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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 21437
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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My rabbit (about 6 or 7) hasn't been herself past 2

Resolved Question:

My rabbit (about 6 or 7) hasn't been herself for the past 2 or 3 days now. The left side of her face has swollen up and she is having trouble cleaning herself. She is still voluntarily eating leaves and grass but if we try to feed her, she has to eat at a specific angle due to the swelling and sometimes can't manage it. She also has a white discharge coming from her eyes, particularly the left hand side with the swelling. She has recently been into a new area of the garden so perhaps she could have eaten something? Is it possible she has been stung by a bee? She doesn't live in a hutch but is "free range" in the garden and is usually very hoppy and friendly but recently she has just sat in a quiet corner and will barely let us stroke her. Please help
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

Does her breath or face smell at all?

Do you think the swelling is reducing over these past few days or possibly getting larger?

Does the eye itself look normal despite the discharge?

Does she appear to have a squint?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hello, thank you so much for getting back to me.

It's hard to tell if her breath or face smells as she is keeping far away, but after just checking I don't think so. At first the swelling was more of a sagging on her left side and we thought it may have been a stroke, but now it has turned more puffy than saggy, though the difference is hardly noticeable. Yes the eye does look normal actually and she doesn't seem to have a squint, but I have just realised too that she keeps on tensing underneath her mouth as if it is a involuntary action, similar to the way it looks when people gag and their necks tense up.

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you Harriet,

Now I must say that I am quite concerned about Thumpie.
Anything affecting a rabbit's ability to eat does raise major red flags for us. This is because any negative impact on eating can increase the risk of them not being able to do so and thus developing secondary GI stasis. So, whenever we are in these situations, we need to tread with great care.

Now in regards ***** ***** situation, we usually find that the eye isn't a problem in these cases. The discharge is often related to the growth pressing on the eye under or behind it. This can block normal tear drainage and the stagnant tear film is more prone to bacterial proliferation +/- secondary conjunctivitis. Often treating the main issue addresses this, but we can help by flushing the eye with sterile saline (ie OTC first aid eye wash, plain contact lens solution).

That aside, we need to consider this swelling itself. First, I would note her withdrawn behaviour tells us that this is bothering her. As a prey species, her instincts will tell her to pretend all is well, but if you cannot then withdrawn/hide. Furthermore, the tensing is highly suspect of discomfort. It could be that the direct cause is painful or that it is pressing on a nerve or her throat. Now in regards ***** ***** this swelling is, if its not shrinking over these past few days, a stinging insect is becoming more unlikely. Swellings from bees/wasps tend to be inflammatory and have an allergic reaction basis. As time passes, this reduces and settles, even without intervention. To see it worsening raises more worries of this being an abscess. And as rabbits have open tooth roots, we can see this type of presentation with dental abscesses. As well, I do have to note that tumours/growths can also appear this way, but would be a wee bit lower on our list with how quickly this has appeared and progressed.

In this case, we do want to keep her eating (+/- syringe feeding an easy to eat critical care diet like Oxbow or Supreme) but we need to address this quickly for her. Therefore, it would be best for her to see her vet as soon as possible. They can palpate, sample, +/- xray this mass and determine which of our above worries is present. If it is infection, they can start her on antibiotics but if it is advanced this may need lancing/draining as well. And if a tooth is to blame, then removal of that tooth and focus of infection may also need to be considered. But at the very least, they can start trying to tackle this with antibiotics and also dispense her bunny safe pain relief (ie Metacam) to reduce inflammation, discomfort, and soreness for her.

Overall, I am quite concerned about Thumpie and this swelling. It doesn't fit with a sting and her overall behaviour suggests that she is uncomfortable with this. Therefore, since we need to address this quickly for her before it can impact her eating severely, I would advise having her seen by her vet as soon as possible. As long as she can eat (and you can use veggie baby food with her pellets crushed in as a short term syringe feeding option), you can wait until her vet is open on Monday. But if she stops eating, then we'd be in an emergency situation with her.

Finally, just to note in case you were keen to have her seen today, some veterinary practices in our country have office hours today. As well, I wanted to mention that most veterinary practices here do have contingency plans for emergency care for their patients even when they are not open. Therefore, it is worth ringing the practice. If they are open, you can get her seen today. If they aren't, then they will likely have a message to direct you on how to contact their out of hours service. And if you don't have a vet you can find one local to you, you can check the RCVS Register (HERE) to find your local vets or Vets Now (LINK) who are open all nights/weekends. In any case, if you wanted to get her checked out sooner then there are options to have her seen today too.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.

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