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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Mastitis is inflammation (-"itis") of the breast - or mammary gland.

Mastitis usually occurs in rabbits that are lactating. The signs are :

  • Firm swelling of one or more breasts - which can take on a "blue" appearance
  • The breasts feel hot
  • There may be abscess formation within the breast
  • There may be a foul-smelling discharge from the breast
  • There may be a blood-stained discharge from the breast
  • The rabbit may have a poor appetite
  • High body temperature (over 104oF)
  • The young may die
  • In severe cases the mother may develop septicemia (infection in the bloodstream) and die.

The disease most often occurs in rabbits kept in an unclean environment and the bacteria that are usually involved include :

  • Staphylococcus spp
  • Streptococcus spp
  • Pasteurella spp

The infection is thought to gain access to the breast up the duct in the teat which carries milk from the gland. Damage to the teat during suckling by the newborn may play a role as well as contamination from the environment. It is a good idea to remove old bedding from rabbit hutches and clean them well with disinfectants before a doe is due to give birth. 

During lactation cleaning the does' teats regularly with water and a safe disinfectant solution (eg dilute chlorhexidine) might also help to reduce the chance of infection being introduced during suckling. Be sure to wash off the disinfectant thoroughly with copious amounts of clean water before the young are allowed to suckle again.


Updated October 2013