What is Vaginal Discharge?
Uterine disorders in unspayed female rabbits, known as does, are a frequent occurrence. Uterine cancer in unspayed rabbits over the age of two is common, and bacterial infections like Pasteurella and treponematosis can become life-threatening if hemorrhaging or sepsis develop. Unsuccessful pregnancies may also cause odor and discharge if the dead kits are not expelled from the body properly. Any discharge from the vagina is considered abnormal in rabbits and should be evaluated by a veterinary professional as soon as possible.
Vaginal discharge in female rabbits, also known as does, should always be considered abnormal and be evaluated by a veterinary professional as soon as possible.
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Symptoms of Vaginal Discharge in Rabbits
Discharge from the vaginal area is not considered typical in rabbits. Contact your veterinarian right away if you see any of the following symptoms:
- Blood from uterus
- Blood in urine
- Discharge that sticks in the fur
- Enlarged mammary glands
- Enlarged uterus
- Hair pulling
- Increased aggression
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of fur in genital area
- Nest building behavior
- Pale mucous membranes
- Pus around genital area
If you do not plan on breeding your female rabbit, it is highly advised to spay your doe after she is four months old, but well before she reaches her second year. This eliminates the possibility of uterine cancer or infections developing. The operation to spay the rabbit should be done by someone who specializes in rabbits as there are some distinct differences between surgeries for pets like dogs and cats as compared to surgery for rabbits. It is important that you not withhold food and water prior to surgery. Rabbits are not capable of vomiting, and as hind gut fermenters, they should never be allowed to have empty digestive tracts.
Causes of Vaginal Discharge in Rabbits
Uterine cancer, usually in the form of an adenocarcinoma, is common in unspayed does. Treatment is often successful if treated by spaying in the early stages of the disorder. However, it is less successful if the cancer has spread past the uterus.
Pasteurella infection is usually considered a respiratory disease, but can also cause lesions in the genital area that encourage the formation of discharge.
This condition is also known as rabbit syphilis because it is related to human syphilis, however, it cannot be transferred between rabbits and humans.
Diagnosis of Vaginal Discharge in Rabbits
Your rabbit’s doctor will start the visit with a thorough physical exam, which should reveal symptoms such as an enlarged uterus or swollen mammary glands. General blood tests such as a complete blood count and biochemistry profile will help narrow down the cause of the discharge by detecting abnormalities such as regenerative anemia, imbalances in liver enzymes, or electrolyte imbalances.
Both ultrasound and x-ray technology are useful to assess the size of the uterus and to evaluate for metastasis in the case of cancerous involvement. These tests will also uncover if the doe in question is pregnant. Microscopic evaluation of the vaginal cells will be able to determine if pus or blood are present in the sample. A bacterial culture of the discharge will also assist in determining if there are any bacteria that is not part of the rabbit's natural flora, and a culture of a sample of urine taken from the bladder will also be evaluated to check for UTI.
Treatment of Vaginal Discharge in Rabbits
The treatment for most of these disorders begins with a complete ovariohysterectomy, that is, the total removal of the uterus and ovaries. All diseases that involve the uterus in rabbits also carry the risk of developing new cancers or a hemorrhage and can become life threatening, and further pregnancies have a much higher likelihood of complications. The complete removal of the uterus can prevent infections from spreading and if the discharge is caused by an adenocarcinoma that has not spread beyond the uterus, the removal of the reproductive organs should solve the problem for that type of disease as well.
Discharge due to infection will be treated with antibiotics even after the removal of the reproductive organs, in order to prevent systemic infection from developing. Cancer that has spread beyond the uterus itself may not be immediately visible, and rabbits that are diagnosed with uterine cancer should return to the veterinarian for monitoring every six months. Many veterinarians will choose to do a full body radiograph each time as well in order to ensure that they spot any new cancers taking hold.
Recovery of Vaginal Discharge in Rabbits
After surgery such as an ovariohysterectomy, it is critical that you keep the rabbit's environment calm to prevent shocks to the incision by jumping or acrobatics. Your veterinarian will prescribe pain medication to mitigate the soreness that your doe will experience while healing from this surgery. Many rabbits do not wish to eat for a little while after they have returned home. It is essential, however, that they eat at least a small snack by the morning following surgery. It is also important to check the stitches from any surgery several times a day to ensure that the stitches don’t come undone and that no new infections take hold.