Isabelle suffering from sebaceous adenitis

possibly related to a thymoma


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Warning: this file contains pictures that may be distressing to some persons


House rabbit-English Spot. Spayed female, approx. 7 years old. Adopted from animal shelter and was an adult stray so exact age unknown.

Treating Vet (skin issue): Dr. Sarah Hawklin, DVM at Aptos Creekside Pet Hospital ( When she dies, her vet will do a necropsy on her. It is expected that she is going to present Isabelle's case in the near future.

Clinical characteristics

May 2010-Isabelle was diagnosed with a thymoma. Brought to vet for exposure of third eyelid. Isabelle has snored when sleeping for several years but it was starting to get louder.

July 2010-Radiation treatment started. 9 doses over 3.5 weeks. In less than a week, she was missing fur around her eyes and the skin was dry and crusty like elephant skin. The fur was being removed from her bonded mate and they eventually had to be separated. Her appetite also gradually declined during radiation treatments and we almost lost her twice over the summer of 2010. Due to her instability we were unable to tackle the skin problem and it was spreading from her face to her legs to her stomach and finally her entire body. It never seemed to bother her but she developed a strange odor. Sebaceous adenitis was suspected.


Initial skin disease prior to skin treatment. The diseased fur was removed by her mate around her eye.

Beginning of disease. She was very ill at this point due to the thymoma treatment (radiation). Would barely eat/lethargic and required assist feeding, fluids, pain meds, etc. Slept in the bed for hours at a time with us.


Once she started eating better (Sept 2010), we did a biopsy and it was confirmed that she had SA but there was no known successful treatment so we had to experiment.

To remove the layer of crusty skin, I had to massage mineral oil into her fur and keep her from licking it for 2 hours. She was then bathed with a chlorhexidine shampoo. The oil creates a gummy or pasty substance and all the hair is removed is large clumps.

One of the first mineral oil baths. Strips the bad crusty fur off and leaves skin raw and hot for a day or two.

Face after crust removal.

Once the crusty parts were removed, we tried Heal-X and silvadene, and the spot treatment of Douxo but none worked so the crusty skin would reform all over again and she went through the mineral baths 4 times before we tried the Douxo Seborrhea Micro-Emulsion Spray by Sogeval. We used it daily as directed and once her fur grew back, we treated her once/week and then I do spot treatments of specific spots every now and then. Now that she only get small spots of crusty skin, I use artificial tears ointment since it is not as messy as the mineral oil to remove the crust. Once crust is removed, the spray will work better.

Third bath and healthy fur starting to grow back.

I have read an article about thymoma related adenitis in a cat. Once the thymoma was treated in the cat, the skin returned to normal. This may also be happening in Isabelle's case but the spray works on the problem sites when it pops up.


Photo taken 4-28-11. She has all her fur back and just a few spots of adenitis around face and on feet.

4-28-11 top of head crust

4-28-11 top of head crust. This will thicken without treatment. I have used artificial tears to loosen this up. Once crust is removed, the spray will work better.

Spots on feet 4-28-11

All her belly fur has grown back. When the fur on her belly was first stripped off, she would not lay on her stomach to sleep or rest. She slept upright. She also would barely use her litter box when the fur was gone and now is back to normal


This was a very difficult and expensive situation to deal with mostly due to the treatment of the thymoma. The treatment for the skin issue is pretty cheap after the biopsy is done. The Douxo spray lasts a long time and only about $22 per bottle. She still has other minor issues that pop up (still snores, tiny abscesses, minor sore hocks, occasional leaking urine) but she is very happy and overall pretty healthy considering what she has been through. She is also an exceptionally trusting and tolerant rabbit and I am able to do a lot of her treatments by myself without any restraint which has been very helpful.


For detailed information on sebaceous adenitis in rabbits,

see: Skin Diseases of Rabbits, by E. van Praag, A. Maurer and T. Saarony

408 pages, 2010.




A special thanks to Isabelle, suffering from sebaceous adenitis.

Further reading

1.      Florizoone K. Thymoma-associated exfoliative dermatitis in a rabbit. Vet Dermatol 2005;16:281-284.

2.      Jassies - Van der Lee A, van Zeeland Y, Kik M, Schoemaker N. Successful treatment of sebaceous adenitis in a rabbit with ciclosporin and triglycerides. Vet Dermatol 2009;20:67-71.

3.      Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW. Ferrets, rabbits and rodents. Clinical Medicine and Surgery. St Louis, USA: Saunders; 2004.

4.      White SD, Linder KE, Schultheiss P, Scott KV, Page G, Taylor M, Best SJ, Walder EJ, Rosenkrantz W, Yager JA. Sebaceous adenitis in four domestic rabbits (Oryctalagus cuniculus). Vet Dermatol 2000;11:53-60.