Collaborative Care Leads to Successful Surgery Behind Rabbit’s Eye

two rabbits
Lady Alaia McBiggs (right), shown here with her housemate Lord McSmalls, underwent an invasive surgery at the UC Davis veterinary hospital to drain an abscess growing behind her eye.

Collaborative Care Leads to Successful Surgery Behind Rabbit’s Eye

“Case of the Month” – December 2021

Lady Alaia McBiggs is recovering well after surgery at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.
Lady Alaia McBiggs is recovering well after surgery at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.

Jill Harris of San Francisco has been a dedicated and experienced rabbit owner for more than 20 years, enjoying volunteering at rabbit rescues and creating fun names for her many rabbits over the years. When her rabbit Lady Alaia McBiggs, an 8-year-old female Flemish giant, experienced a bulging right eye, Harris immediately took her to their primary veterinarian. X-rays there proved inconclusive, so Lady Alaia McBiggs was referred to the Companion Exotic Animal Medicine and Surgery Service at the UC Davis veterinary hospital for more advanced imaging to discovery the cause of the bulge.

At UC Davis, exotics care specialists worked with the hospital’s Diagnostic Imaging and Anesthesia Services to perform a CT scan which showed a large growing abscess behind the right eye. With the abscess being in such a vulnerable location, the eye was also evaluated by the hospital’s Ophthalmology and Neurology/Neurosurgery Services. The collaborative nature of the hospital’s many specialty services allowed for the best plan of action to be designed to drain the abscess.

No neurological abnormalities or damage to the eye were detected, but the abscess’ location, thick nature of the pus in rabbits, and likelihood of recurrence limited options to save the eye. It was decided to perform a zygomatic arch resection (removing part of the cheek bone) and marsupialization (accessing the abscess and stitching a part of the abscess wall to the skin to be able to flush and remove pus from the abscess). This invasive surgery removes part of the bone structure that surrounds and protects the eye in order to approach the abscess and allow it to heal over time from the inside out.

close up image shaved area around rabbit's eye
Lady Alaia McBiggs' eye following surgery at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.

After hearing the surgery option, Harris conferred with her primary veterinarian, who agreed that this was the best option, and the outcome would not be good if nothing was done.

“That process seemed hard to visualize for me,” said Harris. “When you think about your animal going through that, it’s a bit much to take in.”

But Harris agreed to move forward with the surgery, which was successfully performed by Drs. Mariana Sosa, Danielle Tarbert, and David Guzman from the Companion Exotic Animal Medicine and Surgery Service. Lady Alaia McBiggs recovered well and was hospitalized for an additional five days due to the extensive aftercare needed.

When Lady Alaia McBiggs returned home, Harris was responsible for continuing daily wound flushes and medication administration, including injections of penicillin. Her primary veterinarian also helped with aftercare for about three months until Lady Alaia McBiggs was fully recovered. Through it all, Harris was more than willing to do whatever it took to nurse her back to health.

two rabbits
Lady Alaia McBiggs (front) with her housemate Hare E. Bun.

“I feel like it’s my responsibility to go to whatever lengths needed,” Harris said. “Thankfully, I can do this for her. I can’t imagine having to say no just because of a financial situation. No matter what, I would find a way to make it work.”

Lady Alaia McBiggs is now back to her old self, enjoying time with her two rabbit housemates, Lord McSmalls and Hare E. Bun.

“I’m really happy with how the surgery went because she’s doing great,” Harris shared. “I’ve only had positive experiences with every visit to UC Davis. The communication was exceptional, especially when I couldn’t be there every day to see what was happening with Lady Alaia McBiggs. That made all the difference.”

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As part of the Veterinary Medical Center expansion project at UC Davis, the Companion Exotic Animal Medicine and Surgery Service recently opened three new examination rooms adjacent to their service suite. These new rooms greatly enhance the service’s capabilities for treating patients like Lady Alaia McBiggs and provide dedicated examination space necessary for the best possible quality of exotics care. The new space was configured in ways to create positive workflow environments, allowing for various set-ups consistent with the differences in exotic patients. In the final phase of the VMC project, an entirely new Small Animal Hospital will be created to serve the growing needs of Northern California pet owners.

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