Vaginal prolapse in the rabbit
Esther van Praag, Ph.D.
Warning: this file contains pictures that may be distressing for people.
Vaginal prolapse is rarely observed in female rabbit. It may be caused by over-expanded blood sinuses located beneath the mucous membrane of the vaginal wall and the vestibulum vaginae - the space region containing the openings of the vagina, urethra, and excretory ducts of the greater vestibular glands. The prolapse often starts from the proximal circular part of the vaginal vault that is located distal to the urethral opening. The dorsal portion of the vaginal vault appears much more distended than the ventral part. It can be accompanied by some degree of vaginal wall prolapse. The protruding mass can be filled with blood clots.
The causes that lead to a prolapse in female rabbits are not well understood. It may relate to:
· A trauma sustained during a difficult childbirth (dystocia);
· The presence of polyps in the urinary tract;
· A painful discharge of urine (straining) caused by a bacterial infection and/or the presence of a stone in the bladder or the kidney;
· An increased receptivity/sexual activity with a male rabbit;
· Presence of mycotoxins in food.
Mechanical causes include retained fetal membranes in the uterus, or lack of movement. A congenital factor could be involved.
Prognosis depends on the extent of the prolapse, the damage of the organ and the period of time between the prolapse and the repair.
The female rabbit is often found in a state of severe shock. She is depressed, recumbent, with an increased respiratory rate. This can be accompanied by constipation, difficult movement, difficult urination or incontinence, and bleeding. Typically, a red edematous mass sticks out of the vulva.
The risks of shock, bleeding and thromboembolism raises when treatment is delayed. Hematocrit is 8 to 15%.
In a rare case, eversion of the bladder has been observed in does that gave birth. A mass was found to protrude from the vagina. The rabbit strained to urinate.
The condition should be differentiated from:
• Natural abortion;
• Trauma due to the sexual assault by a male rabbit;
• Rectal prolapse;
• The presence of kidney or bladder calculi;
• Infection of the urinary tract, urine scald caused by incontinence.
The rabbit is often found in a state of severe hypovolemic shock, due to blood loss, with pale, cyanotic mucous membranes and ears. The extremities of the limbs feel cold. It can be accompanied by hemorrhaging and/or blood loss.
The treatment depends on the state of the organ. If the tissue is not damaged or necrotic, the prolapsed organ can be cleaned and moved back in place by gentle digital pressure. It is important not to block the urethra during the procedure. Sedation and local anesthesia help in the reduction. Recurrence is possible.
The treatment of choice appears, however, removal of the affected tissue and ovariohysterectomy.
Administration of pain medication is recommended, in order to reduce discomfort after the reduction (e.g. flunixin, meloxicam).
When a bacterial infection is present, a systemic antibiotic treatment must be started.
Thanks are due to Zahi Aizenberg, DVM, (the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel), for the permission to use his pictures.
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