Rabbit Wobbles

Christina Perez
• Saturday, 27 November, 2021
• 16 min read

Rabbits are usually pretty agile and don’t need much help getting around. You may be frightened to find one day that your rabbit is losing his balance or can’t seem to stand up.

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This is usually a symptom of serious injury or disease that needs to be treated immediately. Falling over will usually be recognizable, especially as your rabbit may also struggle to get back up.

Most injuries will make it difficult for your rabbit to walk if they are severe enough, but a few may make your rabbit completely lose his balance or not be able to walk at all. Your rabbit may also lose balance due to blood loss if he has an injury that has caused a lot of bleeding, or he may have difficulty walking and fall over as he goes into shock from the injury.

If your rabbit has been dropped or has jumped from a great height recently, it’s important to get him checked for spinal problems as soon as possible even if he’s not showing any symptoms. Your rabbit may also stop eating and drinking if he is in severe pain due to the injuries.

He will have difficulty walking and may fall over or lose his balance due to not being able to use his legs properly. If he is in pain, he may hide or stop eating due to the discomfort, and he will likely be a lot less active than normal.

If you know of any reason why your rabbit would have injuries to his back legs, such as a recent fall, fight, or accident, make sure to let your vet know about it. The most common type of disease that cause rabbits to lose their balance is ear infections.

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Head tilt is the primary sign that something is seriously wrong when your rabbit has developed an untreated infection and is pretty much unmistakable. Head tilt will be treated differently depending on the underlying cause of it.

The most common cause, ear infections, will be treated with antibiotics prescribed by your vet. Your vet may need to sedate your rabbit and take x-rays to determine the cause of the head tilt, so be prepared for this process to be long and expensive.

Your vet will find the underlying cause of the head tilt and losing balance, which will lead to the correct treatment options. You may need to support him when he stands to eat or use the bathroom, or provide surfaces for him to lean on.

Your rabbit may be injured, sick, or having digestive issues. Symptoms of Warbles show up after the Cerebra fly deposits an egg on the skin of the rabbit.

The larvae hatch and make their way under the skin of the host rabbit, grow and mature. The rabbits don’t seem to be bothered by the growing larvae although some mild scratching at the site might be noticed.

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The first thing I noticed was a large cyst type growth on the back of one rabbit. The “cyst” that wasn’t I was familiar with the bot fly and the yellow sticky eggs as they are a concern with other livestock.

However, I did not think about this as the cause of the large lump growing on my older male rabbit. Mistakenly, I assumed the poor old boy had some sort of tumor and would be leaving us shortly.

I kept a close watch to see if he was suffering, acting sick, not eating, but none of those things occurred. I thought there was a possibility that the abnormal growth was a benign cyst and not a malignant tumor.

Surely I didn’t want to think about the possibility of a bot fly larvae growing beneath the skin. Fast-forward a couple of weeks, and I noticed that the “growth” had gotten considerably smaller overnight.

We even had the distinctive round hole, where the larvae had crawled from the host rabbit. He confirmed what I suspected and agreed with my treatment plan for warbles in rabbits, which I will explain in a moment.

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Sanitation and cleanliness are important when raising any livestock, fly issues can still occur, even in the best of rabbit care. Conditions of extreme wetness at just the right time can give the Cerebra fly the right situation to lay her egg.

The larvae burrow into the skin of the host rabbit, and it takes a while before you notice the growth developing. The larvae mature under the skin of the rabbit, creating a large, hard mass that looks like a tumor or cyst.

When you examine the lump you may notice a hole that the larvae is breathing through, or it may simply be a soft crusty area on the skin. Removal of the larvae causing warbles in rabbits should be performed by a veterinarian.

If you squeeze and accidentally squish the larvae it releases a deadly toxin which can send the rabbit into shock and result in death. The larvae can be difficult to remove and require quite a bit of pulling, all the while trying to not squish it.

As our rabbits bots were about to emerge, the skin around the breathing hole would thin out, and get crusty. At this point I was extremely careful to check twice a day, so I could immediately being wound treatment and ward off further infection.

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The hole left behind when the larvae emerge requires twice daily care for the first week. Take care to keep the area clean and sanitary during the healing, so you don’t attract more flies.

In livestock the bot fly often lays its egg on the grazing area and is eaten or inhaled by the animal. Cats, dogs, rodents, and other wildlife will contract the bot fly larvae by brushing by the egg after it is laid.

Warbles in rabbits in self limiting, meaning it should clear up without major infection or complication. If the wounds are not healing and progressively getting better, it is best to seek the advice and care of a veterinarian.

If you feel at all uncomfortable or ill-equipped to perform the wound care it is best done by a veterinarian, also. After veterinary care, he's now stabilized, and his foster mom says he's less scared than before.

In fact, all pet rabbits will experience weak, wobbly or shaky hind legs if they live beyond a certain age. Sickness and traumatic injury can escalate these physical issues and lead to paralysis, if not treated.

tribbles rescue rabbit
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Joint problems are a common reason for leg weakness. Spinal complications (fused vertebrae, swollen discs or dislocated bones) are a constant risk.

Test for bacteria in the legs or feet, and ensure your rabbit is not overheating. Get veterinary checks for severe medical concerns such as cancer or stroke.

The loss of hind legs will have a detrimental impact on your rabbit, and put their health at risk. This guide explores the various potential explanations for your rabbit’s sudden loss of mobility.

The hind legs are arguably the most crucial part of a rabbit’s anatomy. Rabbits can walk on a leash, if trained, but find this restrictive.

The powerful hind legs of a rabbit ensure they move at speed. This is critical to wild rabbits, which are continually fleeing predators.

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By pushing with their powerful back legs, a rabbit can sprint at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. Naturally, this means that a rabbit’s hind legs must support their body weight.

A bunny’s long, hind legs can reach difficult spots on their back. This helps a rabbit relieve itching, or smooth over ruffled fur.

These varied duties make the back legs of a bunny pivotal. Old rabbits, in particular, struggle with weak and wobbly hind legs.

A rabbit primarily uses its feet as a shock absorber and launchpad. The thigh is the most critical part of a rabbit’s leg as this is where the muscles are found.

Bunnies have thigh muscles comparable to an Olympic athlete. The delicacy of a rabbit’s hind legs means they must always be handled with care.

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The most glaring risk is a fracture caused by mishandling, or a fall from height. If your rabbit’s hutch is too small, a bunny can twist their legs into unnatural positions.

Location causes paralysis in a rabbit’s hind legs. In the case of mild to moderate location, a rabbit typically makes a full recovery.

If your rabbit has completely severed their leg from their spinal cord, it’s more problematic. You’ll have to watch carefully for the signs of a broken leg, though.

If your bunny will not put any weight on a hind leg, it’s worth arranging an x-ray. Professional intervention on a broken leg will involve a splint or pins.

Wrap the leg in gauze, apply a splint (popsicle sticks will do), and secure them in place. This will reduce blood flow, which can cause necrosis in the limb.

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One way to make this more bearable is to offer your bunny some willow bark. Wobbly hind legs could point to a unique condition.

FRS presents as wobbly hind legs and weak neck muscles. If x-rays show no spinal damage and blood tests reveal no abnormalities, FRS is what’s left.

A rabbit with FRS issue can still eat, drink and eliminate. Ingestion of toxins and bacteria has been posited, as has a vitamin deficiency.

A rabbit with FRS must be encouraged to eat and drink regularly, and be cleaned up after elimination. If the rabbit does not develop a secondary condition, they’ll recover in a few days.

A rabbit’s back legs shaking and twitching may be a consequence of overheating. A rabbit needs to run a body temperature of 101-103 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Working from the top down is the fastest and safest way to cool a rabbit off. If your rabbit is running a normal temperature, heat is not the issue.

Twitching legs can be a warning sign of impending paralysis. The weakening of the rabbit’s hind legs can be a gradual process.

When your rabbit’s hind legs suddenly seize up, it’s worrying. This is because a bunny’s hind legs experience a significant amount of wear and tear.

Some additional explanations for hind leg paralysis include: A common ailment is spondylosis, which sees multiple vertebrae fuse together.

This condition sees an intervertebral disc in your pet’s spine swell and bulge. This impacts the nerves, and prevents your rabbit from using their hind legs.

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If your rabbit eats a toxic substance, they cannot vomit to remove it. Paralysis is a symptom of toxicity, alongside shallow breathing and general lethargy.

Stoke is a likelier explanation if your bunny appears to be paralyzed throughout one side of their body. Unswayed female rabbits are at enhanced risk of uterine cancer.

Professional help will be required to assert exactly what is causing your rabbit’s paralysis. With time and patience, your rabbit will recover once the swelling subsides.

Rabbits are physically incapable of vomiting as their stomach muscles lack strength. If the quality of life is compromised, euthanasia may be considered the humane course of action.

If you spot your rabbit dragging a leg, the likeliest explanation is encephalitozoon Cuniculus. This is a parasite that impacts a rabbit’s kidneys, brain or spine.

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Your rabbit will drag their hind legs, as they don’t trust them to carry their weight. Encephalitozoon Cuniculus is shared between rabbits when the spores are inhaled.

How your bunny responds depends on how advanced their parasitic infection is. If your bunny is diagnosed with Encephalitozoon Cuniculus, wear gloves when handling and cleaning them.

This is the part of your bunny’s hind leg that rests on the ground. If the hock is red, inflamed or covered with sores, your rabbit has a bacterial infection.

In addition to hair loss, your bunny’s feet will be red and swollen. If your rabbit has bumble foot, ensure their hutch is clean and has a soft floor.

Bandage your bunny’s feet, or dress them in socks, until the issue is resolved. If your rabbit is unable to stand up, their hind legs cannot support their weight.

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Excess body mass cannot be carried by a rabbit’s muscular but thin legs. The ideal body weight for your rabbit depends on their breed.

Stop feeding pellets for a while, and stick with unlimited hay. The infection enters the wound site, and causes arthritis.

Either of these conditions will render your bunny’s hind legs stiff and challenging to use. This means they’ll struggle to hop, climb into a litter tray, or exercise.

Aim to minimize the impact of arthritis and stiff joints in rabbits. Alongside arthritis, hip dysplasia is a common ailment in rabbits.

If left untreated, spay leg can lead to paralysis. This is a musculoskeletal issue that leaves a rabbit unable to retract their limb.

nibbles rabbit favourite links
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With lifestyle adjustments, a braced rabbit will still enjoy a full and happy life. You may recall that we compared a rabbit’s hind legs to those of an Olympic athlete earlier in this guide.

These individuals have physiotherapists taking care of their legs through massage. Not only does it help repair and relax their leg muscles, but they find it pleasurable.

There are two primary forms of massage for rabbits; effleurage and petrissage. If their posture has suffered due to hind leg problems, prop them up with towels.

Tap your rabbit’s feet, and softly knead their toes. Move to your rabbit’s face, and gently stroke their cheeks and the top of their head.

Effleurage is a light sensation, not a deep tissue massage. Once you have covered your rabbit’s back, repeat the same trick on their joints.

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Apply gentle pressure to the muscles in short, sharp bursts. Petrissage involves kneading, and will unlock muscle tightness.

Don’t attempt petrissage until you have mastered effleurage, and you’re confident that your bunny enjoys it. Position your rabbit, awaken their feet, and gently stroke the face and cheeks.

Massage will not cure medical conditions, but it keeps your pet’s hind legs supple. A study published in Laboratory Animals suggests that leg surgery can be beneficial to bunnies.

Experimental surgery found that an incision on the perineal nerve was comparatively painless. This, theoretically, dictates that a bunny will enjoy healthy and functional hind legs for longer.

Some pet parents consider this a fair trade for the risks of surgery. No ill effects or post-operative pain was reported in the 24 rabbits operated upon.

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As a result, the Institute for Laboratory Animal Science at the University of Zurich recommend the procedure. This operation remains an option if you can find a suitable animal surgeon, though.

If ignored, the bones can repair out of place and create ongoing issues. Despite their reliance on their hind legs, most rabbits adapt well to amputation.

They’ll struggle with their balance initially, but will master it eventually. If a vet recommends euthanasia over amputation, seek a second opinion.

Rabbit care is a specialist field, and not all vets have the relevant expertise. With a missing limb, the remaining three have an increased burden due to carrying body weight.

A rabbit with a missing limb can still live a full and happy life. Never ignore a rabbit experiencing issues with their hind legs.

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6 journeynorth.org - https://journeynorth.org/tm/FlightLesson.html