Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. When needed for treatment of an infection in a rabbit, these drugs should be prescribed only by a veterinarian well-versed in rabbit medicine. Infections caused by bacteria can occur anywhere in the body. The best way to determine which type of antibiotic will be most effective against a particular infection is to take a sample of infected tissue (for example, a small section of the wall of an abscess, or a surface swab of the affected area), and send it to a laboratory for culture and sensitivity testing.

It is advisable to have both an aerobic and an anaerobic bacterial tests performed to best determine what medications will be most effective. In some cases, the infection may occur in an difficult-to-access place, such as inside the respiratory tract, urinary tract, inside of the eye, intestinal tract or bone. In this case, the veterinarian may need to make a “best guess” about which antibiotic is best to treat the problem.


Thousands of doses of antibiotics are dispensed each year for ferrets and rabbits. Importantly, not one single dose of any of these antibiotics is approved for the animals that are receiving the medication. Presently, there are no antibiotics approved by the FDA in the United States for the small mammal pets classified as minor species. It is likely owners of these animals do not realize the antibiotics they are giving to their small mammal pets are not approved for their pets. Although, this does not change the fact that antibiotics are important medications for ferrets and rabbits, it is best that owners be informed of this information.

An important consequence of the lack studies to gain approval is that there are few pharmacokinetic investigations of antibiotics in ferrets and rabbits. Veterinarians do not have studies directing them to either dose or length of treatment or frequency of administration of antibiotics in ferrets and rabbits. There are no drug company brochures guiding veterinarians as to the indications of certain antibiotics in ferrets and rabbits. Veterinarians who treat ferrets and rabbits must rely largely on empirical data and anecdotal information when using antibiotics in these animals. It is therefore not surprising if antibiotic treatment failure occurs in these patients when the very basics of antibiotic administration are unknown.

Features of Safe Antibiotics For Rabbits

​Luckily, there are plenty of antibiotics that rabbits are more likely to tolerate. Commonly prescribed antibiotics include enrofloxacin (brand name Baytril), trimethoprim ​sulfamethoxazole, c​​​​​hloramphenicol, metronidazole. Other safe oral antibiotics like doxycycline, azithromycin, or ciprofloxacin are sometimes given instead. Not every antibiotic will treat every ailment in every rabbit. It’s always okay to ask the vet why they chose the drug they did and how they arrived at the prescribed dosage.

​It’s ideal to take a sample of the infected tissue to decide which antibiotic will work best. For example, the vet might take a culture of an abscess, urine for a suspected UTI, or nasal discharge for respiratory infections. Results can take up to a few days to come back. Because rabbits aren’t ones to complain, by the time they admit to being sick there’s likely not too much time to waste. Your vet may prescribe a safe, broad-spectrum antibiotic immediately while waiting on results. If another medicine turns out to be a better choice or your rabbit doesn’t improve in 48 hours, your vet should advise you how to switch medications safely.


Skin irritation or formation of sterile abscesses after subcutaneous injection of antibiotics like penicillin or enrofloxacin (Baytril) is possible. When the antibiotic is dissolved in a water-based solution, e.g., enrofloxacin, the formation of sterile abscesses can be avoided by diluting the amount to be given by the same amount of a sterile saline solution. Beside sterile abscesses, the use of Baytril over longer periods of time may lead to muscle necrosis. Fluoroquinilone antibiotics can moreover lead to cartilage damage of the cartilage and damage of joints (arthropathy) when used over a longer period in young rabbits.


GentamicinWith extreme caution:
With extreme caution:
Yes, ophthalmic drops, impregnated in antibiotic beadsYes, in nebulization protocolsLow
OxytetracyclineYesNoNoLowOral use not recommended, calcium in GI tract inactivates drug
Penicillin (procaine)YesNoNoHigh, when given orally or applied topically
Penicillin (procaine and benzthiazine)YesNoNoHigh, when given orally or applied topically
StreptomycinNo, nephrotoxicNoNoHigh
TetracyclineYesNoNoLowOral use not recommended, calcium in GI tract inactivates drug

Prices of Safe Antibiotics For Rabbits

$36.31 – $76.39

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