Rabbit Diseases - Tumors

Removal of mammary gland tumor in female rabbit
  • There are two main types of tumors, benign and malignant.
  • Benign tumors are almost always encapsulated in a membrane and separate from nearby tissues, and therefore easily removed by surgery.
  • Malignant tumors, also called cancer, usually invade and damage nearby tissues and also metastasize.
  • Both male and female rabbits can develop many forms of cancer, and any organ can be a primary site – or a secondary site as a result of metastasis.
  • Cancer becomes a greater concern as a rabbit ages, though it can also occur in young bunnies.
  • It is thought that domestic rabbits have cancer because in the wild they are not built to survive as long as they do as pets.
  • Uterine, ovarian, and mammary cancers in female rabbits and testicular cancer in males are common in rabbits that have not been spayed or neutered.
  • Here we are explaining uterine, mammary gland and Testicular cancer found in pet rabbits:

    • Uterine cancer in rabbits Uterine Cancer:
    • Uterine cancer is also known as uterine adenocarcinoma.
    • This is a cancer of the uterus and commonly affects domestic rabbits over two to three years old. The older the doe is, the more at risk it is of uterine cancer.
    • The disease begins with only the uterus undergoing neoplastic changes that lead to tumor formation.
    • The uterus is an organ with a rich blood supply and metastatic spread to other organs is common.
    • The tumor can sometimes grow so large that the structure that was formally the uterus begins to break down and leaks into the abdomen. This is a serious complication that may lead to infection of the abdominal cavity [a septic peritonitis] and ultimately death.
      • Signs:
      • Hematuria
      • Decreased fertility
      • Pregnancy complications
      • Bloody discharge from vaginal opening ( rabbits do not bleed when 'in season')
      • Depression
      • Anorexia
      • Trouble breathing
      • Swollen abdomen
      • Treatment for uterine adenocarcinoma may involve a complete hysterectomy to remove the diseased parts of your rabbit’s organs.
      • This is usually the primary treatment, especially if the cancer has not spread beyond the reproductive organs.
      • A biopsy can be performed to confirm whether the cancer remains in the reproductive organs, or has spread outward to the surrounding organs. Sometimes there is no evidence of the spread of cancer during the time of surgery.
      • Chemotherapy is not recommended in case of rabbit.
      • Follow-up care may include intensive care such as fluid therapy, medications for pain management and force-feeding.
      • Prevention is the best medicine for pet owners.
      • If you plan to own a female rabbit, you should have her spayed (an ovariohysterectomy) before she is two years old.

      Mammary Tumours Mammary Tumours:
    • These are tumours of the mammary glands and signs often include a mammary lump.
    • A female rabbit has eight to twelve mammary glands and unspayed female doe is at higher risk of developing this type of cancer.
    • All ages of female rabbits are at risk but older females are at higher risk. Risk increases with age.
    • A rabbit may have a uterine cancer in addition to mammary gland cancer.
    • If diagnosed early and without complications and metastasis, surgery is curative.
    • But, diagnostics often involve tests to rule out other underlying issues which may turn out to be costly.
    • Diagnosis is done by X rays, fine needle aspirate and biopsy.
      • Signs and Symptoms:
      • Mammary gland enlargement
      • Palpable masses in the mammary gland
      • Often non-painful on palpation
      • May have discharge from the teat/nipple
      • Clinically active and alert
      • cachexic, depressed and lethargic(in the later stage when metastasis occurs)
      • Treatment often includes the removal of the cancerous tissue (mastectomy).
      • Recovery is possible and the cancer may not re-occur.
      • Besides this regular pain treatment such as metacam is also recommended by your vet.
      • Keep them well hydrated.
      • Supplement their food with strong B-Complex Vitamins and may be even antibiotics as the cancer will weaken their immune system.
      • Prevention is the best option.
      • Spay the rabbit before two years of age or as soon as she is adopted.
      • In addition, be vigilant for any abnormal lumps or bumps during handling sessions (e.g., playtime and grooming).

      Testicular cancer in rabbit Testicular cancer:
    • Like all mammals, rabbits can get testicular cancer.
    • Testicular cancer, while far less common than uterine cancer, does occur, usually in older bucks.
    • Entire males and Rabbits with undescended testicles present as higher risk.
      • Clinical signs:
      • Small palpable lump around the area of the testicles
      • Testicular enlargement - firm, nodular and non-painful, or reduced testis size
      • Failure of fertility/reduced production of spermatazoa
      • Change in libido
      • Changes in behavior
      • Weight loss
      • Lethargy
      • Inability to eat
      • Pale mucous membranes
      • Clinical signs.
      • Ultrasonography
      • Histopathological examination
      • The testicle will probably be removed as part of the treatment (Castration.), but if it isn't caught early the cancer can spread to other parts of the rabbit's body.
      • If the tumour has not metastasized, the prognosis following castration is good.
      • Neutering your pet rabbit is the best preventative measure.