What is it?
Uterine adenocarcinoma is the most common neoplasia in rabbits. These cancers are INCREDIBLY COMMON in female rabbits, less so in male rabbits for obvious reasons. Rabbits over 4 years old have up to an 80% chance of developing uterine adenocarcinoma.
This is FRIGHTENINGLY HIGH!!!
Be afraid, very afraid.
But how do we prevent this highly likely result? Spoiler- Spey your rabbit.
(In this article i’m spelling spey with an e, some people spell it with an a. Tomato tomato.)
The good news is these tumours slowly develop over 5-24 months, developing metastasis late in the disease.
You may see your rabbit patient experiencing decreased reproductive performance (if you are breeding rabbits) , you may see haematuria or bloody discharge, as well as feeling masses in your rabbit’s patients abdomen on palpation.
So how do we determine if a rabbit has uterine adenocarcinoma?
Presumptive diagnosis can be achieved with palpation of a thickened uterus or caudal abdominal masses, or an enlarged uterus on abdominal xrays or ultrasound. However a definitive diagnosis can only be achieved by histopathology.
This is good news though, as if your rabbit patient doesnt have a uterine adenocarcinoma, the odds are still quite high (80%) that they might slowly develop neoplasia. So speying your rabbit patient is great preventative care. If they are affected, then surgical removal can be curative if prior to metastasis.
So it is a wise decision to spey your rabbit patient.
The best way to treat uterine adenocarcinomas is a ovariohysterectomy. This is best performed between 5-6 months old, and definitely before 3-4 years of age.
For breeding rabbits, stop breeding at 3-4 years and spey, this will reduce your chances of your rabbit developing uterine adenocarcinoma. Again 80% is really high odds, the odds are not forever in your favour.
Without speying, death will occur following metastasis. Avoid this. Spey your rabbits.
If you remove the uterine adenocarcinoma and uterus surgically, prior to metastasis, then the prognosis for your rabbit is good. If metastasis occurs, then the prognosis is poor.
So spey your rabbits early! The best prevention is speying your rabbit!
Hop to it!
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Oglesbee, BL. Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Small Mammal. 2nd edition. 2011.
Carpenter, JW. Common reproductive and urogenital diseases of rabbits – Tufts Animal Expo 2002 Proceedings.