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Rabbits/skin condition around lips



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Hi Dana,

I have a 4-year-old, spayed lion head girl who has splay legs. Peanut gets around just fine and, overall, appears healthy. She's very territorial and often gets angry, attacking the cats and growling when we do her litter box in her presence. (I'm just mentioning this because we think she has emotional/mental problems.) Peanut has been suffering from a skin condition on and around her lips on and off for the last three years. She was treated with several antibiotics by several different vets to no avail. We have seen three rabbit-savvy vets and eventually had a biopsy done. According to the biopsy, we're dealing with bacterial pyoderma, dermatitis, and skin infection. She was treated with Baytril for 4 weeks. We changed her food and her litter and washed her bedding with baking soda and vinegar (as opposed to laundry detergent). The problem vanished after a few days. However, a couple of days after the Baytril treatment it reoccurred. Now, about 4 weeks after we stopped Baytril, it is worse than ever. The lips are swollen, red and inflamed. There's discharge and crust in the corners of her mouth. She scratches herself occasionally, but definitely not obsessively. She can reach her mouth with her front legs and clean herself but not very well.

I will take her back to Dr. Saver tomorrow to see if she needs to be put back on Baytril or whether she thinks we should risk steroids, but I already know that Dr. Saver said last time that she has no idea what this is. (She followed her best guess and treated for mites and syphilis, which didn't help at all.)

Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Thank you very much.

Sabine Heinlein
PS: The lips look now more inflamed and crustier than on the older pictures. I just don't want to bother her right now.

Dear Sabine,

This may be a silly question if Dr. Saver is seeing your bunny, since she is very rabbit-savvy.  But here goes, anyway:  has anyone checked her molars and deep into her mouth for molar spurs or other problem that may be causing her to drool?  This looks suspiciously like the results of chronic, constant drooling.  It might be worth checking.

Good that Dr. Saver treated for both mites and syphilis, since those are both reasonable guesses, too.  But I still think this looks like the results of constant exposure to caustic saliva.

Another thought:  A food allergy?  Perhaps try changing her pelleted food and/or type of hay, to see if she has a contact sensitivity to something in her diet.  Might want to experiment with excluding various things in her fresh salads, too, one at a time.   It can take a week or two to see results if there really is a contact allergy, but it might be worth a try if the teeth look fine.

Hope this helps.

P.S. - I don't like to use corticosteroids on rabbits.  But ask Dr. Saver if a small application of topical corticosteroid cream might be okay just to get the swelling down a bit and treat the symptoms while you try to get to the bottom of the ultimate cause.


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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:

RULE #1:

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If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.

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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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