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Spinal injury

Clapis

Introduction

  • The rabbit has a lightweight skeleton which makes up 7-8% of its bodyweight. The front limbs are short but the back limbs, which are designed for sprinting short distances, are long and extremely powerful.
  • Traumatic spinal disease is common in pet rabbits.
  • Nervous rabbits that have been handled roughly in the past are particularly at risk, as they may struggle when picked up, lashing out with their hindquarters.
  • Cause: a kick from the muscular hindquarters can easily result in vertebral fractures or dislocation. The rabbit spine is not very flexible and when stressed it will break at the weakest point, which is usually the L7 vertebra. This usually happens because the front end is held firmly while the back end kicks.
  • In the wild, rabbits cover large distances sprinting for the cover of the burrow when danger threatens. The pet rabbit confined to a small hutch tends to get little or no exercise.
  • This, combined with possible calcium/phosphorus imbalances, means many rabbits may have osteoporosis of the skeleton.
  • Signs: acute onset hindlimb paresis/paralysis.
  • Diagnosis: signs, radiography.
  • Treatment: decompression, if feasible; nursing care.
  • Prognosis: guarded (depends on severity of damage).

Print off the Owner factsheets Spinal injuryIt's an emergency and Health insurance for your rabbit to give to your clients.

Presenting signs

Cost considerations

Special risks

  • Prolonged paresis → sequelae of urine scalding Moist dermatitis and perineal fecal, cecotroph accumulation, and urinary incontinence due to overflow if bladder cannot empty.

Pathogenesis

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Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Meredith A L & Richardson J (2015) Neurological diseases of rabbits and rodents. J Exot Pet Med 24 (1), 21–33 ResearchGate.
  • Whittington J K & Bennett R A (2011) Clinical technique: myelography in rabbits. J Exot Pet Med 20 (3), 217-221.
  • Hillyer E V (1994) Pet rabbits. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 24 (1), 25-65 PubMed.
  • Baxter J (1975) Posterior paralysis in the rabbit. JSAP 16 (4), 267-271 PubMed.
  • Mendlowski B (1975) Neuromuscular lesions in restrained rabbits. Vet Pathol 12 (5-6), 378-386 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Okerman L (1998) Ed Diseases of Domestic Rabbits. 2nd edn. Blackwell Science, UK.
  • Hillyer E V & Queensberry K E (1997) Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents - Clinical Medicine and Surgery. Saunders, USA.
  • Harkness J E & Wagner J E (1995) Eds The Biology and Medicine of Rabbits and Rodents. 4th edn. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, USA.

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