Pet Factsheets

Cellulitis

Cellulitis can be serious and will require veterinary treatment

Cellulitis means inflammation of subcutaneous connective tissue; this is the tissue that lies immediately below the dermis (middle layer) of vertebrate skin.

Does the condition occur quickly?

Cellulitis does often occur rapidly, but this can be linked to the fact that rabbits will hide signs of illness for as long as they can - it may have been going on for longer than first thought.

Why does it happen?

Cellulitis may be linked to a respiratory infection or from a penetrating wound. Cellulitis occurs due to a bacterial infection, usually Bordetalla bronchiseptica, Pasterella multocida or Staphlyococcus aureus.

What are the signs?

Clinical signs are a painful fluid-filled skin swelling. It frequently occurs on the head, chest or neck. Often the rabbit will have a high body temperature of up to 42°C/107.6°F (38.5-40°C/101-104°F is normal for a rabbit). The rabbit is likely to be off their food, lethargic and miserable.

What can my vet do?

Your vet will need to take a swab and send it to a laboratory for testing to see which bacteria is responsible which will enable your vet to know which antibiotic should be used.

The rabbit is likely to require supportive treatment aimed at reducing their body temperature, pain relief, syringe feeding, fluid therapy and medications to keep the gastrointestinal tract moving.

Is the condition serious?

Yes, and it can prove fatal in some cases, especially those where treatment is delayed, and the infection becomes overwhelming. If you notice any swellings on your rabbit, even if they are seemingly well, you must take your rabbit to a vet as soon as possible.

If my rabbit survives are there any long-term problems?

If your rabbit survives it’s not uncommon for the cellulitis to progress into one or more abscesses, or for some of the tissue to become necrotic and die off. The rabbit may require further treatment or surgery to treat the abscesses or remove necrotic tissue and will require supportive treatment at home during this time.

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