Help! My Rabbit Has A Lump

Updated May 14, 2021

The photo above shows the typical appearance of a lump on a rabbit. Just like this one, most rabbit lumps are found on the head or neck.

There’s only one common cause, and you need to know what it is.

Rabbit Lumps On The Chin Or Cheek

A lump on a rabbit’s chin or cheek is almost always an abscess. Abscesses are collections of pus caused by an infection under the skin. They generally grow rapidly if not treated.

Unlike most species, the pus produced by rabbits is almost solid. Therefore, a rabbit abscess feels hard and round. That’s why it’s often mistaken for a tumour.

What About Rabbit Tumours?

Tumours in rabbits are a lot less common than abscesses, but they do occur. Just like in any species, growths and cancers are more common in older rabbits.

Most rabbit abscesses are found on the head and neck. Therefore, if your rabbit has a lump on the chest, abdomen or legs, it’s more likely to be a tumour. Your vet can instantly tell you which it is by performing a fine needle aspiration of the mass. Sometimes a biopsy is necessary to confirm the diagnosis and plan removal.

Causes Of Rabbit Abscesses

Nearly all rabbit abscesses are caused by bacteria such as Pasteurella normally found in the mouth and throat. These bacteria are able to spread due to other problems such as:

rabbit face abscess lump
  1. Dental disease or overgrown teeth
  2. Ear infections & ear mites
  3. Grass seed injury from hay
  4. Bites from other rabbits

Once an abscess starts, it keeps growing until it is treated. The picture shows an especially large abscess on the face caused by overgrown teeth.

Read more about dental problems in rabbits here.

Treatment Of Rabbit Abscesses

Unlike in other species, just lancing and draining a rabbit’s abscess is not going to be curative, and antibiotics are rarely helpful. To successfully treat these abscesses you need to be able to do two things:

  1. Eliminate the underlying problem
  2. Surgically remove the entire abscess capsule

Therefore, the chances of success depend on the cause of the abscess, where it is and how far it has spread. An abscess from a rabbit bite or grass seed is usually curable as long as the whole lump can be removed intact. By contrast, an abscess from dental disease or an ear infection has a very poor prognosis.

Dental disease in rabbits is a huge issue, but it mostly starts with overgrown teeth due to long-term insufficient hay in the diet. Then the impacted molars get infected. By the time an abscess appears, the infection has usually already spread to the bone in the jaw.

Similarly, ear infections causing abscesses have often also spread to the bone around the middle ear before diagnosis.

Decision Making With Abscesses

Before attempting to remove an abscess, it’s important to fully investigate the chances of success. Abscesses around the head in particular need to have good X-ray or CT studies to show the extent of dental or bone involvement. The picture shows an an abscess (arrowed) on a rabbit’s lower jaw, which could be removed because it did not affect the mandible itself.

Which, in closing, brings me to a hard but unavoidable truth. Not all rabbit abscesses can be successfully treated. It’s important to ask about the chances of success before starting.

There is no point in treating the abscess if you cannot also fix the problem that caused it. In addition, rabbit abscesses are painful, and therefore sometimes it’s better to choose humane euthanasia instead of doing nothing or making things worse with unsuccessful surgery.

However, the main message is to get to your rabbit vet as soon as possible. The chances of success get higher the earlier a lump is checked, whether it be abscess or tumour.

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Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

Andrew

36 Replies to “Help! My Rabbit Has A Lump”

  1. Hi. I have a new zealand rabbit. She have just given birth and I noticed a big and hard lump beside her breast. I dont know what it is. What would you suggest me to do?

    1. Hi Elijah. Although I have never seen it personally, I would suspect mastitis, as any time lumps appear in new mothers this is the most likely cause. If so it would require urgent treatment.

    2. It is most likely An abscess and needs to be treated. That happened to our doe, she needed antibiotics and we had to nurse the kits with kitten milk.

  2. My female indoor rabbit has a small bald patch on the lower part of her tummy. After a bath and cleaning the area the fur grew back. However it is now bald again and when cleaning her I felt a grape sized lump under the skin. What could this be and are the two connected?

    1. Hi Liz. The two are probably unrelated but you should definitely get that lump checked out.

    2. Hello Andrew! My female rabbit, almost 6 years has a large lump near her bladder that has grown significantly this past week. I have no idea what it is and the vets in my state do not specialize in rabbits at all and I am so scared for her.

      1. Hi Kiya. The speed of growth suggests it’s an abscess like mentioned in the article. The sooner you get it seen if that’s true the better. They need to be removed the same way tumours are, so the vet would need to be comfortable giving anaesthetics to rabbits.

  3. Just went to the vet to have my rabbit’s lumps looked at. He has two large ones and a couple small ones on one side and under his jaw. Took a culture and he said there were rod bacteria and he thinks it’s snuffles. Trouble is, he has no temp., no nasal discharge, no breathing troubles and is otherwise acting normal. Teeth look good, no drooling either. Asked about removing the abscess and the vet says it’s rarely successful and often comes back. Rabbit is on a 3 week course of Batril. Rabbit lives in the house, is a 4 1/2 intact male. What are these lumps? We have had him since 1 month old.

  4. Hi my rabbit is 7 years old and I noticed a squishy lump on his right leg , he is still playing and running and doing things like normal but the lump is growing on his leg. I have been looking up articles but I have found nothing so hopefully you may have an answer.

  5. Hi!
    My rabbit is a mini lop and is a little over a year old. I noticed a lump on her neck and just thought it was fat. I cut back on her “ breakfast” for a while and nothing happened. Maybe even got a little bigger. I touch it and she doesn’t run away if I squeeze it nothing happens. If I squeeze harder then she flinches ( which is understandable). So my question is, is it fat or an Abscess?

    Thank you and looking forward to a response!

  6. Hi, I just noticed a pea size lump underneath my rabbits chin/throat area. He’s otherwise healthy. He eats well and seems happy. My concern is when I 1st adopted him last year a found an open soar in the same spot this pea size lump is now an my vet said it was an old injury and prescribed some cream for him. I’m wondering if it could have actually been something else that my have burst and was left untreated

    1. Hi Trish. In a rabbit, a lump at the sight of a previous sore is most often an abscess like a described in this article. If so, the best course of action is to have it removed before it enlarges.

  7. My bunny is 9 years old. I discovered a small lump on his side a year ago but when I took him to the vet she told me it was benign, without doing any test. A couple of months ago I noticed he has more, 2 on each side of his body, so I took him to the vet again. Now they did a biopsy and it came back as “suggests cancer”. We did xrays and an ultrasound to see if his organs were ok and we could remove them, but they found another mass in his chest. They told me it could be Lymphoma, even though his blood test results were normal. We did an aspiration last Friday, and he was fine until then, eating and drinking well. But now he doesn’t want to drink and eats much less than what he used to. I brought him back because last night I discovered a very small lump in his gum, while giving him water with a syringe.
    This vet, which is a different one, thinks he may have an infection caused by Pastereulla. Which makes sense because he has been treated for mites in the past and in October he was scratching a lot and losing fur so I brought him and they told me he probably had a fungus, so he was treated for that.
    I don’t know what to think. Now, he will be having surgery on Thursday for the abscess in his mouth and to trim his teeth. While we are waiting for the lab results from the aspiration.
    Does it sound to you like this could be caused by an infection or Lymphoma? I know you can’t diagnose a bunny you haven’t seen, but I am wondering if you have seen an infection causing all these lumps before, or if your experience this looks more like lymphoma.
    Thank you very much for your time!

    1. Hi Paola. It sounds like your vets think the lumps have different causes, and that seems sensible. The main concern sounds like the lump in the mouth, which is really what this article is all about. Good luck.

  8. My rabbit is a new Zealand dwarf and has a lump under his left foot, is it caused by abscesses or something else? Please suggest. From India

    1. Hi Aishwar. A lot depends on the age – in a young rabbit an abscess is always the most likely explanation for a lump anywhere, but an older animal on the foot it may well be a tumour. If either of these are true it’s likely to need removal very quickly to avoid amputation. Other better explanations could be bumblefoot or an infection caused by a splinter or grass seed.

  9. Last year I found a lump in my rabbit’s right side abdomen. The vet stabbed it with a syringe and tested it, but it wasn’t a inflammation. The size is growing very little and is now the size of a single grape. My rabbit is old. Is it okay to just live without removing this? Or is it a better choice to take risks and surgically eliminate them? I live in South Korea and there aren’t many rabbit veterinarians. I’m very conflicted because he might be able to endure long travel time and surgery.

    1. It’s reasonable to leave a lump if it will not cause any problems in the lifetime of an animal. Of course, that’s a very hard thing to judge but you can get an idea from the speed of growth and its position. You did the right thing by making sure it’s not an infection.

  10. Hello,
    I have a New Zealand rabbit and I just detected a lump underneath the left side of the jaw. I am very concerned and worried. He is about six years very, still eats real good, drinks alot of water, very loveable. I just felt it today for the first time. Any suggestionss anyone. Thanks, Diana

    1. Hi Diana – there’s not much anyone else can suggest as this is not something that can be managed at home. Good luck.

    2. My rabbit also have similar lump in solar position shown on picture and my rabbit is only 3 weeks old so what to do I am worried

      1. Tha main thing to do is get her checked as soon as possible. Small abscesses can often be cured by removal.

    3. Hi Diana,

      I am from India and recently lost me rabbit due to this. After few days of the lump detection, my rabbit’s hind legs were gradually paralyzed. We did go to the vet and gave medication to our rabbit. He was eating as usual but could move. Please go to your vet immediately

      Thanks

    1. Hi Vanessa. The lump itself isn’t contagious, but a bite from an affected rabbit can easily pass on the bacteria that cause abscesses.

  11. I just noticed a pea sized hard lump under the skin of my four month old female rabbit, if I gently press on it can move around under her skin. She doesn’t seem bothered when I touch it but she does groom that area often as if it might bother her. She eats, drinks, plays, sleeps and seems healthy but I’m so scared that it could be life threatening to her and I can’t afford outrageous expensive vet bills… any advice would be greatly appreciated, Thankyou.

    1. The lump really needs to be needled by a vet to find out if it’s an abscess. I’m sure you can find a vet who will do it for not much more than a consultation fee.

      1. Hello! My bunny has a small lump under her cheek area i just noticed it earlier today, I’ll call the vet tomorrow morning and see what he got to say but i live in a place where it’s almost impossible to get the chance to get her an X ray.. should i go for the surgery anyway or what?

      2. The best thing is to get a check up and follow your vet’s advice plus what’s said in the article above. Good luck.

  12. I just saw this golf ball sized lump on my rabbits cheek. Trying to read up on it before I call abet tomorrow, any advice. He’s a 4 year old male

    1. Thanks for reading – I have nothing else to add except to say you’re probably looking at the right information. Good luck.

  13. My rabbit has a lump under the throat area and now one eye is closing . Rabbit is dwarf variety and eating well. Oaten hay, dry bunny mix, fresh fruit/veg daily. I have read your article . Would you have further advice please.

    1. Hi. You have probably found the right information here. Judging by the description it’s almost certainly an abscess.

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