singapore rabbit 4-year-old with facial abscess.When teeth are involved the rabbit may become completely or partially not eating. The abscess may be soft or firm but frequently they have a soft center. They are usually not moveable and when bone is involved there may be bony swelling as well. The wall of the abscess is very thick and usually contains bacteria.

The pus is caseous, thick, and creamy white in appearance. Of all abscesses occurring in rabbits, retrobulbar and skull abscesses are considered to be the most difficult to treat. 


In 2005, veterinary costs are kept to as low as possible by not X-raying the rabbit. However, owners will be given an estimate of the X-rays and total costs of the treatment of facial abscesses if X-rays are needed.  Some rabbits may need to be warded for daily antibiotic injections although some veterinarians do give such injections to the owner for home treatment.

More cases at:
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