Lapis ISSN 2398-2969

Spinal injury

Contributor(s): Bairbre O'Malley, John Chitty, Virginia Garner-Richardson

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.
  • 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 battery-style hutch tends to get little or no exercise.
  • This, combined with possible lack of dietary calcium, means many rabbits 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).

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Presentation

Incidence

  • Traumatic spinal disease is common in pet rabbits.
  • Nervous rabbits that have been handled roughly in the past are particularly at risk, as they will struggle when picked up, lashing out with their hindquarters.

Geographic

Mortality

  • Spinal injury carries a grave prognosis.
  • Cases not responding to treatment should be euthanased   Euthanasia  .

Cost

  • Expensive - MRI, radiography, prolonged hospitalization and supportive nursing care.

Special risks

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

Pathogenesis

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Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Control

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Sequelae

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers
  • Recent references fromPubMed.
  • Hillyer E V (1994)Pet rabbits. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract24(1), 25-65PubMed.
  • Baxter J (1975)Posterior paralysis in the rabbit. JSAP16(4), 267-271PubMed.
  • Mendlowski B (1975)Neuromuscular lesions in restrained rabbits. Vet Pathol12, 378-386PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Okerman L (1998) Ed diseases of Domestic Rabbits.2nd edn. Blackwell Science.
  • Hillyer & Queensberry (1997)Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents - Clinical Medicine and Surgery. 1st edn.
  • Harkness J E & Wagner J E (1995) Eds The Biology and Medicine of Rabbits and Rodents.4th edn.


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