Three Little Ladies Rabbitry, Jersey Wooly
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Abscesses, Rabbit Surgery

A few months back, we had one of our better bucks, a grand champion, at a show. To our surprise he was disqualified from competition. The judge explained that he had an abscess, that had formed along his jaw line. It was rather large, and hard to believe we hadn’t seen it just a few days before when we examined the rabbit. Are initial thought was that his showing career was over.

After talking with the judge and several other breeders we began to understand a little more that abscesses in rabbits are actually rather common. We became a little skeptical with the solution they presented to us, but we followed the advice. Before we talk about that, lets first discuss exactly what an abscess is and what causes them.

Definition and Cause

The abscess itself indicates an infection of some sort. As bacteria within an infection or wound begin to multiply, the rabbits immune system will respond by creating a wall around the bacteria, virtually eliminating the possible spread and the bacteria. This wall also removes the source of growth for the bacteria. Eventually the bodies immune cells will attack and destroy the bacteria. When the bacteria is destroyed it forms a white liquid, known to most of us a pus. The final result in this attack on bacteria is a pus filled abscess.

Abscesses can be formed throughout the body, but are most commonly found near the jaw line. Unfortunately many of the jaw line abscesses are the result of infections involving the rabbits teeth. One abscess may be treated and then reappear several weeks later. This can be a serious problem if the root cause of the infections is not treated, rather than jut the abscess.

A single abscess can continue to grow until it is so filled with destroyed bacteria, that it actually bursts, expelling the pus from the abscess. This isn’t a problem when the abscess is on an external portion of the body, however, this can be fatal to the rabbit if it occurs internally.


The initial treatment for a visual abscess is to drain the abscess. This would involve surgically lancing the abscess to drain the pus that is in the abscess. This can be a rather difficult procedure as an apparently small abscess may be rather deep. Once lanced, the abscess must be cleaned of all infectious material. This will involve squeezing the abscess to expel any pus, and also may include scraping the inside of the abscess to remove any additional infection.

Once the wound has been cleaned the area of the incision should be treated with an antiseptic and wound lotion such as Blue Lotion, found at most farm supplies stores. This is primarily marketed for horses but has been used safely with rabbits. The rabbit should also be placed on an antibiotic. In our case we choose to use water soluble Terramycin, and added to our rabbits drinking water.


So far we have not had a reoccurrence of the initial abscess. Should another one appear, we’ll know what to do, and will actually feel a little more comfortable about draining the abscess. If you find it difficult to do this type of procedure on your rabbit, other breeders may be able to assist. Remember its always a good idea to seek the counsel of a veterinarian.

Rob Usakowski
Three Little Ladies Rabbitry