Diseases / List of Bacterial Diseases / Disease description:

Bacterial Mastitis in Rabbits and Ferrets

INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL INFORMATION

CLINICAL CHARACTERISTICS & PATHOLOGY

INVESTIGATION & DIAGNOSIS

TREATMENT & CONTROL

SUSCEPTIBILITY & TRANSMISSION

ENVIRONMENT & GEOGRAPHY

..

 

Return to top of page

General and References

Disease Summary

--
Lagomorphs In Rabbits
  • Septic mastitis in rabbits is a bacterial infection of the lactating glands. This can be the result of trauma, ascending infection via dirty bedding, or haematogenous spread. (B603.3.w3, B609.2.w2)
  • It is most commonly found in heavily lactating does (B602.19.w19)
  • It is a potentially life-threatening infection and can lead to septic shock. (B602.19.w19)

In Ferrets

  • Mastitis is a bacterial infection, which can be chronic or acute. (J215.23.w1)

Return to top of page

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Blue breast (B600.9.w9, B604.5.w5)
  • Caked udder (B604.5.w5)
  • Septic mastitis.

See also:

Return to top of page

Disease Type

Bacterial Infection

Return to top of page

Infectious/Non-Infectious Agent associated with the Disease

In Rabbits
  • Commonly Streptococcus spp., Staphylococcus spp. or Pasteurella spp. (B602.18.w18)
  • Staphylococcus aureus - this is the most common organism involved in this condition. (B64.22.w8, B601.9.w9, B602.19.w19, B603.3.w3, B609.2.w2, J34.24.w3)
  • Streptococcus sp. (B64.22.w8, B601.9.w9, B602.19.w19, B603.3.w3, B609.2.w2, J34.24.w3)
  • Pasteurella sp. (B601.9.w9, B602.19.w19, B603.3.w3, B609.2.w2, J34.24.w3)
  • Trauma to the teats may allow secondary bacterial infection. (B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2)
    • Sharp projections in nest boxes. (B10.45.w47)
    • Rough bedding (B10.45.w47)
    • Nipple injuries due to the teeth of suckling offspring. (B10.45.w47)
  • Poor hygiene (B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2, J29.10.w2)

In Ferrets

  • Normally this occurs shortly after parturition or in the third week of nursing, when the kits are large and feeding demands are high. 
  • (B631.27.w27)
    • Damage to the teats may be increased if kits are not provided with adequate weaning foods. (J195.11.w2)
  • Mammary gland abscesses can occur in non-lactating does as a result of trauma or haematogenous spread of infection. (B609.2.w2)
  • Can occur when kits have rotavirus and are initially anorexic. (B602.5.w5)

  • Common bacteria found in mastitis are staphylococcus sp, streptococcus sp, haemolysins, and Escherichia coli. (B631.27.w27)
    • Staphylococcus sp, streptococcus sp and Escherichia coli are the most common causes of mastitis in ferrets. (B501.12.w12, B628.11.w11)
    • Staphlococci sp. and coliforms enter the skin through lesions caused by kits suckling. (B232.11.w11, B628.11.w11)
    • Faecal contamination can also cause mastitis. (B232.11.w11, B628.11.w11)
    • Staphylococcus intermedius is commonly responsible for chronic mastitis. (B232.11.w11, B602.5.w5)
  • Note: kits from infected jills may carry bacteria in their mouth and pass on to foster mothers. (B232.11.w11, B602.5.w5, B631.27.w27)

Infective "Taxa"

Non-infective agents

--

Physical agents

Return to top of page

References

Disease Author

Nikki Fox BVSc MRCVS (V.w103); Bridget Fry BSc, RVN (V.w143)
Click image for main Reference Section

Referees

Anna Meredith MA VetMB CertLAS DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS (V.w128); Richard Saunders BVSc BSc CertZooMed MRCVS (V.w121)

Major References / Reviews

Code and Title List

In Rabbits
B10
.45.w47, B64.22.w8, B600.9.w9, B601.9.w9, B602.19.w19, B603.3.w3, B609.2.w2, B609.2.w2
J29.10.w2, J34.24.w3, J213.5.w1

In Ferrets
B232.11.w11, B501.12.w12, B602.5.w5, B627.10.w10, B628.11.w11, B631.27.w27, B652.7.w7
J4.183.w8, J215.23.w1

Other References

Code and Title List

In Rabbits
J3.114.w9

Return to top of page

Clinical Characteristics and Pathology

Detailed Clinical and Pathological Characteristics

General --

Clinical Characteristics

--
Lagomorphs
  • Depression, anorexia, lethargy (B601.9.w9, B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2, J34.24.w3, J213.5.w1)
  • Polydipsia, polyuria (B609.2.w2)
  • Fever. (J34.24.w3, J213.5.w1)
  • There may have been pseudopregnancy, e.g. signs of nest building and hair pulling. (B609.2.w2)
  • Rejection of young. (B601.9.w9)
  • Illness or death in the suckling young. (B609.2.w2, J34.24.w3)
  • Sometimes progressing to septicaemia and death of the doe. (J34.24.w3, J213.5.w1)
Clinical examination findings
  • Exudation and suppurative inflammation around the teats. (J3.114.w9)
  • Warm, swollen, firm, erythematous, painful mammary gland(s) - one or multiple glands can be affected. (B601.9.w9, B609.2.w2, J29.10.w2, J213.5.w1)
    • May be localised abscesses or more diffuse infection. (J34.24.w3)
  • The affected teat will initially be pink from hyperaemia and then may turn blue or purple due to vascular stasis. (B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2)
  • Haemorrhagic or purulent fluid can be expressed from the affected glands. (B609.2.w2)
  • Fever. (J29.10.w2, J34.24.w3)
    • Fever and dehydration if there is systemic involvement. (B601.9.w9, B609.2.w2)
  • Abscessation of the gland(s). (B609.2.w2)
  • "An outbreak of S. aureus infection in a rabbitry was associated with a pustular, exudative dermatitis in the young and mastitis in lactating does". (B608.21.w21)
  • Note: Abscessation may lead to loss of the gland, septicaemia and death. (B603.3.w3, B609.2.w2)
CBC and Biochemistry
  • CBC
    • Often this is normal or there is a lymphopenia. 
    • A neutrophilia and left shift are not common. 
  • Azotaemia, electrolyte disturbances, and increase in ALT:
    • These can all be abnormal in rabbits that have septicaemia or severe dehydration. 
  • See: Clinical Pathology of Lagomorphs

(B609.2.w2)

Ferrets
General clinical signs
  • Lethargy/depression and anorexia. (B232.11.w11, B627.10.w10, B631.27.w27)
  • The jill may not want to nurse her. (B232.11.w11)
  • High temperature (pyrexia). (B232.11.w11, B627.10.w10, B631.27.w27)
  • Nasal discharge. (B232.11.w11, B627.10.w10)
  • Diarrhoea. (B232.11.w11, B627.10.w10)
  • In one jill with mastitis caused by Escherichia coli infection, lethargy, diarrhoea, nasal discharge and rales. (J4.183.w8)
  • In two jills with mastitis caused by Escherichia coli infection, lethargy and pyrexia. (J4.183.w8)
  • Two jills with mastitis caused by Escherichia coli infection were found moribund. (J4.183.w8)

Mammary glandsB627.10.w10, J4.183.w8

  • Inflamed mammary glands, which can vary in size. (B232.11.w11, B501.12.w12, B628.11.w11, B631.27.w27, J215.23.w1)
    • Mammary glands swollen/enlarged. (B627.10.w10, J4.183.w8)
    • Oedema-type swelling around the mammary glands. (B232.11.w11)
    • Mammary glands are hot and swollen. (B652.7.w7)
    • Often, an inguinal gland is affected first. (J4.183.w8)
    • Once one gland is affected, the infection often spreads to involve adjacent glands. (B627.10.w10)
  • Mammary glands tender/painful. (B232.11.w11, B627.10.w10, B628.11.w11, J215.23.w1)
  • Mammary milk may not be present. (B501.12.w12) or milk may be discoloured or clotted. (B652.7.w7)
  • Cellulitis. (B232.11.w11)
  • Sometimes abscessation of the mammary glands. (B232.11.w11, B652.7.w7)
  • Sometimes haemorrhage under the skin around the glands. (B232.11.w11)
  • Sometimes necrotic tissue around the glands. (B232.11.w11)
    • This can become gangrenous, very soon after the tissues become necrotic. (B232.11.w11, B628.11.w11, J215.23.w1)
    • The skin will turn black and the ferret will be dehydrated and ill. (B232.11.w11) 
    • This may be fatal. (B628.11.w11)

Chronic mastitis

  • Mammary glands firm but neither discoloured nor painful. (B602.5.w5)
    • Damaged mammary tissue becomes fibrous scar tissue. (B232.11.w11)
    • Milk stops being produced. (B232.11.w11)
  • Kits will continue growing in size but stop gaining weight (B602.5.w5) or lose weight (B232.11.w11)
    • The coat becomes rough, and the kits seem long and thin. (B602.5.w5)

Incubation

--
Lagomorphs
  • --

Mortality / Morbidity

  • --
Lagomorphs
  • Can be fatal. (J34.24.w3)
    • Abscessation may lead to loss of the gland, septicaemia and death. (B603.3.w3, B609.2.w2)
    • Prognosis is fair to guarded with treatment but it does depend on the severity of disease. (B609.2.w2)
Ferrets
  • Acute mastitis is common in ferrets. (B232.11.w11)
  • If septicaemia occurs in ferrets, this may be fatal. (B501.12.w12)
  • If the infected tissue becomes gangrenous this can be fatal. (B628.11.w11)
  • Note: Infected jills with chronic mastitis will not be able to breed again, so euthanasia may be required for ferrets in a breeding colony. (B232.11.w11, B602.5.w5)

Pathology

--
Lagomorphs
  • Histopathology: congestion, haemorrhage and dense polymorphonuclear leucocyte infiltration of mammary tissue. (B614.15.w15)
Ferrets --

Return to top of page

Human Health Considerations

--

Return to top of page

Susceptibility / Transmission

General information on Susceptibility / Transmission

--
Lagomorphs
Susceptibility
  • Most commonly seen in post-partum lactating does (B601.9.w9, B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2, J213.5.w1)
  • Pseudopregnant does with milk retention (B601.9.w9, B603.3.w3, B609.2.w2, J213.5.w1)
  • Mammary gland abscesses can occur in non-lactating does as a result of trauma or haematogenous spread. (B609.2.w2)
Transmission
  • Ascending or systemic infection. 
    • Microorganisms may enter the gland either via the bloodstream or teat canal or through a cutaneous lesion. (B604.5.w5)
  • Note: Fostering (see: Rearing of Mammals - Fostering) of kits that have been nursing from an infected doe may spread the infection to the foster doe. (B10.45.w47)
Risk factors include
  • Trauma to the teats and then secondary bacterial infection. (B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2)
    • Sharp projections in nest boxes. (B10.45.w47)
    • Rough bedding (B10.45.w47)
    • Nipple injuries due to the teeth of suckling offspring. (B10.45.w47)
Ferrets
  • Mastitis usually occurs after parturition or during lactation. (B232.11.w11)
  • Commonly in the early stages of lactation. (B627.10.w10, J4.183.w8)

Return to top of page

Disease has been reported in either the wild or in captivity in:

  • Domestic rabbits. (B601.9.w9, B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2, J34.24.w3, J213.5.w1)
  • Mastitis is commonly found in ferrets. (B232.11.w11, B627.10.w10)

Further information on Host species has only been incorporated for species groups for which a full Wildpro "Health and Management" module has been completed (i.e. for which a comprehensive literature review has been undertaken). Host species with further information available are listed below:

Host Species List

(List does not contain all other species groups affected by this disease)

Return to top of page

Disease has been specifically reported in Free-ranging populations of:

  • --

Further information on Host species has only been incorporated for species groups for which a full Wildpro "Health and Management" module has been completed (i.e. for which a comprehensive literature review has been undertaken). Host species with further information available are listed below:

Host Species List

  • --

(List does not contain all other species groups affected by this disease)

Return to top of page

Environment/Geography

General Information on Environmental Factors/Events and Seasonality

  • Often associated with poor hygiene. (B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2, J29.10.w2)

Return to top of page

Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded

  • USA. (J4.183.w8)

Return to top of page

Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded in Free-ranging populations

  • --

Return to top of page

General Investigation / Diagnosis

General Information on Investigation / Diagnosis

--
Lagomorphs
  • A presumptive diagnosis is often made based on the clinical signs. (B601.9.w9)
Express the fluid or milk from the teats
  • In septic mastitis, macrophages or degenerate neutrophils with intracellular bacteria may be found. (B609.2.w2)
Bacterial culture and sensitivity 
  • A sample should be taken from expressed fluid/milk or from the wall of the abscess. (B601.9.w9, B609.2.w2)
Firm needle aspirate of firm masses 
  • Useful to differentiate abscess from mammary neoplasia although it may give misleading results if the tumour has necrotic, septic foci. (B609.2.w2)
Serology for Pasteurella
  • Unfortunately, the usefulness of this test is severely limited and often not helpful in diagnosing pasteurellosis in the pet rabbit. (B609.2.w2)
  • An ELISA is available and will report results as high positive, low positive, or negative:
    • Positive result: even if the result is high, it only indicates a prior exposure to the bacteria and then the development of antibodies. It does not confirm active infection. Low positive results can occur due to a cross-reaction with another nonpathogenic bacteria giving a false-positive result. (B609.2.w2)
    • Negative result: false negative results are common if it is early infection or if there is immunosuppression. (B609.2.w2)
Haematology and Biochemistry
  • Complete blood cell count (CBC)
    • Often there is a normal or lymphopenia. (B609.2.w2)
    • A neutrophilia and left shift are not common. (B609.2.w2)
  • Azotaemia, electrolyte disturbances, and increases in ALT:
    • These can all be abnormal in rabbits that have septicaemia or severe dehydration. (B609.2.w2)

See: Clinical Pathology of Lagomorphs

Ferrets
  • Clinical signs. (B232.11.w11, B627.10.w10)
  • Bacterial culture and sensitivity should be performed on the jill's milk. (B232.11.w11, B627.10.w10, B628.11.w11)
Related Techniques
WaterfowlINDEXDisInvTrCntr.gif (2325 bytes)

Return to top of page

Similar Diseases (Differential Diagnosis)

--
Lagomorphs
Ferrets

Return to top of page

Treatment and Control

Specific Medical Treatment

Prognosis
  • Fair to guarded with treatment but it does depend on the severity of disease. (B609.2.w2)
Lagomorphs
Intravenous fluids
  • Use if the rabbit is dehydrated or has sepsis. (B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2)
Antibiotics
  • Ideally should be based on the results of culture and sensitivity. (B601.9.w9, B609.2.w2, J29.10.w2)
  • N.B. Start treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics while waiting for culture and sensitivity results. (J213.5.w1)
  • Enrofloxacin (J29.10.w2)
    • 5 - 20 mg/kg orally or by subcutaneous or intramuscular injection every twelve to twenty four hours. (B609.2.w2)
  • Trimethoprim-Sulphonamide (J29.10.w2)
    • 30 mg/kg orally every twelve hours. (B609.2.w2)
  • Chloramphenicol
    • 50 mg/kg orally every eight hours. 
    • Avoid human contact with this drug due to potential blood dyscrasia.
      (B609.2.w2)
  • Penicillin G
    • 40,000 to 60,000 IU/kg by subcutaneous injection every two to seven days.
    • Use if Pasteurella or Streptococcus is cultured. 
    • Not usually effective against Staphylococcus. 
      (B609.2.w2)
    • Note: 
      • Fatal antibiotic-associated enterotoxaemia can occur, sometimes even with a single dose of penicillin given subcutaneously. (V.w127)
      • There have been reports of kits dying after nursing does had received procaine penicillin. The deaths are thought to be due to toxic effects of the procaine. (B600.9.w9)
  • Streptomycin (B64.22.w8)
Pain management (analgesia)
  • NSAIDs: these can be used to reduce inflammation and pain. (B609.2.w2, J29.10.w2)
  • Opioid analgesics may be used: butorphanol or bupernorphine. (J296.62.w2)
Prolactin inhibitors
  • "Galastop" may be used to reduce lactation. (B603.3.w3)
DO NOT USE
  • Oral antibiotics that select against Gram-positive bacteria:
  • Corticosteroids
    • Systemic or tropical preparations may severely exacerbate an infection due to heightened susceptibility to infection and delayed wound healing. Gastrointestinal ulceration and haemorrhage may also occur. (B609.2.w2)
Ferrets
  • Where necrotic tissues is present and possibly gangrene, quick treatment is necessary to prevent toxaemia. (B232.11.w11)
Antibiotics
  • Parenteral antibiotics. (J195.11.w2)
  • Prompt and aggressive treatment is essential in mastitis caused by Escherichia coli. (B627.10.w10)
  • The jill should be given a course of broad spectrum antibiotic. (B232.11.w11, B631.27.w27, J215.23.w1)
  • Gentamycin can be used to treat mastitis. (B501.12.w12)
    • Ampicillin 10 mg/kg twice daily and gentamycin 5 mg/kg once daily can be used post surgery; this has produced good results. (B501.12.w12)
Pain relief
Treatment for the kits
  • Kits from a mother with chronic mastitis:
    • Vitamin supplements and oral antibiotics should be given to the kits from infected jills. (B232.11.w11, B628.11.w11)
    • If  kits of a jill with chronic mastitis are to be left with their dam, feed them with milk replacer, as much as they will accept, at least three times daily. (B602.5.w5) See: Hand-Rearing Ferrets (Mustela putorius furo)
Related Techniques
WaterfowlINDEXDisInvTrCntr.gif (2325 bytes)

Return to top of page

General Nursing and Surgical Techniques

  • The animal should be kept as an inpatient until stable. (B609.2.w2)
Lagomorphs
  • Warm compress: hot packing of affected teats is useful and also milking out the affected gland several times a day. (B10.45.w47, B601.9.w9, B602.19.w19, B603.3.w3, B609.2.w2, J34.24.w3)
  • Surgical debridement or drainage of abscess: This may be necessary for abscessed or necrotic glands. (B602.19.w19, B603.3.w3, B609.2.w2, J34.24.w3)
  • Assist feed anorexic or inappetant rabbits to prevent secondary gastrointestinal disorders. (B609.2.w2)
  • Clean and disinfect the environment. (B609.2.w2)
Care of the young
  • Early weaning of young: this is usually necessary in lactating does and will prevent the kits starving or suffering bacterial enteritis. (B601.9.w9, B603.3.w3)
  • Hand-rearing of the young. (J29.10.w2) See: Rearing of Mammals - Hand-rearing
  • Note: Do not foster young of the affected doe to a surrogate doe as they may transmit the infection to the surrogate. (B10.45.w47, B609.2.w2, J29.10.w2, J296.62.w2)
Ferrets
  • Warm compresses should be used on jill's mammary glands. (B232.11.w11, B631.27.w27)
  • Apply topical antibiotic cream to the teats. (J195.11.w2)
Necrotic tissue
  • If the glands become necrotic:
    • Nutritional support should be given. (B631.27.w27)
    • Vitamins and supplements. (B232.11.w11)
    • Fluid therapy. (B232.11.w11, B631.27.w27)
    • Pain relief. (B631.27.w27)
    • Debridement of the area may be required, under general anaesthetic. This may include a resection of the gland. (B232.11.w11, B628.11.w11, B631.27.w27)
      • In ferrets with Escherichia coli mastitis, excision of the affected glands with a wide margin of adjacent tissues. Place 0.25 inch Penrose drains and close the skin using nonabsorbable sutures in a simple interrupted pattern. Use a protective bandage over the site. (B627.10.w10, J4.183.w8)
Abscess
Acute mastitis
  • If the onset of mastitis is acute, then the healing process should be effective. Mastitis may, however, recur. (B631.27.w27) 
Nursing kits
  • Always keep kits with their mother where possible. (B232.11.w11)
    • This will reduce the chances of the kits infecting a foster mother. (B232.11.w11)
    • The mother's milk might dry up, if the kits are removed. (B232.11.w11)
    • Emptying the mother's infected gland of milk and then supplementing the kits is one method of treatment. The kits should stay with the mother in this instance. (B232.11.w11)
    • Try and rotate the kits on to different mammary glands and turn the jill periodically. (B232.11.w11)
    • Encourage the strongest kit to suckle from the infected gland. 
      • Give a small amount of antibiotic cover to the kits as well to prevent enteritis from the same organism causing mastitis in thier dam. (B232.11.w11)
  • The kits should be hand fed and possibly fostered. (B631.27.w27)
    • If the kits reach three weeks, they generally do well on milk replacers. (B631.27.w27)
    • At four to five weeks, the kits can start to eat and feed themselves on ground meats mixed with milk replacer. (B631.27.w27)
Related Techniques
WaterfowlINDEXDisInvTrCntr.gif (2325 bytes)

Return to top of page

Preventative Measures

Vaccination --
Lagomorphs --
Prophylactic Treatment

--

Lagomorphs --
Ferrets
  • In cases where developing mastitis is detected early, when the mammary glands become red and swollen, a five-day course of broad-spectrum antibiotic should be given to prevent mastitis developing. (B232.11.w11)
  • A foster jill being given kits from an affected female should be given a course of antibiotics, in addition to the kits being treated before being placed with the fosterer. (B602.5.w5)
Related Techniques
WaterfowlINDEXDisInvTrCntr.gif (2325 bytes)

Return to top of page

Environmental and Population Control Measures

General Environment Changes, Cleaning and Disinfection --

Lagomorphs

  • Keep the environment clean. (B609.2.w2)
Ferrets
  • Ensure adequate food is provided to kits from three weeks of age. (J195.11.w2)
  • Ensure the jill has sufficient water etc. to avoid reduced lactation (which can result in excessive suckling, causing teat damage). (J195.11.w2)
  • Bedding should be changed once or twice weekly. (B232.11.w11)
  • The cage should also be disinfected regularly. (B232.11.w11)
  • The nest area should be sterilized once or twice weekly, when the bedding is changed. (B232.11.w11)
  • Hands should be cleaned after handling jills and kits, to prevent spread of the infection. (B232.11.w11)
  • To avoid transmitting infection to a foster mother ferret: If kits are going to be placed with a foster mother, they need to be removed for two hours until they defecate and empty their gut. Bathing with a mild shampoo should be carried out before introducing them to their foster mother, also treatment with an appropriate oral antibiotic. (B232.11.w11, B602.5.w5)
Population Control Measures --
Lagomorphs --
Ferrets
  • Avoid oversized litters (reduce the number of kits per jill to eight by fostering to jills with smaller litters) to avoid teat damage. (J195.11.w2)
Isolation, Quarantine and Screening --
Lagomorphs --
Ferrets
  • Chronic mastitis is highly infectious and so the infectious jill should be isolated from other breeding jills. (B232.11.w11)
  • The kits should not be fostered out if at all possible, to reduce the chances of infecting the foster mother. (B232.11.w11)
  • The jill should be checked daily during lactation, to ensure that early treatment can be started if mastitis is found. The jill should be carefully monitored, in particular, three to five weeks post parturition. (B232.11.w11)
Related Techniques
WaterfowlINDEXDisInvTrCntr.gif (2325 bytes)

Return to top of page