Pet Factsheets

Submandibular gland disease

Glands are located throughout the body. They are responsible for secreting chemical substances for use in the body or for discharge into their surroundings.

How common is submandibular gland disease in rabbits?

Salivary gland disease is uncommon in rabbits but can occur. There doesn’t seem to be an increased risk for either sex or for any specific breed of rabbit.

What are the signs?

The rabbit may not show any clinical signs other than a swelling that is felt under the jaw and around the neck. This may be confused with an abscess or a diagnosis may be made incidentally. Often affected rabbits do not hyper-salivate. If the rabbit is in pain, they may be off their food and depressed.

What causes it?

Salivary gland disease is usually caused by conditions such as sialoadentitis and sialocele formation.

Sialoadentitis is an inflammation of the salivary glands. This is different to sialadenosis which is a non-inflammatory enlargement of the salivary glands. Sialoadentitis can occur suddenly (acute) or happen over a longer period (chronic). Acute sialoadentitis is an inflammation of a salivary gland which may appear as a red, painful swelling that is sore and provokes a reaction when touched. Chronic sialoadentitis may be less painful but presents as swellings that come and go before reappearing. Causes are often bacterial and sometimes viral.

Sialocele is a localised cavity containing saliva under the skin. It can be caused by trauma or infection. It’s not usually painful and can be managed by draining the fluid regularly or by removing the gland surgically.

What treatment is required?

The affected salivary gland is usually surgically removed, especially if it is painful for the rabbit.

Will my rabbit still be able to produce saliva?

There are lots of other glands within the mouth that produce saliva, so the rabbit will not suffer any long-term problems.

What about the chinning gland?

All rabbits of both sexes have a gland under their chin. They rub their chin along any items they want to mark as theirs, including neutered rabbits. Each rabbit has a different scent which is odourless to humans.

It’s rare for problems to occur with this gland but is possible.

The gland may become inflamed for a variety of reasons, including an abscess, bacterial infection or foreign body.

Antibiotics can be given, but are unlikely to have an effect, so the gland will probably need to be surgical removed if it’s causing the rabbit problems.

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