Ictus • convulsions • fits

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  • Seizures are an uncommon presentation in rabbits  Diagnostic algorithm: seizures  .
  • Cause : a seizure, fit or convulsion is a manifestation of abnormal neuronal hyperactivity.
  • Seizures may occur due to a primary intracranial lesion or secondary to aberrations elsewhere in the body. 
  • They are most often caused by infectious agents, toxins or metabolic disorders. 
  • Signs : the clinical appearance is variable, but typically paroxysmal uncontrolled tonic-clonic contractions of the voluntary muscles are observed.
  • Diagnosis : signs, history, physical and neurological examination, CBC, urinalysis, biochemistry, radiography, CT, MRI, CSF analysis, EEG.
  • Treatment : diazepam/midazolam or phenobarbital to control seizures. Propofol should be used to anesthetize animal if diazepam/midazolam or phenobarbital fail to control seizures.
  • Prognosis : variable to poor.

Presenting signs

  • Rabbits may present during a seizure.  
  • More commonly, the animal is examined after having had one or more seizures from which it has partially or wholly recovered. 
  • Seizures may be generalized (loss of consciousness with bilaterally, symmetrical motor signs involving the whole body) or, less frequently, partial (focal motor activity without loss of consciousness).
  • There may be no clinical signs apparent at the time of presentation. 
  • Seizures may occur in the terminal stages of disease, immediately prior to death. 
  • Owners often describe a seizure as sudden collapse or an episode of generalized weakness.
  • Accompanying presenting signs vary depending on the underlying cause.

Acute presentation

  • Seizures, by definition, are acute in onset. 
  • Status epilepticus: 
    • Describes rapidly recurring seizures with incomplete recovery between episodes.
    • Is a serious emergency that can result in transient brain hypoxia, permanent brain damage or death of the patient. 
    • May be associated with toxicities, metabolic abnormalities or progressive brain disease.

Breed predisposition

  • Idiopathic epilepsy has only been reported in Beveren White and Vienna White rabbits.

Public health considerations

  • A number of zoonotic diseases are associated with seizures in rabbits. 
  • The most common is Encephalitozoon cuniculi infection    , which can potentially pose a risk to immunocompromised people.
  • In areas where rabies is endemic, this serious zoonosis should remain a differential diagnosis until proven otherwise.

Cost considerations

  • Moderate to expensive.
  • If the cause of a seizure is readily identified and treatment uncomplicated, the costs may be minimal. 
  • A complete evaluation for most seizuring patients involves extensive (and expensive) diagnostic tests. 
  • Emergency fees and hospitalization costs may be considerable. 

Special risks

  • The following drugs are contraindicated and should be used with extreme caution in rabbits with a recent or previous history of seizures: 
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