What are Blue Breasts?
Upon infection, usually resulting from trauma or injury to the teat caused by nursing, nicks from inappropriate and rough caging and bedding and an unhygienic environment, the mammary glands will become inflamed and reddened and will radiate an atypical heat. The common name for the bacterial infection of the lactating glands, Blue Breasts, originates from the bluish color that characterizes the infected mammary region.
The infection of the lactating glands typically occurs in the second week after giving birth. The disease is always preceded by lactostasis phenomenon, otherwise known as milk stagnation. The swelling and weight that accompanies the presence of milk in the glands, along with the enervation of the doe’s body following pregnancy and birth, creates a favorable environment for the development of a bacterial infection.
If left untreated, bacteria may quickly spread through your rabbit's body and lymph glands, leaving the animal vulnerable to septicemia, a potentially life-threatening condition that arises from the body’s response to infection. If caught at an early stage, the infection will likely resolve in an outpatient setting with the use of antibiotics. Damage may also be limited to one or two mammary glands. However, a recurring or severe infection may call for the removal of the mammary glands, the ovaries and uterus. No matter the treatment, maintaining a clean, hygienic environment is vital to the health of your pet.
Reproductive disorders of rabbits include bacterial infections and metabolic disorders. Mastitis (inflammation of the breasts or Blue Breasts) in rabbits is a bacterial infection of the mammary glands, the glands that produce milk after the rabbit (doe) has given birth. Restricted to female rabbits, mastitis typically occurs when the primary causative bacteria Streptococcus aureus and Streptococcus pastuerella gain access to the breast through the duct that carries milk to the young.
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Symptoms of Blue Breasts in Rabbits
- Swelling in the mammary area
- Breast tenderness and pain
- Excess warmth
- Discoloration, redness or a blueish tint
- Nipple discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive thirst
Causes of Blue Breasts in Rabbits
- Excessive lactation
- Injury to the teat or mammary gland
- Inappropriate and rough caging and bedding
- Poor hygiene
- Weakness associated with pregnancy and birth
Diagnosis of Blue Breasts in Rabbits
The physical examination will focus on the overall health and appearance of your rabbit. A blood profile, complete blood count (CBC) and a urinalysis will rule out systemic infection. Results of the exam and blood and urine testing will dictate whether your rabbit will require a surgical procedure to recover from the infection.
Treatment of Blue Breasts in Rabbits
Inpatient treatment may include surgery, such as a mastectomy or ovariohysterectomy. The disadvantage of any surgical procedure, especially on an animal weakened by infection or disease, is further risk from anesthesia and surgical complications. Surgery may both save the life of your rabbit as well as prevent further breeding.
Treatment may include hot packs, and antibiotic therapy. Pain relief may be offered through NSAIDS or opiates.
Recovery of Blue Breasts in Rabbits
Maintenance of a sanitary environment will give your rabbit the best opportunity to recover from the infection. During lactation or after surgery, gently cleaning your doe’s teats with water and a veterinarian-recommended disinfectant solution may help to reduce any further chance of infection.
Blue Breasts Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
There is a white discharge coming from my rabbits nipple and it appears to be swollen. She is female and she is not pregnant and is 5 years old. She has been eating normally and her behavior has not changed. She is not aggressive and doesn't seem tired or sick at all.
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