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Rabbit Has Cancerous Tumors

What are the expectations for a rabbit with cancerous tumors?

Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: June 18, 2013, 4 a.m. EDT

rabbit munching hay
© Courtesy Laura Jordan-Habib
Good nutrition is important for healthy rabbits like the one above, but even more important for rabbits that are ill or recovering from illness.

Q: We have had three surgeries on our large bunny named Wuzzy's. The tumors started in his tail. The first was removed. When it returned, his tail was removed. The last surgery was for a regrowth on his tail stump and one on his back. The tumors were sent out for testing, and it is cancer. Is there any kind of medicine that will slow tumor growth? What can I feed/do to keep him healthy? He is doing great and is in good shape. What are some options? He is almost 4 years old.
 
A: Unfortunately, cancer continues to be one of the most devastating diseases we see in our pets, as it is with people. In veterinary and human medicine, research has led to some great discoveries resulting in treatment protocols that in some cases cure the cancer or at least prolongs life for many years.

When you first hear the word cancer, you may feel hopeless, devastated and overcome with sadness. Thankfully, because we have much more information than we did even a decade ago, you do not necessarily need to feel there is no hope left for your rabbit. Depending on the type of cancer in your rabbit, there are many options for treatment.

The first thing that needs to be done is to determine which type of cancer your rabbit has. It sounds as though your veterinarian sent off samples of the cancer to a laboratory for diagnosis. That is great. The next step is to characterize the tumor. There are two general types of cancer — benign and malignant. If this is a benign cancer, it will spread only to a local area and is not necessarily fatal. If this is a malignant cancer, it can be much more serious than benign and can spread to distant areas in the body threatening the life of your rabbit.

Once you know if it is benign or malignant, the path should be clearer on what your options are and the prognosis for your rabbit. While your rabbit is undergoing treatment for cancer or recovering from surgery, you cannot forget how important it is for his body to get the best nutrition possible. That means having him on the healthiest of diets, including lots of fiber from hays and grasses and access to clean water 24 hours a day.

See all of Dr. Rosenthal's vet Q&A about rabbits, click here>>
See Dr. Rosenthal's vet Q&A for all small animal exotic pets, click here>>
See articles about rabbit health, click here>>

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