Lump under the Skin in Rabbits

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 25, 2008

Abscess in Rabbits

An abscess is a localized collection of pus contained within a capsule-like lump under the skin. Unlike those of cats and dogs, abscesses in rabbits usually do not burst and drain fluid. These abscesses can grow very quickly, often extending into the surrounding soft tissue and bone.

Abscesses are extremely common in pet rabbits and are the most common cause of swelling beneath the skin. There is no certain age or sex more susceptible to abscesses, although dwarf and lop-eared rabbits are believed to be predisposed to abscesses and dental disease.

Symptoms and Types

An abscess is usually the secondary symptom of another health problem, thus symptoms will vary, depending on the primary cause. For example, if the abscess is a result of dental disease, additional symptoms may include discharge from the nose or eyes, anorexia, and depression. A physical examination by a veterinarian is necessary to detect additional symptoms and diagnose the exact cause.


There are many causes that can lead to the presence of abscesses. One primary cause is dental disease resulting from food lodged in the teeth or gums. Another cause is bacterial infection such as fusobacterium nucleatum. These cases are often related to dental disease or abscesses in the mouth. There are many other types of bacteria that lead to abscess, including pasteurella multocida, staphylococcus aureus, and streptococcus spp. Bites and foreign objects piercing the skin also lead to abscesses.

Some risk factors can increase the odds of developing abscesses. For example, elongated cheek teeth (known as mandibles) may develop from a diet lacking rough feed, and may lead to the formation of abscesses.


The exact diagnostic procedures undertaken will depend on the location of the abscess and any other symptoms. For rabbits with facial abscesses, a thorough oral examination is crucial for diagnosis. Another common diagnostic procedure is to take a tissue sample from the affected area and test for bacterial infection. Further tests may include urine analysis, X-rays, and ultrasounds to see if other organs are affected.


Treatment will depend on the abscess' location and the underlying cause. But the rabbit may be treated at home with antibiotics, if a bacterial infection is to blame or if the case is mild. For more serious cases, surgical removal of the abscess and hospital care may be necessary.

Living and Management

Activity should be restricted until all tissues have been properly healed. The patient should be monitored after treatment, and follow up visits to the veterinarian -- especially if surgery was performed -- are a necessity. Any prescribed medications should be administered on a regular basis.


In some cases, abscessation can be prevented in rabbits. Providing high-fiber foods and good quality hay, and periodically trimming overgrown crowns in the mouth may prevent dental disease. Joint and feet abscesses may be avoided by providing clean, solid surfaces in the animal’s home habitat. A generally healthy diet and lifestyle is also advised.

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