Diseases / List of Bacterial Diseases / Disease description:

Bacterial Dermatitis in Lagomorphs and Ferrets

Dewlap dermatitis.  Click here for full page view with caption










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General and References

Disease Summary

Bacterial dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin resulting from bacterial infection. (B549)
Lagomorphs Bacterial dermatitis is common in rabbits and is usually secondary to an underlying condition that causes chronic exposure to faeces and/or moisture, or one that prevents normal grooming. Identification and correction of any possible underlying causes are essential for resolving this condition. (B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)

The three most common locations of dermatitis in the domestic rabbit are:

  • Moist dermatitis of the dewlap
  • Facial dermatitis
  • Perineal dermatitis

(B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)

Ferrets Bacterial dermatitis is a common problem in ferrets, (B232.10.w10, B602.10.w10) resulting from bacterial colonisation of damaged areas of skin. (B631.24.w24)

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Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Moist dermatitis (B614.15.w15)
  • Superficial pyoderma (B600.9.w9)
  • Slobbers (chin or ventral neck dermatitis) (B602.19.w19, B604.5.w5)
  • Sore dewlap (B608.21.w21)
  • Wet dewlap (B604.5.w5)
  • Urine scald (perineal dermatitis) (B602.19.w19)
  • Vent scald (perineal dermatitis) (B64.22.w8)
  • Hutch burn (perineal dermatitis) (B64.22.w8, B602.19.w19, B604.5.w5)
  • Blue fur disease (moist dermatitis of dewlap) (B601.13.w13)

See also: 

Pododermatitis is also a common problem in domestic rabbits - see Ulcerative Pododermatitis.
  • Cellulitis. (B631.24.w24)
  • Moist dermatitis. 
  • Superficial and deep pyoderma. (B631.24.w24)

See also

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Disease Type

Bacterial Infection

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Infectious/Non-Infectious Agent associated with the Disease

  • Staphylococcus aureus
    • This is a common pathogen in superficial pyoderma in the rabbit. (B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)
    • It can be isolated from all over the body in rabbits but is especially prevalent in the ears and perineum. (B600.9.w9)
    • There are many different phage types and biotypes that are related to virulence. (B600.9.w9)
  • Staphylococcus warneri
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
    • Particularly in farmed rabbits that are kept in intensive conditions. (B600.9.w9)
    • Can cause a moist dermatitis of the dewlap (or any skin folds) which may be found in rabbits that are kept in damp conditions. (B600.9.w9, B602.19.w19, B606.4.w4, B615.6.w6, J213.4.w4)
    • Pyocyanin is a pigment that is produced by some strains of this bacteria and stains the fur blue-green. Several toxins can also be produced by this organism and this can lead to dermal necrosis and in severe cases, death. (B604.5.w5)
  • Pasteurella multocida
    • This is the commonest pathogen in purulent skin conditions. It can be isolated in the nares of healthy rabbits and then spread to other parts of the body during grooming. (B600.9.w9)
    • It is often cultured from abscesses and is also a cause of respiratory infections. (B600.9.w9)
  • Fusobacterium necrophorum
    • Particularly in farmed rabbits that are kept in intensive conditions. (B600.9.w9)
    • Causes Necrobacillosis or "Schmorls disease" which results in necrosis, ulceration and abscessation. (B600.9.w9)
  • Dermatophilus congolensis

Causes of bacterial dermatitis: 
  • Bite wounds from fighting, playing or mating (B602.10.w10, B232.10.w10), with lesions seen most commonly in the thick skin around the neck. (B631.24.w24) 
  • Pruritis and self-trauma resulting from ectoparasites can also be a precursor to bacterial dermatitis. (B631.24.w24)
  • Less common causes include insect stings, snake bites and iatrogenic causes. (B232.10.w10)
Infectious agents: 

Infective "Taxa"

Non-infective agents


Physical agents

-- Indirect / Secondary

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Disease Author

Nikki Fox BVSc MRCVS (V.w103); Joanne Osuagwuh BSc BVSc MSc MRCVS ( V.w147); Bridget Fry BSc, RVN (V.w143)
Click image for main Reference Section


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

B10.45.w47, B64.22.w8, B209.28.w28c, B600.9.w9, B601.13.w13, B602.16.w16, B602.19.w19, B604.5.w5, B606.4.w4, B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2, B614.15.w15, B615.6.w6,
J1.41.w6, J213.4.w4, J213.7.w2,

B602.10.w10, B631.24.w24, B232.10.w10

Other References

Code and Title List


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Clinical Characteristics and Pathology

Detailed Clinical and Pathological Characteristics

General --

Clinical Characteristics


The skin under the chin and around the throat can become sore and infected particularly if it is continually wet. (B600.9.w9)

  • There may be a history of ptyalism, anorexia, dental disease, ocular or nasal discharge. (B609.2.w2)
Clinical examination findings
  • Alopecia 
  • Erythema 
  • Skin ulceration and necrosis 
  • Matted fur 
  • Thickened, enlarged skin folds 
  • Variable crusts
  • Always carry out a thorough oral examination as ptyalism is the commonest cause and may be due to:
    • Fractured teeth 
    • Lodged food between the teeth and/or gingival mucosa. 
    • Malocclusion that is causing sharp points on the crowns that penetrate the oral mucosa. 
  • Green skin or fur that is often clumped together or spiked: this may be seen if Pseudomonas aeruginosa has caused a secondary infection.

(B601.13.w13, B602.19.w19,  B606.4.w4, B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2)

  • There may be a history of epiphora, dental disease, ocular or nasal discharge, or exophthalmia. (B609.2.w2)
Clinical findings
  • Bilateral or unilateral alopecia. 
  • Crusts 
  • Matted fur around the eyes, cheeks, and/or nasal rostrum. 
  • The superficial pyoderma may be secondary to chronic epiphora or ocular discharge. 
  • Ptyalism 
  • Nasal discharge 
  • Ocular discharge 
  • Anorexia 
  • Exophthalmia 

(B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2)

  • There may be a history of polydipsia/polyuria, obesity, lower urinary tract disease, intermittent diarrhoea, lameness, reluctance to move, uneaten caecotrophs, or poor sanitation. (B609.2.w2)
Clinical findings
  • Matted fur or alopecia that may extend from the perineal region to the inner thighs and abdomen. 
  • The fur may be matted with caecotrophs or faeces or it may be urine soaked. 
  • The skin in this area may be ulcerated and erythremic.
  • Necrotic debris and purulent exudate may be present, particularly in rabbits that have deep perineal folds. 
  • This can extend down the medial thighs to the hocks. (B600.9.w9)
  • There may be fly strike. 
  • Depending on the underlying cause there may be:
    • Obesity 
    • Musculoskeletal pain 
    • Palpable sand in the urinary bladder

(B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2)


  • Other areas of the rabbit are less commonly affected compared to the dewlap, face or perineal regions and are most likely secondary to trauma or ectoparasites. (B609.2.w2)
  • For pododermatitis see: Ulcerative Pododermatitis.
  • Superficial or deep pyoderma or cellulitis. (B602.10.w10, B232.10.w10, B631.24.w24)


  • --

Mortality / Morbidity

  • --


  • Inflammatory reaction - pyogranulomatous or suppurative. (B609.2.w2)
Gross pathology
  • Partial alopecia, necrosis and ulceration of the affected skin. (B614.15.w15)
Skin: "irregular patches of ulceration, coagulative necrosis, abscessation, and colonization of the dermal layers with bacteria". (B614.15.w15)
  • Cellular elements of both chronic and acute inflammation may be found in the tissues around the ulceration. 
  • There may be haematogenous and lymphatic extension especially to the pulmonary and ventral cervical lymph nodes. 


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Human Health Considerations


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Susceptibility / Transmission

General information on Susceptibility / Transmission

  • Bacterial infection of the skin occurs when:
    • the integrity of the skin surface has been broken;
    • chronic exposure to moisture has macerated the skin; 
    • there has been an alteration of the normal bacterial flora; 
    • there has been impairment of the circulation; or
    • immunocompetency has been compromised. 


  • The skin of rabbits is quite thin and therefore easily traumatised. It is also reactive and easily irritated. 
  • Superficial pyoderma is common in rabbits and is usually secondary to an underlying cause such as ptyalism, epiphora, bite wounds, urine scalding, infected skin folds or injection reactions. 
  • Deep skin folds can accumulate debris and they provide ideal environmental conditions for yeasts and bacteria to grow. Some rabbits have excessively large skin folds around the genitalia and anus. 


Risk factors
  • Breed predilections
    • Breeds with dense or long coats are more prone to dermatitis in the perineal region:
      • Angoras 
      • Miniature lops
      • Dwarf lops 
        (B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)
    • Any breed with an underlying musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, dental, or urinary disease can develop secondary pyoderma. (B609.2.w2)
  • Sex predilections
    • Female rabbits are more likely to develop perineal and dewlap pyodermas. (B609.2.w2)
  • Dental disease: this can cause obstruction of the nasolacrimal duct leading to epiphora; ptyalism; or prevent grooming:
    • Tooth root impaction
    • Tooth root or periapical abscesses
    • Fractured teeth
    • Malocclusion that causes sharp points on the crowns which traumatise the oral mucosa.
    • Food lodged between the teeth and/or gingival mucosa.
  • Chronic upper respiratory disease: this can block the nasolacrimal duct which will then lead to epiphora. (B609.2.w2)
  • Conjunctivitis in Lagomorphs (B604.5.w5)
  • Obesity: this will prevent normal grooming and a normal stance during urination; and the excessive skin folds may retain moisture. (B609.2.w2)
  • Musculoskeletal disease: this may prevent ingestion of caecotrophs, normal grooming, or a normal stance during urination:
    • Arthritis
    • Spinal injury
    • Spondylosis
    • Fractures
    • Pododermatitis
  • Excessive skin folds (perineal region or dewlap): traps debris, moisture and bacteria.
  • Husbandry: 
    • water or urine-soaked bedding;
    • water bowls can cause chronic soaking of the dewlap and chin in rabbits with large dewlaps. (B604.5.w5)
  • Urinary incontinence (B604.5.w5)
  • Chronic diarrhoea (B604.5.w5)
  • Parasites: Cheyletiellosis, Flea Infection (B609.2.w2)
  • Contact irritants: Contact Dermatitis in Rabbits (B609.2.w2)
  • Immune competency: young animals; glucocorticoids. (B609.2.w2)
  • Fungal infection: Ringworm (B609.2.w2)
  • Trauma, bite wounds (Lacerations & Punctures, including bite wounds) (B609.2.w2)
  • Injection Reactions In Rabbits (B609.2.w2)
  • Chronic exposure to moisture
    • From urine (perineal or ventral dermatitis) due to:
      • an underlying urinary tract disease;
      • polyuria;
      • conditions that prevent the rabbit from maintaining a normal posture during urination (obesity, musculoskeletal disease). Rabbits will normally lift their hindquarters to spray urine caudally and an inability to maintain this stance will cause the urine to soak the perineal area and the ventrum. Urine can also collect in the perineal skin folds in rabbits that have excessive folds.
    • From epiphora (facial dermatitis) or ptyalism (dewlap dermatitis): 
      • both are most likely to be caused by either dental disease or a chronic upper respiratory tract infection.
    • From faeces (perineal or ventral dermatitis):
      • uneaten caecotrophs or chronic diarrhoea.
    • From the environment:
      • water bowls (dewlap dermatitis)
      • urine-soaked bedding (perineal or ventral dermatitis)
  • Matting of fur (traps faeces, moisture, and bacteria near the skin)
    • From an inability to groom properly:
      • dental disease;
      • obesity;
      • musculoskeletal disease;
      • pain with severe pyoderma.

(B602.16.w16, B609.2.w2)


  • Conditions that cause ptyalism are the commonest cause, e.g. dental disease, particularly cheek teeth spurs. (B10.45.w47, B600.9.w9, B601.13.w13, B602.19.w19, B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2)
  • Dirty or leaking water bottles. (B600.9.w9, B608.21.w21)
  • Dewlap being wet from the water bowl. (B602.16.w16)
  • Damp conditions where rabbits are kept intensively. (B600.9.w9)
  • Large breed female rabbits with large dewlaps that get immersed when the rabbit is drinking from a water bowl. (B10.45.w47, B600.9.w9, B602.19.w19, B608.21.w21)
  • Displacement activity for irritation that occurs at another site- the rabbit will lick and chew at the dewlap, e.g. obese rabbits that cannot reach their dorsum (Cheyletiellosis) or perineum (perineal dermatitis). (B600.9.w9)
  • Loose-skinned rabbits, particularly females, develop large skin folds around the dewlap and under the chin which can easily become infected. (B600.9.w9, B601.13.w13)
  • Secondary bacterial infection: Pseudomonas aeruginosa is commonly the infective agent. The infection is characterised by a green/blue discolouration of the fur which is due to the bacteria's production of a pyocyanin pigment which is water soluble. (B600.9.w9, B601.13.w13, B602.19.w19) See: Pseudomonas Infection
    • It is rare in pet rabbits. (B600.9.w9)
  • Excessive salivation. 
  • Chronic epiphora 
    • Infection 
    • Trauma 
    • Nasolacrimal duct blockage- this is the most common cause. 
      • Epiphora is frequently the first sign of dental disease. 
      • The nasolacrimal duct can become blocked by an elongated root of the upper primary incisor because the duct curls around the apex of this tooth. 
      • It may also become blocked by a chronic upper respiratory infection.
      • If a blockage occurs, the tears will flow down the face instead of flowing down the duct. 
      • The fur under the eye will become continually wet and the mineral deposits will cause matting of the fur which encourages bacterial growth. 
  • Fight wounds

(B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)


  • It occurs more commonly in older does. (B606.4.w4)
  • Anything that results in fur mats around the genital area and the ventral tail. These mats exacerbate the bacterial infection by absorbing urine and adhering to faeces. (B600.9.w9)
    • Grooming difficulties (B600.9.w9)
    • Fluffy coat: Angoras, Miniature lops, dwarf lops. (B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)
  • The perineal area is very sensitive and pain resulting from inflamed and infected skin can, in itself, prevent the rabbit from grooming this area or ingesting caecotrophs. This lack of grooming will start a vicious circle with the possibility of fly strike being the end result. (B600.9.w9)
  • Rabbits with perineal dermatitis are prone to urethritis. They are reluctant in adopting the correct stance for urination and this leads to urinary retention and possible cystitis. The urethritis will cause urine dribbling and urine scald plus the dirty wet bedding will compound the situation. (B600.9.w9)
  • Urine scalding
    • Polydypsic and polyuric rabbits will produce large volumes of urine which will also lead to wet bedding and exacerbation of the dermatitis, e.g. renal disease (B600.9.w9, B602.19.w19)
    • Any condition that will alter the direction of urine flow onto the skin will result in urine scald. (B600.9.w9)
      • Penis or prepuce conditions, e.g. scars from old fight wounds can deviate the penis or partially occlude the opening of the urethra and alter the urine flow direction. (B600.9.w9)
    • Immobility due to spinal problems, pododermatitis, arthritis, or obesity will mean that rabbits are not able to adopt the correct stance for urination and so urine dribbles down the inside of the legs. (B600.9.w9, (B600.9.w9, B601.13.w13, B602.19.w19, B608.21.w21)
    • Cystitis (B600.9.w9, B602.19.w19)
    • Neurological disease. (B600.9.w9, B608.21.w21)
    • Penile disorders (B600.9.w9)
    • Urolithiasis (B600.9.w9, B602.19.w19)
    • Dirty conditions (B608.21.w21)
  • Vaginal discharge in female rabbits with reproductive disorders. (B600.9.w9)
  • Uneaten caecotrophs which accumulate in the area
    • volatile fatty acids in this type of faeces irritate the skin causing inflammation. 
    • Can be secondary to:
      • dental disease 
      • spondylosis 
      • arthritis 
      • obesity 
      • inadequate fibre intake
      • sore hocks
  • Large perineal skin folds
    • These may develop in obese animals and will persist even if the rabbit then loses weight. 
    • More common in females than males.
    • The folds will trap urine, faeces, hair, discharges, necrotic debris. 
    • Occasionally Psoroptes cuniculi can occur at this site if the rabbit has an ear mite infestation. There will be a crusty exudate and mites will be seen on a smear. See: Psoroptes cuniculi Ear Mite Infection in Lagomorphs


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

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)

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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)

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General Information on Environmental Factors/Events and Seasonality

  • --

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

  • --

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

  • --

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General Investigation / Diagnosis

General Information on Investigation / Diagnosis

The systematic approach to a skin work-up is primarily the same for all mammal species. (V.w147)
  • Skin scrapings (B609.2.w2)
  • Culture and sensitivity (B600.9.w9, B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2)
    • Submit samples of exudate or skin. (B602.19.w19)
    • Frequently positive for Staphylococcus aureus but other organisms may be identified. (B609.2.w2)
    • Useful for directing the antibiotic therapy. (B609.2.w2)
  • Skin biopsy
    • rule out neoplasia if there is a suspicion of this. (B609.2.w2)
  • Dermatophyte culture (B609.2.w2)
  • Radiography
    • For dewlap or facial dermatitis: 
      • This needs to be performed under general anaesthesia. (B609.2.w2)
      • Skull radiographs are useful in identifying the extent and type of dental disease. (B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2)
    • For perineal dermatitis:
      • Useful in identifying the underlying cause, e.g. osteoarthritis, urinary tract disease, spinal lesions. (B600.9.w9, B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2)
  • Ultrasonography
    • Used to diagnose underlying gastrointestinal or urinary disorders. (B609.2.w2)
  • CBC / Biochemistry / Urinalysis
    • These tests may be useful in identifying the underlying cause, for example, causes of diarrhoea, polydipsia/polyuria, or urinary tract infection. (B602.19.w19, B609.2.w2)
    • CBC changes purely due to pyoderma alone are not often present. (B609.2.w2)
  • See: Clinical Pathology of Lagomorphs
Ferrets General approach to skin cases:
  • History
    • General history as well as information on the presenting complaint. (B631.24.w24)
  • Clinical examination
    • Include blood smear for general health check. (V.w147)
    • Haematology and clinical chemistry can be conducted for a general health profile. (B631.24.w24)
  • Skin examination
    • Visualise and palpate
      • All skin surfaces including the genitalia and ear canals. (B631.24.w24)
    • Bacterial culture and antibiotic sensitivity testing
      • The samples taken are either exudate or skin. (B631.24.w24)
    • Wood's (ultraviolet) lamp
      • For dermatophyte detection. (B631.24.w24)
      • No conclusion can be drawn from a negative result from this test. (V.w147)
      • If uncertain, a dermatophyte culture should be conducted. See Ringworm
    • Fungal culture. (B631.24.w24)
    • Coat brushing to detect ectoparasites such as fleas. (B631.24.w24)
    • Adhesive tape collection to detect surface living ectoparasites such as mites. (B631.24.w24)
    • Skin scrape
      • Superficial for surface living mites. (B631.24.w24)
      • Deep for burrowing or follicular mites. (B631.24.w24)
    • Impression smear of exudate to determine cellular infiltrate. (B631.24.w24)
    • Fine needle aspirates for nodular lesions. (B631.24.w24)
    • Biopsy for histopathology. (B232.10.w10, B631.24.w24)
  • Radiography may be useful to rule out other diseases in which skin lesions may occur. (B232.10.w10)
  • Ultrasonography. (B232.10.w10)
Related Techniques
WaterfowlINDEXDisInvTrCntr.gif (2325 bytes)

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Similar Diseases (Differential Diagnosis)


Alternative causes of skin disease which should be considered in the differential diagnosis of bacterial dermatitis in rabbits include:

Barbering and Excessive Grooming or Self mutilation
  • Dominant rabbits chew or pull the hairs on submissive rabbits. This behaviour may not be observed by owners.
  • Self-barbering is often a craving for fibre that is seen in rabbits that are fed a diet deficient in coarse fibres like long-stemmed hay. 
  • Clinical signs: hair loss around the flanks and body flanks. 
  • Diagnosis: broken hairs.

Cheyletiellosis or less commonly Leporacarus gibbus Fur Mite Infection in Lagomorphs (Parasitic Disease)

  • Fur mite infections.
  • Clinical signs Profuse amounts of large white scale. 
  • Distribution of lesions: intrascapular region or around the tail base.
  • Diagnosis: Identification of mites under low magnification in acetate tape preparations or skin scrapes. 

Psoroptes cuniculi (Ear Mite) Infection

  • Clinical signs: 
    • Beige-brown crusty exudate in the pinna and ear canal.
    • Intense pruritus.
    • Alopecia around the ear base, sometimes extending to the neck, face, abdomen and perineal region.

Flea Infection

  • Clinical signs: Patchy alopecia and sometimes a secondary pyoderma.
  • Diagnosis: Identification of fleas or flea dirt.

Injection Reactions

  • Clinical signs: Alopecia, scale, scabs, and erythema.
  • Distribution of lesions: Intrascapular region is the commonest area of subcutaneous injections. 


  • Clinical signs: 
    • Not necessarily always ringlike.
    • Partial to complete alopecia with some scaling.
    • May initially start as small papules.

Treponematosis (rabbit syphilis)

  • Clinical signs- Alopecia, crusts at mucocutaneous junctions.
  • Distribution of lesions- Nose, lips, and genitalia

Sebaceous adenitis

  • Clinical signs: Alopecia and copious amounts of white scale
  • Distribution of lesions: Often begins around the neck and head.
  • Differentiate by: Biopsy and histology.

Cutaneous Neoplasia

  • "basal cell tumors, cutaneous lymphoma, cutaneous epithelotropic lymphoma (mycoses fungoides), or mast cell tumors: rare in rabbits".
  • Clinical signs: Diffuse or focal truncal alopecia with erythema and scaling and occasionally plaque formation.

Lack of grooming

  • Alopecia and accumulation of scale in the tail base area or intrascapular region. 


Ferrets Differential diagnosis:

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Treatment and Control

Specific Medical Treatment

Lagomorphs Superficial pyoderma is treated by:
  • Clipping the fur away from the lesion. 
  • Cleaning the skin. 
  • Application of antibiotic or antiseptic cream. 

(B600.9.w9, B601.13.w13)

NOTE: It is necessary to investigate and treat the underlying cause or predisposing factors of the dermatitis. 


Topical medications should be used with caution as they may be ingested by the rabbit during grooming. (J213.7.w2)

  • Antibiotic and/or corticosteroid preparations are often effective. (B600.9.w9)
    • Corticosteroids are easily absorbed from the skin especially if there is inflammation. (B600.9.w9)
    • Prolonged administration of topical corticosteroids may result in skin thinning. (B600.9.w9)
      • Note: great care should be taken when administering corticosteroids to rabbits due to their immunosuppresive and hepatotoxic effects. (V.w128)
    • Fuciderm (Leo Laboratories Ltd.) contains fusidic acid and only needs application once daily. The fusidic acid is effective against Staphylococcus infections that are common in skin pyodermas and it won't interfere with the gut flora. (B600.9.w9)
    • Gentamicin sulfate ointment (B608.21.w21)
    • Topical or injectable Gentamicin may be used to treat Pseudomonas infection. (B615.6.w6)
    • Chloramphenicol ointment applied once daily for ten to fourteen days. (B614.15.w15)
  • Zinc oxide plus menthol powder (Gold Bond, Martin Himmel, Inc.) is useful for superficial, moist dermatitis. Apply every 24 hours. (B608.21.w21, B609.2.w2)
  • Astringents: aluminium acetate (Domeboro powder, Bayer Inc., Elkhart, IN) (B602.18.w18, B608.21.w21)
    • Apply twice a day. (J213.7.w2)


  • Systemic antibiotics are necessary in severe bacterial dermatitis. (B600.9.w9)
  • As a general rule in the treatment of bacterial skin conditions in rabbits, marbofloxacin, Enrofloxacin, or Trimethoprim sulfa are useful for non- suppurative infections and may be given orally. However, purulent infections respond better to the penicillin related compounds. Amoxycillin, Penicillin G, and Cephalexin are safe as long as they are not used orally. These antibiotics must always be administered parenterally. (P601.1.w1)
  • The choice of antibiotic should ideally be based on culture and sensitivity especially if the pyoderma is recurrent, resistant or deep. (B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)
  • Antibiotics should be administered for at least two weeks beyond cure. (B609.2.w2)
  • Enrofloxacin
    • Safe in rabbits. (B600.9.w9)
    • 5 - 20 mg/kg orally, or by subcutaneous or intramuscular injection every 12 to 24 hours. (B609.2.w2)
  • Trimethoprim combinations
    • Safe in rabbits. (B600.9.w9)
    • Trimethoprim sulfa: 30 mg/kg orally every twelve hours. (B609.2.w2)
  • Oxytetracycline
    • Can be used parenterally in the treatment of dermatophilosis. (B609.2.w2)
  • For Pseudomonas infections: Enrofloxacin or Gentamicin have the best action. (B606.4.w4)
  • Contraindications:
    • Oral antibiotics that select against the Gram-positive bacteria:
      • Penicillins, macrolides, lincosamides and cephalosporins. (B609.2.w2)
      • These may cause a fatal enteric dysbiosis and enterotoxaemia. (B609.2.w2)


  • NSAIDs e.g. Carprofen, are useful in particularly painful skin infections and also in treating any underlying painful condition that is preventing grooming. (B600.9.w9) 
    • This class of drugs interfere with the synthesis of prostaglandins and have the additional advantage for perineal dermatitis of reducing the production of caecotrophs. (B600.9.w9)
    • Meloxicam: 0.2 - 0.5 mg/kg orally every 24 hours. (B609.2.w2)
    • Carprofen: 2.2 mg/kg orally every 12 hours. (B609.2.w2)

SEDATION (may be needed for treatment)

  • For light sedation: 
    • Midazolam- 0.5 - 2 mg/kg by intramuscular injection. (B609.2.w2)
    • Diazepam- 1-2 mg/kg by intramuscular injection. (B609.2.w2)
  • For deep sedation and longer procedures:
    • Ketamine 15 - 20 mg/kg by intramuscular injection and Midazolam 0.5 mg/kg by intramuscular injection. (B609.2.w2)


  • Corticosteroids - topical or systemic
    • May encourage resistance and recurrence even if used concurrently with antibiotics. (B609.2.w2)
    • Topical corticosteroids should be used with caution because they are absorbed and may cause significant adrenocortical and immuno suppression. (J213.7.w2, V.w128)
  • Superficial infection only needs topical application of antiseptic. (B232.10.w10)
  • Antibiotic therapy after culture and sensitivity testing if necessary. (B232.10.w10, B631.24.w24, J29.11.w1)
Related Techniques
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General Nursing and Surgical Techniques

Removing matted fur
  • This is necessary for the treatment to be effective. 
  • It is very easy to tear rabbit skin because of its extreme fragility therefore it is necessary to be very cautious when clipping the fur or pulling on mats.
  • Electric clippers are usually ineffective in removing thick fur mats; curved scissors are best. Work carefully and slowly so no damage is caused to the skin.
  • Use sedation in rabbits with large mats. 


  • The overlying fur must be clipped off first or otherwise bathing is counter productive as the dense coat mats easily, dries slowly and the moist conditions are ideal for bacterial growth. (B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)
  • Remove exudate or faecal contamination. (B600.9.w9)
  • Chlorhexidine or povidone/iodine preparations are both suitable skin cleansers. They are also effective against yeasts that can inhabit skin folds. (B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)
  • Use extreme caution when bathing or dipping rabbits due to the high risk of excessive chilling, severe stress, and skeletal fractures. (B609.2.w2)
  • Thoroughly dry the animal after bathing. (B609.2.w2)
  • See: Bathing Rabbits
Skin protectant-type dressing
  • "A polymeric solution of hexamethyldisiloxane acrylate copolymer (No Sting Barrier Film, 3M Health Care, St. Paul, Minnesota) is useful. " (J213.7.w2)
Specific information for treatment of different areas of the body
Moist dermatitis of the dewlap
  • Remove the primary source of the irritation, for example, Cheyletiellosis or perineal dermatitis. (B600.9.w9)
  • Daily cleansing using an antiseptic solution. (B600.9.w9)
  • Surgical removal of skin folds may be necessary. (B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)
Facial dermatitis
  • Keep the affected skin clean and dry. 
  • A bonded companion rabbit is useful for licking and cleaning the face. 
  • Topical preparations may be useful in controlling the infection but the condition is difficult to cure. 


Perineal dermatitis
  • Clip and clean the perineum under sedation (B600.9.w9)
  • The underlying cause must be addressed.
  • Provide a high fibre diet to prevent excessive caecotroph production and encourage caecotroph ingestion and also to reduce obesity. (B600.9.w9, B606.4.w4)
  • Provide space to exercise and an area to urinate away from the bedding. (B600.9.w9)
  • Paraplegic patients require constant nursing to maintain clean dry perineal skin and unmatted fur. (B600.9.w9)
  • Surgery
    • remove large folds of skin around the genitalia. (B600.9.w9, B602.19.w19)
    • spay rabbits that have an underlying reproductive disorder that causes vaginal discharge. (B600.9.w9)
  • Perineal dermoplasty
    • Providing any other predisposing factors have been identified and treated, this surgery is a simple and effective remedy for chronic dermatitis of the perineum. (B600.9.w9, B609.2.w2)
      • In cases where it is not possible to resolve the underlying cause (as in spondylitis and the accompanying inadequate grooming problem) the removal of the infected skin folds will at least improve the situation. (B600.9.w9)
    • See: Perineal Dermoplasty in Rabbits (Techniques)
Husbandry Changes
  • If obesity is a factor then gradually change the diet to one that is high in fibre and low in starch and fat. (B602.19.w19, V.w128)
  • Encourage exercise if obesity is a causative factor. (B602.19.w19)
  • Keep rabbits with moist dermatitis indoors because they will be a risk of Myiasis. (J213.7.w2)
  • Clip and clean the affected area. (B232.10.w10)
Related Techniques
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Preventative Measures

Vaccination --
Lagomorphs --
Prophylactic Treatment


  • Skin areas that are at risk of developing dermatitis (e.g. due to urine scalding) can be protected with zinc oxide and castor oil cream, petroleum jelly, or talcum powder whilst the predisposing cause is being investigated and treated. (B606.4.w4)
Related Techniques
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Environmental and Population Control Measures

General Environment Changes, Cleaning and Disinfection --


  • Substitute a sipper bottle for water bowls. (B600.9.w9, B608.21.w21)
    • Prevent progressive dental disease by:
      • selection of rabbits without a genetic predisposition to dental problems.
      • provide a high fibre diet and good quality hay.
      • discontinue or limit the feeding of pellets and vegetables or soft fruits. 
      • Periodically trim the overgrown crowns. 
    • Prevent obesity by allowing the rabbit to exercise and providing a high fibre diet.
    • Provide clean and appropriate surface substrates. 


Population Control Measures --
Lagomorphs --
Isolation, Quarantine and Screening --
Lagomorphs --
Related Techniques
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