Medical problems in rabbits commonly involve the reproductive and genitourinary systems. This review is designed to help
practitioners successfully diagnose and treat frequently seen pathologic conditions affecting these systems.
The rabbit female reproductive tract differs from that of other companion animals in that it is a fat storage area and a double
cervix is present. Ovariohysterectomy (OHE) in rabbits is commonly performed. The most common reasons are to prevent uterine
adenocarcinoma and to prevent breeding. Female rabbits can become territorially aggressive and OHE typically prevents this
from occurring. The disadvantage of OHE is the risk from anesthesia and surgical complications. The reproductive system
of the male rabbit is similar to that of the cat. Castration in rabbits is a frequent procedure, and generally will reduce
behavioral problems such as aggression and urine spraying. Most rabbits are neutered at 4-5 months of age, although others
recommend even earlier castration because some rabbits may become sexually mature before 4 months of age.
The urinary system of the rabbit is a common area of disease. Anatomically, the rabbit urinary system follows common mammalian
patterns except the kidneys are unipapillate. Male rabbits do not have an os penis.
Septic mastitis can occur in lactating does, especially those predisposed to infection by trauma to the mammary gland and
poor sanitation. Affected animals are febrile, inappetent, and depressed. The skin around the swollen gland may be cyanotic.
Causative organisms commonly isolated in septic mastitis include Staphylococcus and Streptococcus species. Death of neonates may occur, or death of the doe may result from septicemia. Diagnosis of septic mastitis is based
on clinical signs, history of lactation or pseudocyesis, and isolation of bacteria on culture of mammary tissue or exudate.
Treatment may include surgical drainage, mastectomy, hot packs, and antibiotic therapy (based on culture and sensitivity).
In contrast to septic mastitis, cystic mastitis may occur in nonbreeding females (usually older than 3 years of age), and
may be associated with increased estrogen, uterine hyperplasia, or uterine adenocarcinoma. The animal will not have any systemic
signs, but will have swollen, firm, cyanotic glands, with a clear-to-dark serosanguineous discharge from the treat. The condition
resolves with an ovariohysterectomy.
Rabbit syphilis (treponematosis) is caused by Treponema paraluis-cuniculi, a spiral-shaped bacterium. Transmission occurs venerally or by direct contact of young rabbits with an infected doe. Males
and females are both affected. Externally, the common signs are papules, ulcers, vesicles, and crusting on the external genitalia
or, occasionally, on the nose, eyelids, lips, and perineal area. Infected does may also abort and develop metritis and retained
placentas. A diagnosis is based on history, clinical signs, and on identifying the spirochetes in darkfield microscopic examination
of scrapings or smears of the skin lesions. The organisms can also be demonstrated histologically with silver stains of skin
biopsy sections. Serological tests are also available to determine the presence of antibodies against T. cuniculi. A fluorescent antibody test against treponemal antigen is also used, and an ELISA test is available from some laboratories
to screen for antibodies against Treponema.
Treatment of rabbit syphilis consists of benzathine G (42,000-84,000 IU/kg IM q7d for 3 treatments) or parenteral penicillin
(40,000-60,000 IU/kg IM q12h x 5 days). Response is rapid; lesions dramatically regress, usually after one injection.