Category: Rabbit

Rabbit Spay

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A common surgery performed on female rabbits is a spay. The medical term is an ovariohysterectomy (removal of ovaries and uterus), abbreviated as an OVH. This page will show actual spay surgeries, on a rabbit with a fluid filled uterus, on a rabbit with uterine cancer, and on a normal rabbit.

The following page contain graphic pictures of OVH surgeries performed at the hospital.

Diseased Uterus

Rabbits get many uterine problems, all preventable if a rabbit is spayed early in life. The problems can be so serious as to be life threatening. Unfortunately, by the time a rabbit owner notices a problem, the problem has progressed to the point that it cannot be corrected in some cases, and the rabbit dies a painful death from this infliction.

Sometimes the uterus is grossly distended with fluid. This is painful, and causes significant problem with the other organs.

This rabbit radiograph shows a significantly distended abdomen. The distention is due to a uterus completely filled with fluid. 

This is the same rabbit laying on its back. Even though rabbits normally have a large abdomen, this one is particularly large, making it hard for this rabbit to breathe. The thorax, containing the white colored heart and black colored  lungs, is circled in red. This thorax is tiny compared to the abdomen, and the breathing can be seriously compromised due to the abdominal distention and pressure. 

This picture during surgery to remove it shows how distended this uterus is. In addition to the pain from the distention, the uterus takes up room in the abdomen that would normally be used for digestion from the large cecum. A rabbit with this much distention literally does not have room to eat the food it needs. Our rabbit GI stasis page shows the cecum in the abdomen to visualize this. 

The uterus is filled with fluid. This is painful, and a rabbit can succumb to this pain.

Another problem of the uterus in rabbits is cancer. If a rabbit is spayed early in life it will not get this painful and life-threatening cancer.

This is what a healthy rabbit uterus looks like during surgery

This uterus is filled with cancer

This is a necrotic uterus that has cancer


Pre-surgical preparation is a big part of any surgery at our hospital. This includes a pre-anesthetic physical exam and blood panel. If we suspect a serious uterine problem we will also take a radiograph as you have seen above. We even do ultrasounds on some rabbits.

Before we perform any surgery our rabbit gets a thorough physical exam

We also check a blood panel prior to surgery to make sure there is no anemia and that the liver and kidneys are working normally. It is not easy to take a blood sample on a rabbit. We use a tiny needle since the vein is so small. 


Once all of the pre-anestetic exams and diagnostic tests are complete we are ready for surgery.

We use a gas anesthetic that lets them fall asleep without any stress and is very safe. You can learn much more on how we anesthetize the wide variety of animals we care for at our hospital from our anesthesia page

OVH-rabbitOnce they are anesthetized we carefully clip the hair. After clipping, the next step in preparation is the initial cleansing of the skin with a special surgical grade disinfectant


While our patient is being prepped our surgeon is doing the same thing


After thoroughly cleansing his/her hands our surgeon wears completed surgical garb for the spay


Time is of the essence any time a pet is under anesthesia, so our surgeon gets all instruments ready while our anesthetist is prepping our patient

All of our surgeries are closely monitored using our surgical monitor. These instruments detect a problem before it becomes detrimental to our patient.


The monitor assess many important physiologic parameters related to anesthesia 

We don’t just rely upon monitoring equipment, and use a hands-on approach to our surgical patients


Once our surgeon is comfortable that everything is in order, our patient is draped and the procedure begins


After the skin incision is made a second incision is made in the abdominal muscles. There is a precise location for this incision, called the linea alba. Incisions here have minimal bleeding and sufficient strength to hold sutures when being closed at the end of the surgery.


Rabbits have minimal fat under the skin, so the skin incision is delicately made with a small scalpel blade

Once the skin has been incised our landmark is a tendinous attachment of the abdominal muscles called the linea alba. It is important that we make our abdominal incision here, because there is negligible bleeding, and this area gives the sutures holding power to prevent a hernia.


 The linea alba is seen here as the while diagonal line


When our surgeon has identified this landmark an incision is made into the abdomen


This incision is continued with a scissors until it is just big enough to remove the ovaries and uterus


Once the incision is large enough a special instrument is used to gently bring the ovaries out of the small incision. The use of this instrument allows us to keep the incision small, which of course has obvious advantages regarding the amount of post surgery pain and speed of healing. 

Of all the different species we spay rabbits have the most delicate tissue. This applies to our initial skin incision, any time we give an injection or clip the hair, and throughout the surgery.

We use the special spay hook to gently pull a uterine horn out of the incision

Older rabbits have a significant amount of fat around the ovaries (black arrows) and along the uterus (white arrows). Both ovaries will be removed, and the body of the uterus will be removed at the point of the white horizontal line. The head of the rabbit is towards the top on this view.


Younger rabbits do not have as much fat, although their tissue is more delicate and can tear easily. The head of the rabbit is towards the bottom right in this view, opposite of the view above.


The ovary is pulled out of the abdomen and clamped for removal. You can see the ovary as the small horizontal cream colored tissue in the center above the clamp. It is removed completely during the surgery.

Special care is taken to make sure there is no bleeding after the ovary is removed. Several clamps are used, and several sutures (called ligatures) are put on the vessels that supply blood to the ovary. The next 3 views show our surgeon in the process of accomplishing this before the ovary is removed.


The unseen ovary is buried buried in the fat just above the clamp. In this photo our surgeon is putting a ligature on the blood supply to the ovary.


The first ligature has been placed. The knot of this suture can be seen under the lower clamp. 


The second one is in the process


Once both ovaries and uterine body are ligated and removed the incision in the linea alba is sutured. A special non-reactive and strong suture is used, that will slowly dissolve over several months.


Our surgeon takes extra care to make sure they are put in properly in the linea alba to prevent a hernia


The final row of sutures in the linea. They are non-reactive, and will slowly dissolve internally over several months. 


The final row of sutures in the skin. They will be removed in 10-14 days.

Before our patient wakes up we use the companion laser to minimize post operative swelling and enhance the healing process. Any natural thing we can do to aid the healing process is part of our approach of treating our patients like we want to be treated if we are in a similar situation.

This includes the pain injection we give before our patient wakes up, and continues to the pain medication used at home. Far too often people have the attitude that pets don’t have pain because we just don’t see it. We prefer to err on the side of more pain control than less pain control.

While our patient is waking up from anesthesia we use the companion laser

It gives off a gentle warmth as it does its work to minimize pain and swelling after the surgery

Our nursing staff closely monitors all patients immediately post operatively and keeps them warm until they are fully awake


Once they are awake they are given lots of TLC and closely monitored for pain

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Rabbit Skin Conditions

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Rabbits are prone to skin infections that can be difficult to control. Their skin is very thin and prone to trauma. They harbor a bacteria called Pasteurella than can complicate any infection they pick up. This page shows the case of a rabbit named Roger that has a serious skin infection due to a maggot infestation. You won’t have to look at any maggots, but you will see a serious skin infection in the pictures that follow-these pictures are not suitable for all age groups.

Maggots are the larvae of flies that hatch when flies lay eggs on an open wound. In the warmer climates, especially in the summer, we see this condition. It occurs when rabbits soil their fur, sometimes from diarrhea, and set up a moist environment that attracts flies.

A way to prevent diarrhea in rabbits is to feed minimal amounts of rabbit pellets. The majority of their diet should consist of timothy hay and timothy hay pellets. The higher fiber content of these foods keeps their teeth worn down properly and aids in digestion, since they require a diet very high in fiber compared to other pets.


This rabbit was referred to us from another veterinarian. They initially cleaned up the wound, put the rabbit on oral antibiotics, and put stainless steel staples in the skin to suture the open wound that was present. This is the way we typically handle most wounds. Unfortunately, some rabbits don’t respond to this suturing, especially if it is not done immediately. As a result the wound can fester under the sutures and become a serious infection. Rabbit pus is tenacious and does not easily drain from the body like other mammals. As a result, it is difficult to work on these infections in the normal manner.

The following sections contain graphic surgical pictures that may not be appropriate for all ages.

You can visualize the Y shaped staples that are holding the skin together at the top. They are not holding at the bottom. The white material at the bottom where the incision is open is the tenacious pus that rabbits get when there is an infection.


We attempted to keep the sutures in place and treat the open wound at the bottom. We thoroughly flushed the wound under the staples and trimmed off diseased tissue. after one week of this therapy the infection got worse so we had to remove all the staples and treat this infection as an open wound.

This is the wound immediately after we removed the staples and removed the dead tissue along with infection. It is impossible to remove all the infection that is present due to the tenacious nature of rabbit pus.

A special wound healing agent containing collagen was used to aid the healing process. It draws infection out of the contaminated area and sets up an environment for healthy tissue to start covering the opening.

The wound is thoroughly covered with this collagen and allowed to stay on for several days initially. It was changed several times over the several weeks of therapy that was used in this case.

It is bandaged to keep it in place and to protect the healing tissue.


This rabbit healed fine, which is not always the case with such a serious wound. From the time he was brought in to us until this picture was taken was 5 weeks.

Here is Roger’s read end on his last recheck. He feels a lot better now that his fanny is not so exposed.

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Rabbit Neuter

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Male rabbits are neutered for a variety of reasons. It helps minimize fighting behavior, makes it impossible to impregnate females, and prevents testicular cancer.

At the Long Beach Animal Hospital use of the carbon dioxide laser is mandatory for all neuters.  Our rabbit patients appreciate the fact that after surgery there is negligible pain, swelling, and inflammation. This laser pain control, in addition to the pain injection we give before the rabbit wakes up, and the pain medication we send home, makes for a smooth and rapid recovery.

The laser is calibrated specifically for each surgery and patient

We have extensive experience using the laser over several decades, and commonly teach other doctors how to use it. In this picture Dr. Palazzolo is teaching one of our externs. If you follow our Facebook page you will see the externs post a Daily Diary of what they learned for the day while they are training with us.

Sometimes people get a jaded mindset when it comes to routine surgeries like neuters, that are performed by the thousands, especially at low cost spay and neuter clinics. It is a major surgery, and we treat it as such at the Long Beach Animal Hospital, which you will learn about in this page.

Several days prior to any surgery please bring in your pet for a preanesthetic exam and blood panel to confirm your pet is ready for anesthesia. At that time one of our doctors will go over any questions you have.

On the day of surgery we need your bunny in the hospital between 7:30 AM and 8 AM. Do not give your bunny anything to eat or drink the morning of surgery.

On the day of surgery we perform a pre-surgical exam prior to starting the procedure

Our veterinary surgeon will call you after the surgery is complete and your bunny is awake. It can go home in the late afternoon the day of surgery unless instructed otherwise. Please call our office at 4 PM for pickup time, you will be given written post operative instructions then. We are open in the evening if you need to pick up later.

Graphic photos and videos on this page

The reason this male rabbit has one testicle substantially larger than the other is due to cancer. Removal of this testicle is needed for treatment. If this pet had been neutered at a young age this problem would not have occurred.

This rabbit has a severely infected testicle. The normal testicle is the pink object on the right. This is painful, and needs to be removed surgically. You will see this surgery at the end of this page. 

Surgical Preparation

When the rabbit’s pre-anesthetic blood panel and physical exam are completed, it is anesthetized and brought into surgery.

We use a special gas anesthetic that is gentle and safe. This is the induction chamber that is filled with 100% oxygen prior to administering any anesthesia. We do this to make the anesthetic safer. 

Our surgical patients are kept warm with a circulation warm water blanket and additional warm fluids


Our rabbit patients are closely monitored when we perform surgery

Detailed records are kept of the anesthesia and surgery


We keep a close tab on important physiologic parameters for all of our surgeries. Monitors like this give us an early warning of an impending problem.

We don’t rely only on the monitor, and take a “hands on” approach with the stethoscope and continual observation 


Once our surgeon has scrubbed up and is  in sterile gown, gloves, and mask, the surgery begins

As soon as our surgeon is done scrubbing he gowns up and prepares the sterile instruments. We want our surgeon ready to start the procedure as soon as our patient is prepped. This minimizes anesthetic time. 


Our patient has been prepped and our surgeon is ready to drape

When our surgeon puts on the sterile drape the surgery is ready to commence

We use the laser for all or our neuters. It has significant advatanges over the scalpel blade. In this picture our doctor is just starting the laser incision. Notice the lack of bleeding.

With the laser there is no bleeding and much less post-operative pain and swelling. You can see the testicle appearing on the left where the scrotum has been incised by the laser.

The testicle has been brought out of the scrotal incision and is ready to be removed. This is a closed castration, because we have left the tissue covering the testicle, called the tunic, intact. Further down this page you will see an open castration. 

Our surgeon has already put the first suture on the testicle, and is now ligating with an additional suture. We do this double suture on all of our neuters for safety reasons. 

We use the laser again to cut the testicle away from the body. Throughout this whole procedure there has been no blood. 

When we have removed both testicles we seal the scrotum with tissue glue. This is much more comfortable than sutures for such a thin scrotum

This short video shows this initial incision and lack of bleeding

This is that badly infected testicle you saw previously. It is wrapped in gauze to maintain sterility during the surgery

Our surgeon is carefully removing the badly infected scrotum and testicle

The other testicle is now removed. This is an open castration because we have cut through the tunic, the covering over the testicle.

A comparison of the two show how severe the infection was

All of our bun bun neuters get a treatment with our cold laser to reduce swelling and pain after surgery. This one deserves it! 

The best part of the cold laser treatment is the opportunity it gives you to wear these cool glasses for everyone in the room

We keep all of our smaller patients cozy warm after surgery. We have warm towels, warm water packs, and warm rooms for this. Sometimes our staff wants to do it themselves. 

As soon as they are fully awake it’s time for a timothy hay meal

When your pet goes home we will give you a discharge sheet of instructions. Our staff can assist you in the giving medication if need be, and you are always welcome to come back the night of surgery to help us give medication if you are unable. We are open until midnight to assist you. 

The surgical laser and cold laser allow us to do this surgery with our patients comfort in mind. It is so much better than using a scalpel blade. We have much more information about laser surgery.

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Pasteurella – Rabbit

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Pasteurella (snuffles) is a common cause of respiratory disease in rabbits. Most rabbits are exposed to it and harbor the organism that causes it. In can become a chronic problem that is difficult to control.

This disease and GI stasis are some of the more common problems we encounter in rabbits. Please also read our GI Stasis page also for an understanding of this problem and for proper diet for a rabbit.

This page contains graphic pictures of rabbits with severe infections- it might not be appropriate viewing for all ages.


The bacteria that causes this disease is called Pasteurella multocida. This bacteria has several strains that differ in their ability to cause problems. Most rabbits are exposed to this bacteria at some time in their lives. Some of them will show symptoms only when stressed. These carriers can spread the problem to other rabbits without any symptoms of their own. This can make control difficult.

Pasteurella is spread by mating, through general contact (especially respiratory), or through wounds from fighting.


Symptoms depend on the strength (virulence) of the specific Pasteurella strain involved, which body organ(s) are involved and how long the disease is present. One of the most common symptoms is respiratory, usually manifested as a nasal discharge. When a rabbit wipes its front paws on its nose to remove the discharge the hair on the legs becomes matted. These are the symptoms that lead to the laymen’s name for this disease, snuffles.

Sometimes the nasal discharge is so chronic that the fur is actually missing.

Other respiratory signs of Pasteurella include sneezing, congestion, and conjunctivitis. The tear ducts (lacrimal ducts) can become clogged with dried discharge, causing excess tearing and subsequent scalding of the skin around the eyes and face.

This is an example of how we flush the tear duct. They eye has been given a local anesthetic, and we are using a catheter to gently flush a saline solution into the tear duct.

In some cases Pasteurella can localize in the eye and cause complete loss of function. This eye has to be removed, since the rabbit cannot see, and it is painful. The white area in the center of the eye is the infection.

In addition to the respiratory tract, the bacteria can also infect the reproductive tract, the sinuses, the eyes, the ears, and the internal organs. It sometimes causes abscesses under the skin. These abscesses can become chronic and require surgery to correct. Severe cases can cause central nervous system symptoms like oscillations of the eyes (nystagmus), circling to one side, and severe tilting (wry neck or torticollis) of the head.

This rabbit has a neurologic problem from Pasteurella

Rabbits with ear infections might paw at the ears and those with internal organ infections might have poor appetites and lose weight. If the reproductive tract is infected discharge is commonly noted.

The following sections contain graphic surgical pictures, and may not be appropriate for everyone.

This is a healthy uterus during a routine spay (OVH). The healthy pink uterine horns are easily seen (white arrow).

The arrows point to the typical appearance of a uterus infected with Pasteurella. Cancer can also look like this.


This problem is so prevalent, and the symptoms so characteristic, that Pasteurella is part of the tentative diagnosis anytime a rabbit shows the above symptoms.

During the physical exam a fever might be present along with an increase in the sounds heard in the lungs with the stethoscope. Cultures can be performed to confirm that Pasteurella Multocida is indeed present. Rabbits with a negative culture result could still be harboring Pasteurella. Blood samples are commonly used along with x-rays. X-rays might show changes in the chest or infection in the middle ear.

The arrows below mark the typical abscesses (the round white areas) that can be seen in the chest of a rabbit with Pasteurella.

This is what these lungs could look like on an autopsy. All the white spots correspond to the white spots on the radiograph above.


Most cases are treated with antibiotics. They sometimes need to be given for weeks or months. The majority of cases brought for treatment are chronic in nature. In these situations the bacteria has had time to become well entrenched, and there is no guarantee that antibiotics will work. If they do work the problem can recur when the antibiotics are stopped. This emphasizes the need for routine exams in general (every 6-12 months), and a physical exam any time the above symptoms are noted.

Other medications are used if your pet is showing central nervous system or ocular symptoms. Pets that are circling or are wry necked might respond to oral medication to make them more comfortable. Plugged tear ducts are flushed and conjunctivitis is treated with antibiotic drops.

Abscesses are treated surgically. Rabbits have a very thick and tenacious discharge when they form an abscess, and require more care than the abscesses of most other animals. Surgical removal can be difficult, especially in the chronic cases, because the abscessed area can become extensive in nature. Multiple surgeries might be needed, and wound care at home is necessary.

This is a severe abscess on the back of a rabbit that has been anesthetized and is undergoing surgery to correct its problem. The wound has just been opened by the scalpel blade at the top left of the screen (arrow).

The wound is filled with pus (the correct word is purulent) that must be completely removed. Any infection that is not removed will cause the abscess to return. It is very thick and does not lend itself to easy removal.

The underlying tissue that has been exposed to this infection has to be removed also. It is diseased and will be a source of further infection if it is not completely removed.

This is the final appearance of the wound after all the purulent material and diseased tissue has been removed after 30 minutes of surgery. The rubber tube (arrows) running from top to bottom is called a penrose drain tube. Its function is to allow further drainage of the infection. The tube will be removed in 5 days, the sutures will be removed in 10 days.

Some pasteurella abscesses are chronic in nature, and contain more dead tissue than purulent material. The following pictures show a case of a rabbit referred to us that had been treated with routine drainage and antibiotics for several weeks. The purulent material on the inside was diminished, but the tissue that remained was either dead or dying and had to be surgically removed.

This is the face of the rabbit that is laying on its left side. Its mouth is towards the right, the white arrow points to its right eye. The abscess is the large circlular area below and to the left of the eye.

The diseased tissue (black arrow) is gently dissected away from the healthy tissue. The healthy jaw muscle (white arrow) is apparent .

The dissection has been completed. All that remains is healthy tissue that will be sutured back together.

A large incision had to be made to remove all of this diseased tissue. It extends from the base of the ear all the way under the chin. These sutures will be removed in 10-14 days.


Most rabbits are exposed to this bacteria early in life. Determining which rabbits will develop symptoms of this problem is difficult. Minimizing stress (heat, overcrowding), proper diet (high in timoth hay, minimal pellets), a clean environment, fresh drinking water at all times, along with early neutering can help in minimizing the chance of this infection.

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Rabbit Teeth Conditions

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Rabbit teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. Normal chewing action wears them down just to the point that they don’t overgrow. This is one of the reasons it is important to feed your rabbit a high fiber diet.

A rabbit that has a malocclusion does not have this normal wearing action and can suffer overgrown teeth. This problem can be serious enough to inhibit the ability to eat.

Incisor Teeth

These teeth grow continuously, so unless there is something for them to to wear on they will overgrow. In most rabbits trimming the incisor teeth solves the problem temporarily. They have sensitive teeth with deep roots that can easily crack, so it’s not a good isea to do this at home.

The arrow points to the deep roots of the rabbit upper incisor teeth 

They are trimmed with a special scissors that will not crack them. If needed, they are also filed to remove any sharp edges. This technique should not be tried by inexperienced people because teeth are brittle in nature, and in this case are weaker than normal due to the abnormality. They can easily fracture because of these two factors. In addition, rabbits can fracture their back if not properly restrained.

This patient has overgrown lower incisors. They are definitely inhibiting its ability to chew. They need periodic trimming every 4 weeks to prevent recurrence.

Our special scissors allow us to trim them back

These upper incisors are growing into the lower jaw

Our friend feels much better thank you, and can now get back to normal rabbit activity like non-stop eating. He needs to return in 4 weeks to have his teeth checked.

This rabbit has an upper right incisor (arrow) that has been chronically infected. We decided to remove the incisors because trimming the teeth was not solving the problem.

The arrow points to the cracked and infected tooth

As you saw from the x-ray pictures the roots of these incisors are very deep and they curve significantly. Great care must be taken during their removal so they don’t crack at the root.

In this picture we are gently breaking down the attachment of the tooth to the gums

This is the appearance immediately after surgery

Molar Teeth

These teeth tend to give rabbits more trouble than the incisors do. They can become overgrown and get painful points on them. The points are painful, dig into the gums or tongue, and can prevent eating. Molar teeth are not easy to assess. Rabbits don’t like anything in their mouths, and the folds of skin of the cheeks interfere with visualization.

Rabbits need to be anesthetized to properly assess and treat their teeth, especially their molars. You can learn much more about how we anesthetized patient at this link to our anesthesia page.

We use a gas anesthesia that is safe and gentle. We keep them wrapped in warm towels and also use a warm water blanket so they do not get chilled. 

If a rabbit requires major surgery we sometimes will intubate them. The arrow points to the ET (endotracheal tube). 

This bun bun under gas anesthesia is getting a thorough oral exam, starting with the incisor teeth

The oral cavity in the rabbit is small, and the molar teeth we need to examine are deep inside and covered by the fleshy folds of the inner cheeks. We need special lighting and instruments to do a thorough assessment. Dr. Wood and Terri work as an experienced team to treat these rabbits rapidly and effectively. 

We use a speculum with a special light that gives us the visualization we need

The black arrow points to the molars with points on them that are irritating the tongue. This rabbit is not eating due to this problem. 

The laceration in the tongue is visible within the blue circle

A special instrument called a rongeur is used to remove the points rapidly

The molars are then gently filed to smooth them off. This allows the tongue to heal and the rabbit to return to normal eating.

They are kept warm during recovery and watched carefully by our technicians until they can completely stand


This is a different rabbit that was also not eating well. The tongue was not having any problem with the points on the molar teeth, but the rabbit was still unable to eat.

rabbitmolartrim2You can see the points on the inside of the molar teeth


After trimming and filing the rabbit can eat again

Root Problems

In some rabbits the problem is much more serious than overgrown and unsightly incisors or points on the molar teeth. These rabbits have severe problems with the roots of the molar teeth, preventing them from eating properly. These teeth sometimes need to be removed. If left untreated they can die. A large part of their problem is a diet that is too low in fiber. This causes improper wearing down of the molars, and even can lead to elongation of the roots of the incisors.

This is a picture of Mike’s lower jae. He has overgrown molar roots that we will be removing. We diagnosed Mike’s problems partially by a history of weight loss and poor appetite, along with excessive salivation.

You can see the chronic irritation the saliva has caused under his chin

A radiograph was important in the diagnosis. The arrow points to the elongation of the roots of the molar teeth. Compare it to the rabbit below with normal molar roots.

The arrow points to normal roots of the molar teeth. Can you see a difference compared to the radiograph above?


Mike came in weak and dehydrated due to his inability to eat. He feels much better now that he is getting rehydrated.

Putting an IV catheter in a rabbit takes special skill from our nursing staff. You can learn more about catheters if you like by following the IV catheter link.

Special instruments are needed for the extraction of the  bad teeth

Now that Mike is finally anesthetized we can gain access to his molar teeth. The white arrow points to one of them deep in his oral cavity.

These are the teeth immediately after removal. The roots are on the bottom.

A closeup of one of them shows the infection around the root (on the right).

Unfortunately, Mike had more than teeth problems. He had abscesses in his eye and on his tongue caused by Pasteurella.

The arrow points to the ulcer he has on the tip of his tongue.\


One of the most important things you can do to keep your rabbit’s teeth healthy is to feed a high fiber diet. This consists of mostly timothy hay or timothy hay pellets.

Regular exams by one of our doctors will also catch this problem before teeth get infected or your rabbit becomes ill.

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Femur Fracture Surgery

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Rabbits have powerful muscles to their hind legs. If they get stuck or trapped in something, they can kick out and cause a bone to break. In many cases a splint or heavy bandage will suffice. Sometimes surgery is needed, as in this case.

Graphic surgery photos on this page.

After a thorough physical exam and stabilization, radiographs were obtained.

Before surgery we carefully examine our rabbit patients to make sure they are ready for anesthesia, and the pre-operative pain medication is working

This is called a traverse fracture of the distal femur (see arrow below). This is a serious fracture and requires surgery from a surgeon experienced with orthopedic surgery.

Rabbit-femurfxrad1-3The fracture is present at the arrow


Meticulous preparation is necessary in orthopedic surgery. If an infection gets started it tends to become deep seated and hard to control.

The technique of taping the leg up is the standard in how we clip and clean the leg prior to surgery


Anesthetic monitoring is important is such a small animal, and an animal that has such a small lung capacity compared to other animals of comparable size.

We have a team of people that are present for our rabbit surgeries

The heart and lungs (within the red circle) are tiny compared to the size of the abdomen


Due to this unique anatomy constant monitoring is needed during anesthesia


Our anesthetist works closely with our surgeon to make sure just enough anesthetic is given at the lowest possible dose

Rabbit-femurfx-9Our anesthetist is using a stethoscope to monitor the heart

Rabbit-femurfx-3Our surgeon feels the fracture through the skin to find the best place to make the initial incision. You can see the foot double wrapped in a special towel and also plastic wrap at the lower right of the photo. The foot is not a part of the surgery, and draped this way so there is no contamination.

Rabbit-femurfx-4The initial skin incision exposes the muscle layer below. There is minimal fat under the rabbits skin so this initial skin incision has to be done carefully or else the scalpel will cut into the muscle.

Rabbit-femurfx-5A layer of tissue over the muscle is cut with scissors

Rabbit-femurfx-6Our surgeon carefully dissects through the muscle to get down to the bone

Rabbit-femurfx-7After carefully dissecting through specific muscle planes a special instrument is used to spread the tissue for better access to the fracture

Rabbit-femurfx-10arrowWith the bone exposed our surgeon now assess the damage. Even though the radiographs taken before surgery give us substantial information, decisions on how to repair the fracture are only decided at this point. You can see the tip of the fracture at the arrow.

Rabbit-femurfx-11arrowThe fracture end from a different angle

Rabbit-femurfx-12A stainless steel intramedullary (IM) pin is placed down the shaft of the bone. This is the first part of stability of the fracture site. You can see the pin entering the open end of the bone on the left.


A special instrument is used to slowly rotate the pin through the shaft of the bone as it is placed completely into the bone


Once the pin is in place a stainless steel bone plate is hand molded to the contour of the femur


A hole is drilled into the bone


A tap less screw is then inserted


This is repeated at the other end of the bone. You can see our surgeon measuring how deep a hole has been drilled into the bone. This helps pick a screw that is just the right length.


The correct size screw is now placed. This is the 2nd aspect of stability of the fracture site.

After putting in 3 screws our surgeon decided that more screws might damage the bone. Two cerclage wires are now used, which is the 3rd aspect of stability. When our surgeon is happy with the stability from this wire, he cuts it.




The tissue over the muscle is sutured


Finally, the skin is sutured


Our post operative radiographs show what was done

Can you see all 3 aspects of the stability?


At this point our little friend is take off anesthesia, kept on 100 % oxygen, given a pain injection, kept on a heat blanket, and closely monitored until fully awake.

Before fully awake we use our Companion Laser to stimulate the healing process and decrease post operative swelling at the incision


This special laser aids in healing, and decreases pain and inflammation after the surgery


After surgery our rabbit patients are wrapped in a towel and closely watched by our staff

Our rabbit patients are monitored closely until they are fully awake

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Rabbit Skin Infection

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Rabbits are prone to skin infections that can be difficult to control. Their skin is very thin and prone to trauma. Rabbits harbor a bacteria called Pasteurella than can complicate any infection they pick up. This page shows the case of a rabbit named Roger that has a serious skin infection due to a maggot infestation. You won’t have to look at any maggots, but you will see a serious skin infection in the pictures that follow-these pictures are not suitable for all age groups.

Maggots are the larvae of flies that hatch when flies lay eggs on an open wound. In the warmer climates, especially in the summer, we see this condition. It occurs when rabbits soil their fur, sometimes from diarrhea, and set up a moist environment that attracts flies.

A way to prevent diarrhea in rabbits is to feed minimal amounts of rabbit pellets. The majority of their diet should consist of timothy hay and timothy hay pellets. The higher fiber content of these foods keeps their teeth worn down properly and aids in digestion, since they require a diet very high in fiber compared to other pets.

These are the molars of a normal rabbit that has been on a good diet of mostly hay.


You can learn about the problems that rabbits get with an improper diet by following these two links-

G. I. Stasis

Overgrown Teeth

This page contains very graphic photos of a severe skin infection




This rabbit was referred to us from another veterinarian. They initially cleaned up the wound, put the rabbit on oral antibiotics, and put stainless steel staples in the skin to suture the open wound that was present. This is the way we typically handle most wounds. Unfortunately, some rabbits don’t respond to this suturing, especially if it is not done immediately. As a result the wound can fester under the sutures and become a serious infection. Rabbit pus is tenacious and does not easily drain from the body like other mammals. As a result, it is difficult to work on these infections in the normal manner.

You can visualize the Y shaped staples that are holding the skin together at the top. They are not holding at the bottom. The white material at the bottom where the incision is open is the tenacious pus that rabbits get when there is an infection.



We attempted to keep the sutures in place and treat the open wound at the bottom. We thoroughly flushed the wound under the staples and trimmed off diseased tissue. after one week of this therapy the infection got worse so we had to remove all the staples and treat this infection as an open wound.

This is the wound immediately after we removed the staples and removed the dead tissue along with infection. It is impossible to remove all the infection that is present due to the tenacious nature of rabbit pus.

A special wound healing agent containing collagen was used to aid the healing process. It draws infection out of the contaminated area and sets up an environment for healthy tissue to start covering the opening.

The wound is thoroughly covered with this collagen and allowed to stay on for several days initially. It was changed several times over the several weeks of therapy that was used in this case.

It is bandaged to keep it in place and to protect the healing tissue.



This rabbit healed fine, which is not always the case with such a serious wound. From the time he was brought in to us until this picture was taken was 5 weeks.

Here is Roger’s read end on his last recheck. He feels a lot better now that his fanny is not so exposed.

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GI Stasis (hairballs) in Rabbits

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Gastrointestinal (GI) stasis  is a common cause of digestive disease in rabbits (lagomorphs). In most cases at our hospital the cause is a diet that is too low in fiber. You will sometimes read the term “ileus” when talking about this disease. Ileus occurs when the normal intestinal movement of food through the intestines, called peristalsis, stops. Normal digestion is dependent on normal peristalsis of the intestines. Peristalsis is the movement of ingesta down the stomach and intestines. When this stops GI stasis is the result.

Sometimes a hairball (also called wool block) is considered a part of this disease. In reality, over many years of treating rabbits we have learned that any hairball in the stomach is a result of GI stasis and not the cause of it. Ingesting hair is a normal part of a rabbits life, and when fed the proper food this small amount of hair passes through the digestive tract normally.

This page contains graphic pictures of rabbit necropsy pictures. This is a good way to understand the rabbit’s digestive anatomy. It might not be appropriate viewing for all ages.

Digestive Physiology

Herbivorous animals like horses, rabbits, deer, cows, antelopes etc., obtain their nutrition by digesting food that carnivores cannot. A lot of this food is made up of cellulose. Neither carnivores or herbivores contain the enzymes necessary to digest this cellulose. The secret that herbivores have that allows them to digest this usually undigestible food lies in bacteria that reside in their GI tract.

Some herbivores are called foregut fermenters. This means the bacteria that help these animals digest cellulose reside at the beginning of the digestive cycle. Sometimes this occurs in the rumen, one of the so-called 4 stomachs in a cow. These stomachs are actually large fermentation chambers that contain the bacteria that can digest cellulose. Examples of this cellulose are hay and grasses.

In this anaerobic environment, the bacteria consume the plant material for their own metabolic needs and, as a result, produce end-products of fermentation called volatile fatty acids (VFA).  Additionally, the fermenting bacteria use nitrogen from plant material to produce amino acids and protein which can then be used by the animal. Once these bacteria digest this cellulose they produce volatile fatty acids (VFA’s) and amino acids. These nutrients are absorbed as they pass through the small intestines and into the large intestine.

In contrast, hindgut fermenters store these bacteria in the cecum (appendix) and large intestine. In the case of the rabbit, there is a complex interaction between the colon and the cecum(appendix) that gets this bacterial fermentation process started. The VFA’s and amino acids that are now the end product of bacterial metabolism pass into the large intestines and out the body. They do not get a chance to pass through the small intestines because of their location, and as a result, less nutrition is absorbed by the herbivore.

Here is a picture of the cecum taken during a routine necropsy of a rabbit. The top white arrow on the left points to just one of the 4 horizontal folds of this rabbits cecum. As you can see, it is huge and takes up a large amount of the abdominal cavity. For perspective, the arrow on the lower left points to the uterus in this female rabbit, and the arrow on the lower right points to the urinary bladder.

Another view with just a part of the cecum outside of the abdomen. Notice how the cecum has folds.

Here is an x-ray view of the abdomen of a rabbit. This rabbit is laying on its right side, and the head is towards the left. The cecum is that long and horizontal dark object at the bottom. It is dark because it is filled with gas from the digestive process. The white arrow points to it.  Notice also the folds that can be seen radiographically.

Hindgut fermenters have a problem that foregut formenters do not. As we mentioned earlier, since the bacteria are in the cecum they are at the end of the digestive system in the rabbit, and thus there is very little intestines to absorb the volatile fatty acids and amino acids produced by the bacteria before they get excreted by the body. The walls of the cecum can absorb some of the VFA’s that are produced. There is not enough intestine though to absorb the proteins and amino acids.

To get around this rabbits have evolved a sophisticated form of coprography (eating feces). In essence, and usually at night (they are sometimes called night droppings), the rabbit literally puts it mouth by its anus and eats some of its fecal matter. This literally brings the nitrogenous proteins and amino acids to the beginning of the digestive tract where they can get absorbed much more efficiently. Usually these droppings are soft in nature and are not the same firm and dry droppings you normally observe in abundance from your rabbit.

This whole system in the rabbit is designed around a high fiber (cellulose) diet. This is why feeding concentrated rabbit pellets is not healthy, and can lead to a shut down of this whole digestive process. This will lead to GI stasis and the potentialf or serious disease, pain, and even death in a rabbit.


As the intestines slow down food and hair can become stuck, leading to pain and a further slow down of the intestines (called ileus). A hairball can now form in the stomach adding to the problem. Harmful bacteria can now produce in great quantities and cause the intestines to fill with gas. They overwhelm the normal bacteria and can even produce toxins. This intestinal distention with gas causes even more pain and further ileus. It becomes a positive feedback cycle until the rabbit stops eating and becomes weak and dehydrated. It is at this point most people bring their rabbit in for us to give medical care. This whole process can take anywhere from several hours to several days. It can be slow and insidious or acute and quite apparent that something is wrong. In any case you need to seek immediate medical attention for your rabbit.

In the past this disease was erroneously thought to be a hairball problem. It was treated surgically where we literally did a surgery to open up the stomach and remove the hair and ingesta that was present. Unfortunately, most of these rabbits did not do well postoperatively. As time went on and we learned more about this disease it became apparent that the hairballs were a result of the GI stasis problem and not the cause of this. SInce then we have treated this disease medically with much greater success. Success depends on how soon in the disease process we treat your rabbit.


There are numerous causes to this problem:

  1. Dental Disease

    Rabbit teeth continuously grow. If their dental anatomy is imperfect an incisor or molar tooth can overgrow and prevent them  from being able to chew their food. This will cause the GI tract to stop working and lead to stasis. Our Dental Disease link can give you examples of overgrown teeth.

    This rabbit has overgrown incisors preventing normal chewing.

    Dougsie Doughty 7012

    Click here to learn more about rabbit tooth problems

  2. Adhesions from prior abdominal surgery

    Probably the most common abdominal surgery performed on a rabbit is an OVH (commonly known as a spay). On very rare occasions the healing process can cause adhesions between the uterus and GI tract, making the normal peristalsis movements abnormal.

  3. Infection

    A sick rabbit can easily spike a fever causing it to become anorectic (not eating). When food is not continuously present in the rabbit GI tract is shuts down leading to GI stasis.

    Some infections (urinary tract or abscess) can cause pain, which will also lead to anorexia. Pasteurella, a very common rabbit infection, can also has the potential to lead to GI stasis.

    Inappropriate use of antibiotics, especially home use with the wrong antibiotic at the wrong dose, can disrupt normal bacteria (called normal GI flora) and add to this problem.

  4. Pain

    A rabbit that is in pain will become anorectic, which can lead to GI stasis. The pain can be from numerous causes like fractures, bladder stones, infections, and post operatively.

    A fracture like this can be so painful your rabbit will stop eating. This fracture is in the front leg of a rabbit. Click here to see how we put a splint on a rabbit with a fracture similar to this.

  1. Stress

    Overheating in the summer time, food that is not fresh, new pets or environment, or sudden changes in diet can lead to so much stress that your rabbit stops eating. This rapidly leads to dehydration and GI stasis. In a household with more than one rabbit the separation of the rabbits can be stressful.

  2. Intestinal blockage

    This is a rare cause of GI stasis in rabbits. Even though rabbits cannot vomit they don’t tend to eat foreign bodies like bones, needles, threads, and yarn like dogs, cats, and ferrets.

  3. Inadequate fiber in the diet

    This is the cause we see most commonly in our hospital. Your rabbit should be fed grass hay like timothy hay along with dark leafy greens. It should be feed mininal to no concentrated pellets. These pellets were formulated for convenience and for breeding rabbits that needed the concentrated energy. High fiber in the diet helps to properly wear down the rabbits teeth that grow continuously through life.


Symptoms can be subtle and easily missed, especially at the early stages. The two primary symptoms to watch for are complete or partial anorexia (lack of appetite) and a diminished amount of droppings. Sometimes these droppings will be quite dry and firm. Other symptoms could be lethargy and signs of discomfort when you pick up your rabbit or touch it. Bunnies that are painful will grind their teeth. They might start eating strange objects like paper and wood to increase the fiber in their diet.

Rabbits are eating machines, and should look like this most of the time

Please keep in mind that GI stasis can occur simultaneously with other diseases, especially when these other diseases are the cause of the problem. We discussed some of these causes earlier.


This is not a disease you should diagnose at home and then try a home remedy. This is because other diseases can mimic GI stasis, other diseases can be occurring simultaneously, and also because by the time you notice a problem the disease is already well entrenched. The longer you wait for an accurate diagnosis the poorer the prognosis becomes.

Our diagnosis of GI stasis follows the diagnostic process like it does for all our patients. You might want to link to the diagnostic process to learn about it before continuing on GI stasis.

  • Signalment

    GI stasis tends to occur in middle aged and older rabbits of any gender.

  • History

    Rabbits with this problem tend to be feed a diet that does not have enough fiber. There might be a history of prior surgery, trauma, or a stress related episode like boarding your rabbit in a strange environment. Maybe a home medication was used that disrupted the normal bacteria in the intestines  (GI flora).

  • Physical Exam

    Our doctors perform a thorough exam to determine the exact nature of your rabbits problem. This is important since other diseases can mimic GI stasis. We will weigh it and take its temperature as a start. We will check the molar and incisor teeth carefully for any problems. We will check lymph nodes and palpate the abdomen, along with checking the heart with a special stethoscope for small animals. We will also determine your rabbit’s state of hydration.

    When our exam is completed we will give you an assessment of your rabbits condition and review all the potential disease that might be affecting your bunny.

  • Diagnostic Tests

    Routine tests include a blood panel, urinalysis, and fecal exam for parasites. It is also common to take a radiograph to check for other problems and confrim the diagnosis.

    This is the radiograph of the abdomen of a rabbit that is laying on its right side. The arrow is pointing to a round stomach filled with ingesta. This could be normal food or it could be the result of GI stasis. If this rabbit has a history of not eating for several days then it increases the probablity of GI stasis.

    Different rabbit, different view. This rabbit is on its back, with the head at the top, arrow pointing to the stomach. The dark area at the top on each side is the lungs that are in the thorax. Everything below this dark area is in the abdomen.  Notice how large this distended stomach is. This has the potential to be a GI stasis problem just like the radiograph above.

    Some rabbits have a large amount of gas and are very painful. All of the dark areas in this radiograph are gas distended intestines.

    If one of our doctors suspect more than GI stasis he/she might want further diagnostic testing. This might include special blood titers and ultrasound.


Most cases are treated in our hospital. These rabbits need medication and nursing care, at least initially, that can only be properly performed by our technicians. Some rabbits respond well in 1-2 days and start eating and producing droppings. Others can take 1-2 weeks to get back to normal function. Patience is importance because the rabbit GI tract is sensitive and overzealous treatment can do more harm than good.

  • Fluids

    Many of these rabbits are dehydrated and need fluids. We give them orally, intravenously or subcutaneously.  The fluids replace electrolytes, provide vitamins, and rehydrate your rabbit. Rehydration is important in general for any sick animal, and is especially important in GI stasis to help with normal peristalsis and movement of ingesta through the intestines.

  • Assist Feeding

    The GI tract needs to get back to normal function asap. I lack of food will shut down the GI tract and cause ileus, adding to the GI stasis. As we are rehydrating we will also assist feed special food called Critical Care. This stimulates the peristalsis movement of the intestines and adds badly needed nutrients.

  • Feeding a proper diet

    We give timothy hay along with dark green wet vegetables like Kale. The fiber and moisture present in this food is an aid in getting the intestinal peristalsis going again. Alfalfa hay is not recommended because of excess calcium and protein.

    Other good foods to feed are dandelion, mustard greens, parslely, carrot tops, broccoli, melon, oranges, mango, tomatoes, and kiwi.

  • Medication to stimulate the intestines

    The two primary medications used in rabbits to stimulate the intestines back to normal peristalsis are Cisapride and Reglan. They are highly beneficial and used in most cases.

  • Pain medication

    These rabbits are in significant pain due to the distention of the intestines. This pain needs to be addressed if they are to begin eating again. Typical medications include narcotic pain killers and the NSAID Metacam.

  • Antibiotics

    Antibiotics are sometime used.  If we determine your pet has an infection from its lab data or physical exam we will put it on a broad spectrum antibiotic. Common organisms the proliferates in the cecum in GI stasis are E. Coli and  Clostridium.

  • Anti gas medicine

    If there is more gas in the intestines than is normal we might give simethicone to help diminish it. This gas can make the problem worse and will cause pain.

  • Veterinary Neuronal Adjustment (VNA or VOM)

We have been using VNA to alleviate pain and help pets with gastrointestinal problems for 20 years. This has been a tremendous help to treat pets without adding any additional drugs to the treatment regimen. Click here to learn much more about VNA.

  • Electric toothbrush treatment

This treatment helps rabbits that are painful from distended intestines. The gentle vibration helps alleviate some of the pain.

It is obvious to us that they love this because they just lay there and don’t move

Once a rabbit is eating on its own partially and producing droppings we will send it home. We might use some of the medications described above. We will all send home Critical Care food to make sure it is taking in nutrition as it convalesces.

  • Treatments we do not do

    Some treatments have the potential to make the problem worse. Probiotics and yogurt have milk starches and sugar that can feed the Clostridium bacteria. Lactobacillus has not been shown to be of any benefit, and if it is stressful to give this orally to your bunny could actually be detrimental. The same applies when you try to feed your rabbit “night droppings”. The proper word for night droppings is cecotropes. Hairball remedies can also cause a problem. The enzymes in pineapple are unable to dissolve a keratin mass in the stomach, and might even provide the Clostridium with sugar so it can keep on proliferating in the cecum.

  • Home Care

    Once your rabbit is eating and producing droppings in increased frequency, and if the lab data is normal, we will send your bunny home with you to finish the nursing care. Our doctors will tell you what to do and our staff will demonstrate how to administer this home care. We are always here to help you, and if you cannot do it we will continue to hospitalize your bunny or treat it on an out-patient basis.

    If you have other rabbits at home let them interact together as long as you can monitor the eating habits and droppings of the sick one.


Minimizing stress (heat, overcrowding), proper diet (high in timothy and other grass hays, minimal pellets), a clean environment, fresh drinking water at all times, can be a substantial help in minimizing this serious problem. Do not let your rabbit become obese.  Bring your rabbit in for an exam at the earliest sign of any problem with appetite or droppings.

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Rabbit X-Rays

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Broken bone. This is a traverse fracture of the distal femur. It needs surgery



A bone plate along with an IM (intramedullary) pin was placed along with 2 cerclage wires


You can see the surgery of repairing this fractured femur by following this link

This is a side view of a rabbit’s mouth. The long front teeth and large back teeth are evident (arrows).

This is a view of a normal rabbit that is laying on its back. Notice how large the abdomen is in relation to the size of the chest. The larger R and larger L show which side is Right and Left. The two small L’s are the black lung tissue. The heart (H) is the round white object. Everything else below this is the abdomen!

This rabbit has a fractured spine (arrow). This is a relatively common problem in rabbits because they have thin bones in relation to powerful muscles. If they kick out hard with their back legs they can cause this fracture. Unfortunately, the prognosis for this problem is poor.

This is the U shaped distended stomach (arrow) of a rabbit that was diagnosed with hairballs. Compare it to the normal x-ray above. Feeding a diet high in fiber (timothy and alfalfa hay) with minimal pellets helps prevent this problem

A side view of this same rabbit shows the distended stomach (arrow). Again, you can see how large the abdomen is in relation to the chest. The lungs (L) are the dark triangle, the heart (H) is the round white object also in the chest, and the kidneys (K) are the two oval objects in the abdomen. The remainder of the abdomen to the right is made up mostly of the small and large intestines.

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How to Read a Radiograph (X-Ray)

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This is a fun section designed to test your diagnostic abilities. Periodically we will show new x-rays (the proper word is radiograph) for you to test your skills, so remember to come back and see what new rads (that is the slang word we sometimes use) are posted on our site.

Before we get started, lets get some basics out of the way. There are five radiographic densities:

Soft tissue– internal organs like the liver and kidneys with a whitish color

Fat– the fat around the internal organs, also with a whitish color. Without this fat you would not be able to differentiate the different internal organs like the liver or kidneys, since they are soft tissue, and have the same radiographic density.

Air– this is black, and is what you see for the lungs in a chest radiograph

Bone– which is brighter than soft tissue or fat

Metal– Vivid, very bright, and hard to miss

Look at each x-ray closely (sometimes very closely) and see if you can figure out what is wrong. We have a couple of clues to help you make an interpretation:

  • Use symmetry when you can. Compare both sides, legs, or whatever else that might be useful.
  • Pull your face away from the screen and scan the whole x-ray before you jump into the details.
  • After you have scanned the whole radiograph look very closely for subtle changes.

First we will show a bunch of fun radiographs of the more unusual pets we see at our hospital. After that we will do some radiograph reading lessons, teaching you about the normal anatomy of dogs and cats. After that is a little test to see how you did. We will stick to abdominal radiographs for the test to make it easier. Good luck, and have fun!

Exotic Animal Radiographs

These first few rads are for a little fun, and to get your eyeballs warmed up for later.

Pregnant Guinea Pig

Iguana bladder stones. Click here to see the surgery to remove a bladder stone in an Iggie. 

Female rabbit with mummified fetuses that are several months old

California Desert Tortoise (CDT) with eggs

Two white bladder stones in a Guinea Pig


Normal hawk from our Wildlife Care Program

Calcium sludge in the bladder of a rabbit. This is called hypercalciuria, and you can read our detailed page on it

Did you also see the microchip and the calcium in the kidney?

Chinchilla incisor and molar teeth

 Snake with eggs

Rabbit with a fluid filled uterus

Do you see the two pellets in this hawk’s wing?

Did you also see the fracture in this wing? How should this be handled? You can see what we did in our Wildlife  Care Page

Normal X-Rays of dogs and cats

This is a radiograph of the abdomen of a normal cat that is laying on its right side. The head is towards the left. Use the diagram below to identify the organs.

The stomach has food in it, and the large intestine contains feces. All five radiographic densities are present in this abdominal radiograph. Do you see all of them? 

Air- is in the lungs along with gas in the intestines

S.T. -soft tissue is the liver and kidney

Fat- this is abdominal fat

Bone- lumbar vertebrae

Metal- the R marker to indicate this cat is laying on its right side is made of metal

Here is another normal cat abdominal radiograph, this time with an empty stomach

Here is another one, this time with the spleen and metallic sutures from a spay.

You can easily see the liver (L), stomach (S) kidneys (K) , the small intestines (SI), the large intestine (LI), the urinary bladder (UB), and the Spleen (Sp). The arrow points to stainless steel sutures in the muscle layer from a spay operation.

Abnormal X-Rays

This dog is having a difficult time urinating. Can you tell what is wrong?

Look towards the right side of this abdominal radiograph

Does labeling the organs help in your diagnosis?

The bladder is huge, because this dog is having a difficult time urinating. It is probably due to nerve dysfunction, since the spinal cord has changes called spondylosis. The circle points this out on one of the vertebrae

You can learn more about this problem, called spondylosis, from our arthritis page

This is a dog abdominal radiograph. Notice anything unusual?

Again, look towards the right side

You can see the circle around the numerous stones (called calculi) in the urinary bladder

Did you also notice the stones in the kidney and pelvic urethra?

Our web page on bladder stones has lots of good information

This cat is labeled for you. Anything fishy?

Look towards the left side of the radiograph this time

Did you see the pellet in the neck? Look again at the radiograph above, its plain as day.

Now that you are an expert at reading radiographs give the following one a try. It is from a cat that is straining to urinate and has blood in its urine. The answer is below, along with a picture with arrows pointing to the abnormalities.

This cat has 2 stones in its urinary bladder (click here to learn more about them and see a surgery of how they are removed). The stones are radiopaque, which means they show up easily on the radiograph. Some bladder stones are radiolucent, and can only be seen by injecting dye or air into the urinary bladder.

The arrows point to the bladder stones, along with the faint metallic sutures from a spay

Pretty easy so far, huh? Don’t get too confident just yet, our next few are a little harder. Look over the next few abnormal radiographs and send us an e-mail with your answer. If you aren’t sure and just need some clues e-mail us also and we will help you. Good Luck!

Abnormal X-Rays

Now that you are experts at reading x-rays, you can put your newfound skills to work. Email us at for the answers.

  1. What do you think about this cat radiograph?

2. This radiograph is an abdomen view from a very sick dog. It is 13 years old and losing weight


3. This is from an elderly dog that is losing weight

3. This dog is limping on its rear leg









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