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Can you tell me if there has ben any advance in the use of chemotherapies for treating cancers (in particular melanoma with lymph node involvement) in rabbits?

We have a rabbit specialist vet who feels that now a lymph node is involved we should not do any other treatments, although IF a treatment was insisted on they would say only surgery for removal of node, and no chemo,

and on the other hand our specialist animal oncologist (who has not treated rabbits before just cats and dogs) who wants to try chemo but not surgery?

The original melanoma site by his eye was removed and has not re-grown over the six months since removal. The lymph node in his throat swelled up this week and 'non pigmented round cells' have been 'sampled' from it .

The rabbit has also had (with no side effects whatsoever) the canine melanoma vaccine course six months ago.

Rabbit is currently incredibly healthy, happy and with extremely good appetite.

I would be grateful for any recent information you may have that might help us resolve on a way forward.

thank you

Dear Twigs,

To my knowledge, there have been no major advances in the treatment of cancer in rabbits.  Chemotherapy regimens are calibrated for dogs and cats, not rabbits.  All the rabbits I know who have undergone chemo have suffered very serious side effects, and have died.  

Radiation is a little better known in rabbits, but I'm not sure it's appropriate for the type of lesions your rabbit has.

If this were my rabbit, I would find out if surgery to remove the lump would improve his quality of life, and go for that.  It might be just a temporary fix, but it could at least prolong his life until the next metastasis you have to address.

I wish I had better news.  And I hope your boy will do as well as this sad diagnosis will allow.

Take care,



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

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For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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