Pet Factsheets

Moist dermatitis - sore skin

The two areas that are most commonly affected are under the chin and around the perineum

Moist dermatitis can be known by other names. A hot spot or pyoderma are just two of the many names for raw, painful, irritated skin that results in and worsens from continued irritation.

Why might my rabbit get moist dermatitis?

The condition can be caused by a variety of reasons. If the problem is under the chin and around the mouth, then dental disease is likely to be on top of your vets list as a cause of the problem.

Faulty drinkers or water bowls can lead to a wet dewlap which may predispose to this disease; careful examination by your vet is needed.

The problem can also affect the rabbit around their perineum and is usually caused by urine scalding, for which there can be numerous causes.

This condition is more common in overweight rabbits.

If my rabbit is sore under the chin, what should I do?

This is likely to be due to urine scalding. The urine is in contact with the skin, which becomes red and sore.

There are several reasons as to why rabbit suffer with urine scalding. These include:

  • E. cuniculi infection causing urine incontinence.
  • Excess weight leading to the development of skin folds preventing the rabbit cleaning themselves effectively.
  • Spinal pain/osteoarthritis meaning the rabbit can’t adopt the correct position for urination and they urinate upon themselves.
  • Bladder stones or sludge which causes incontinence.
  • Cystitis causing painful urination or the rabbit to pass small amounts frequently.
  • Litter trays that aren’t cleaned out regularly enough, so the rabbit has to sit in soiled trays.

How will my vet treat my rabbit for urine scalding?

Supportive treatment of clipping the area and giving pain relief and eliminating infection are the first step, but treatment for the underlying cause/s cannot be started until it is clear what they are. Often there is more than one predisposing factor and therefore treatment may be multi-model.

E. cuniculi rabbits need a 28-day course of fenbendazole, as well as supportive treatment in the way of syringe feeding and fluid therapy if they are not eating and drinking.

Rabbits that are overweight will need a weight loss programme devising and sticking to. If the rabbit is in discomfort with osteoarthritis or spinal pain then pain relief may be prescribed to help alleviate their discomfort, which should make urination easier for them. Modifications may also be required to their living environment.

Bladder stones and sludge will need x-rays to diagnose the location(s) and depending upon where they are the rabbit may require surgical treatment, followed by medical management.

Cystitis is likely to require a urine culture and sensitivity and appropriate antibiotics.

If the rabbits living environment isn’t suitable then alterations will be needed to this.

What other health problems are associated with moist dermatitis?

Flies are attracted to soiled and smelly fur and skin. Moist dermatitis bunnies are at an increased risk of flystrike, so it is important to correct the underlying causes, treat the problem and also help prevent further problems.

Using products to help prevent maggots, as well as fly netting and frequently checking the rabbit for signs of fly eggs/maggots is imperative.

Can I prevent moist dermatitis?

To an extent the problem can be prevented by ensuring your rabbit doesn’t become overweight, is fed a diet high in hay and grass to help prevent dental problems and lives in a clean environment with proper drinkers.

However, it isn’t always possible to prevent problems such as osteoarthritis, bladder stones/sludge and cystitis, so being observant, looking for changes in your rabbit’s behaviour and health checking regularly are all very important.

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