What is Uterine Infection?
As this condition can be painful and potentially fatal for your pet, it is vital that prompt veterinary treatment is sought. Surgery is most often the treatment for the condition; your veterinarian will explain and dicuss the implications of uterine infection and provide information on the options and recovery process for your pet once the treatment is complete.
Uterine infection in rabbits, or pyometra, is a potentially fatal condition that can be caused by the introduction of an organism such as Pasteurella into the uterus. The literal meaning of the term pyometra is “pus in the uterus”, and although this condition can cause a range of symptoms, in many cases the only symptom is thick, yellowish grey discharge from the vagina.
Symptoms of Uterine Infection in Rabbits
- Refusal to eat
- Thick, yellow discharge may be noticed from the vagina
- Enlarged, tender abdomen
Causes of Uterine Infection in Rabbits
This condition can be caused by a range of organisms, however the most common causative agent is Pasteurella multocida. Although this can be a sexually transmitted disease when an infected male mates with an uninfected female rabbit, or through retrograde transmission from the nasal cavity to the general area during mating, transmission can also occur during birth.
Diagnosis of Uterine Infection in Rabbits
If you notice symptoms of a sexually transmitted bacterial disease in your rabbit contact your veterinarian to schedule an appointment. Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination on your rabbit and discuss your pet’s clinical history with you. It is important to inform your veterinarian if your pet has had contact with other rabbits displaying similar symptoms or has been mated with recently.
Your veterinarian may suspect pyometra due to the symptoms your pet presents with. Careful palpation of the abdomen may show an enlarged or distended uterus and pain of palpation. In order to confirm this diagnosis and rule out other similarly presenting conditions other tests may be performed such as:
- Radiography of your rabbit’s abdomen, this will allow your vet to visualise the uterus and show the presence of abscesses and pus as well as rule out other conditions such as neoplastic masses and polyps
- Gram stain of cervical mucous may be performed to identify the causing agent of infection and identify the most effective antibiotic treatment
- Hematology and biochemistry
Treatment of Uterine Infection in Rabbits
If your pet presents with uterine infection, ovariohysterectomy is considered the best treatment option. However, it is vital to stabilise your rabbit prior to surgery. Intravenous fluid therapy may be given to your pet.
Your rabbit will be placed under general anesthetic using a gaseous agent. Your rabbit will have the fur of the stomach shaved and the skin carefully cleaned using surgical soap to provide an aseptic surgical site. Your veterinarian will then use a scalpel to make an incision along the linea alba and carefully extract the uterus including the cervixes and ovaries. Your veterinarian will carefully ligate the arteries and vessels attached to the organ and remove the uterine organ. Your veterinarian may inspect the surrounding tissue for further abscesses and flush the abdominal cavity with warmed saline.
An exudate sample should be taken for bacterial culture, and antibiotic sensitivity to identify the causing agent of infection and identify the most effective antibiotic treatment. Long-term, systemic antibiotic therapy is often indicated.
If your pet is in discomfort prior to surgery your veterinarian may give systemic analgesia to provide pain relief in the form of opiates. NSAIDs should not be used prior to surgery due to their effect on the blood.
Recovery of Uterine Infection in Rabbits
The prognosis for your pet is good if uterine excision is successful and nutrition is commenced. Your rabbit will likely be treated with long-term, systemic antibiotics on an outpatient basis.
Following surgery, it is essential your pet is provided with a warm, dark environment for recovery. Your rabbit will have sutures on the surgical site which should be monitored for signs of infection such as swelling or heat. Your veterinarian will be able to advise whether sutures require veterinarian removal or if they have chosen to use dissolvable sutures.
Discuss pain relief options for your pet at home with your veterinarian, your pet may require systemic analgesia provide pain relief in the form of either NSAIDS or opiates. It is important to provide adequate pain relief in rabbits as pain is a major cause of anorexia in rabbits
During your pet’s recovery from surgery encourage nutrition by providing favorite foods along with fresh water, hay and appetite stimulants such as parsley, carrot tops, and kale. Due to the risks of gastric stasis, hepatic lipidosis and intestinal ileus caused by anorexia in rabbits, it is vital that your pet eat during recovery.
To further support your pet’s recovery, ensure excellent sanitation is provided for your pet, including the regular disinfecting of their environment and providing of fresh, clean bedding.