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Ask the Breeder - Oct/Nov/Dec 2006 Issue

What do you know about pimples on rabbits and what do you do to treat them? (For those who are unfamiliar with this problem, it is a pimple that appears on the genitals, mainly bucks, and will disqualify the animal from that class.)

From Fran Schettler:

By pimples on rabbits, I assume that you mean pimples in the sheath area, primarily on bucks, but sometimes on does too. Usually just popping the pimple and emptying it thoroughly works. Be aware though that this may cause a raw sore that could get the animal disqualified by the judge so try not to do it right before the show unless you have to. Also be aware that the animal is not going to appreciate your efforts and will undoubtedly put up a fuss about the process, especially if you have a pimple that does not want to be popped. You can follow this treatment with some sort of antiseptic too. I usually use my fingernail to pop the pimple, but some people use a needle.
In a more chronic or infectious situation, a shot or two of penicillin i.m. (intra muscular) seems to help. I think that sometimes the pimple is from a dirty cage or the heat of summer, but sometimes I can't figure out why they get it. Other times it may be a sign of an infection. This infection does seem to be transmittable to others during the breeding or kindling process and it may be some sort of syphilis. I can remember asking Doc Reed about it once years ago and that's what he said it might be. Usually though syphilis would also present with more symptoms such as general redness, swelling and soreness in the genital area.
I had an instance a few years back where all of my chocolates, even the unbred juniors, had to be treated with penicillin in order to combat the widespread problem. I believe the does caught it from a single buck, and then the general breeding and kindling process continued to spread it until all had it. A course of two shots a few days apart solved the problem.
Another thought worth mentioning; I have one buck now that seemed to have a chronic pimple problem. Nothing worked, including the shot. I have now replaced my penicillin with a fresh bottle, administered another shot, and it is working. So be aware of the efficacy of your medicines, even though the expiration date may not have come yet.

From Kevin Hooper:

This was a big problem I ran into in the early nineties. I had some lab work done on this by Doc Reed. Without going into the details, there is little that can be done. The bacteria were resistant to antibiotics. *Genticin (may not be spelled correctly) was the only drug which would have any affect on it, and if you were to do an injection which would be the best way to treat them, you could count on loosing 20% due to the digestive reaction to the drug.
I did find a Gentamicin ophthalmic ointment which was somewhat effective. The best way to handle this is to cull for those who seem to have the tendency of getting pimples.
My whole herd had them after I brought in one buck. They did not have to have any contact with the buck; it just spread to all. I culled the most severe until it was no longer an issue. I still have rabbits get them, but not frequently.

*Note from editor: searching the Internet, Genticin seems connected to Gentamicin and was the only reference for the ophthalmic ointment.

FromJill Pfaff:

I'm assuming you are referring to vent abscesses. These appear most commonly in bucks (I think because they are always spraying urine and get grimy) on the sheath of the penis but I have also seen them on the female vent area. I think we call them pimples because they are similar to the facial pimples we have all dealt with as teenagers. A skin pore gets dirt or debris in it and the bodies reaction is to send white blood cells to attack the foreign object or seal it off from spreading to the rest of the body which become pus. As for treatment I usually try to squeeze out all the pus till there is just a pinkish fluid and then liberally dab on mouthwash with a cotton ball for a couple of days. I use mouthwash because it is an affective antiseptic yet mild enough not to damage the tissues in the area. The cells in the mouth and vent area are similar. I don’t believe using alcohol or peroxide is any more affective and a lot more painful. To squeeze out the pus may take two people so one person can hold the animal on its hindquarters and the other person will have both hands free to do the squeezing though I've done the procedure by myself. Expressing the pus takes a bit of patience because it is usually thick like toothpaste. The area will get a bit red and also be tender. Sometimes the procedure may need to be repeated for a few days to get it all cleaned out. All wounds/sores etc need to heal from the inside out or can become a cyst, which may need to be surgically removed.

From Bob Bergene:

When I tip over the rabbit and see a small white pimple or pimples, I feel that it is an inflammation or minor infection caused by bacteria on the cage floor or even on the skin in the genital area. To treat it, I will rub the area with rubbing alcohol and then proceed to pop the pimple. After that is done, I apply a "mastitis treatment". What this is, is penicillin in oil suspension in a tube. I apply it to the infected area, so as to heal, and prevent further infection. This penicillin in a tube which just squirts on to apply is difficult to get in Kansas where I live, but am able to get it in Wisconsin at almost any farm store. It is used widely by the dairy industry up there. You can also apply Vaseline or Dr. Watkins salve, (also great for healing sore hocks in other rabbit breeds). Vaseline and Dr. Watkins salve are good to use if the soreness has progressed and is red due to cage infection and urine caking.
My neighbor, who is a DVM and is very experienced with treatment and diseases of rabbits, feels the pimple is an "inflammation of the hair shaft" in the genital area. This can be caused by bacterial infection.
First of all, I hope that you do not have this condition in your rabbits, but as it is fairly common, if you do, maybe the above steps will help.

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