Arthritis in Rabbits

Arthritis in Rabbits - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
6 Veterinary Answers

Prepare for unexpected vet bills

Arthritis in Rabbits - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Prepare for unexpected vet bills

What are Arthritis?

An uneven gait in your rabbit may indicate that he is experiencing arthritis. The disease often presents with slow movement and pain. If you suspect your rabbit may be suffering from arthritis, contact your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s symptoms and ways to manage the condition. Medication and diet are two factors that may be considered as treatment.

Arthritis is a term that covers many different diseases that cause inflammation of the joints in the body. There are certain factors that predispose pets to the condition such as poor diet, injury to the joints in earlier life, breed, and obesity.

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Arthritis Average Cost

From 491 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

Symptoms of Arthritis in Rabbits

As arthritis causes pain and discomfort you may notice your rabbit beginning to slow down and reduce in activity. As this can also be normal for aging rabbits, the disease can often be difficult to spot. Symptoms may include;

  • Difficulty with moving and hopping around
  • Difficulty hopping in and out of bedding or litter trays
  • Uneven or abnormal gait
  • Reluctance to climb onto higher surfaces
  • Poor coat quality or reduced grooming
  • Mucky bottom or urine scalding due to inability to groom
  • Build-up of ear wax
  • Aggression or reluctance to be handled

Types

There are two main types of arthritis your pet may suffer from:

Osteoarthritis

– This is a chronic, degenerative form that causes the cartilage to deteriorate over time. This natural process can be exacerbated by factors that place extra strain on the joints such as large breeds, obesity, missing limbs or other conditions that cause ataxia.

Septic arthritis

– This is caused by injuries to the joint that introduce bacteria into the joint capsule. This type of arthritis can affect rabbits of any age or breed. Rabbits who contract infections through trauma, dental disease or infection are at increased risk of developing this disease.

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Causes of Arthritis in Rabbits

  • The joints may become stiff and inflamed
  • Arthritis can cause the joints to have less lubrication
  • Bacteria can be present in the joint capsule
  • Age and degeneration can cause arthritis
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Diagnosis of Arthritis in Rabbits

Your veterinarian will look at your rabbit’s clinical history and perform a full body examination. The physical examination may highlight symptoms that suggest arthritis, such as decreased range of movement on extension, deformity and swelling of the joints, and ataxia. 

If osteoarthritis is suspected, radiographs can be taken to confirm the presence of arthritis. Your veterinarian will need to sedate your pet in order to perform these. “Haze” or “fuzziness” in the radiographs around the joints indicate arthritis. Other diagnostic imaging techniques that your veterinarian may choose to use to provide a more accurate diagnosis are ultrasound, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and arthroscopy.

If septic arthritis, is suspected an analysis of the fluid from around the joint may be performed. This sample will be obtained by fine needle aspiration. Presence of bacteria would indicate septic arthritis, further cultures performed by your veterinarian will be able to identify the bacteria.

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Treatment of Arthritis in Rabbits

In the case of osteoarthritis there is, unfortunately, no cure for the disease. Instead, your veterinarian will discuss ways to manage and control the symptoms your rabbit is experiencing.

Medication

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be given to your pet to reduce inflammation around the joints and provide pain relief. As these are metabolized by the liver and kidneys, your veterinarian may take a blood test to check the function of these systems.

In cases of septic arthritis, antibiotics will be required for treatment. Cultures performed on a fluid sample will be able to indicate to your veterinarian the most effective medication for your pet. 

Diet

Your veterinarian may suggest a commercially available rabbit food with added glucosamine. Research in both humans and animals suggest that glucosamine may benefit arthritis sufferers by providing joint lubrication and increasing joint mobility. 

Massage

If your rabbit will tolerate being handled, gentle massage over the affected areas and gentle flexing of the joints may help to relieve the pain and tension. It is vital that any physical therapy you consider is discussed with your veterinarian first, as in some cases this may be detrimental. 

Alternative treatments

Animal physiotherapists and acupuncturists are gaining popularity and some owners are finding that regular treatments are leading to a reduction of symptoms and pain relief needed for their pets.

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Recovery of Arthritis in Rabbits

Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis in rabbits. There are, however, things you can do to help manage the disease such as;

  • Keep hair clipped around the perineum and regularly wash the area to prevent urine scalding and secondary skin infections
  • Provide your rabbit with soft, absorbable bedding to prevent pressure sores and reduce urine scalding
  • Remove ramps and obstacles from your pet’s environment and provide easy movement around his hutch and in and out of litter trays
  • Ensure your rabbit maintains a healthy weight as extra weight adds strain to their body and exacerbates arthritic symptoms
  • Due to discomfort your rabbit may not be able to access their caecotrophs (pellets excreted from the rabbit’s own digestive system which is then eaten by the rabbit), which are essential for their well-being; it may be necessary to place them in or near their food area
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Arthritis Average Cost

From 491 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

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Arthritis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Zanna

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Holland Lop

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8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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4 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Tenderness When Touching Paw
Sore Hocks
Pain
Restricted Movement

I have an 8-year old Holland Lop. Recently she has developed sore hocks on both of her back legs. I have been treating with Bag Balm and proper bandaging, and over the past week or so her condition has been improving. It was a moderate case, with no open sores, although she did appear to have some discomfort while hopping around. Last night, we noticed that one of her front paws is considerably more swollen than the other, and she will not put pressure on it and is now limping considerably. As I examined it, I did not notice any broken nails, cuts, abrasions, or anything out of the ordinary. I trim her nails regularly, she eats a healthy diet, and has plenty of room to move around if she wants (she is a mostly free-roaming rabbit in a rabbit-proofed room). I know she is a senior rabbit, and she has slowed down considerably over the past year, particularly the past six months or so. Could both the sore hocks and her swollen paw be due to arthritic joint pain/swelling? She has never been sick or had any sort of injury before. She is still eating and drinking normally, and is still affectionate, although she is not moving much. Thank you for your help!

Aug. 11, 2018

Zanna's Owner

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4 Recommendations

There are a few different health issues which may affect an older rabbit and eight years is getting on; without examining Zanna it is difficult to say what the specific cause of the foot swelling may be (injury, arthritis, infection) but you should try to keep the movement restricted and visit your Veterinarian for a thorough examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 12, 2018

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lousy

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Lionhead

dog-age-icon

4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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4 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Pain In Joints

Hi I have 4 years old lion head rabbit,I took him to the vet and he told that is possibly arthritis.Vet gives him meloxicam as painkiller, but he doesn't mentioned anything about kidney, liver or blood test!please help me with the list of elements which are needed to be tested after taking painkiller in a long term?

July 9, 2018

lousy's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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4 Recommendations

When on Meloxicam, or any other NSAID, it is generally recommended to have a blood panel run to check kidney and liver values, then recheck every 6-12 months. Sometimes we will give short term dosages to see if they help, then do blood work if it looks like it is going to be a long term thing.

July 10, 2018

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Arthritis Average Cost

From 491 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$400

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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