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What is Head Tilt?

Head tilt can affect all rabbits with no predisposition in the sex, age or breed. It's a noninfectious condition which can appear gradually,  or all of a sudden for a number of different reasons. No matter when or why it appears, the results are the same, your rabbit will walk around with difficulty and with lack of coordination due to his head being sideways.

However, head tilt is not considered a disease at all. It is actually considered a symptom of a condition that can affect your rabbit. The health issue can originate in many areas, such as his  balancing system which includes his central nervous system (CNS), his vestibular apparatus in his inner ear, his visual system, as well as his pads on his feet that tell him he is standing on solid ground. 

Even though head tilt in rabbits is probably one of the most difficult and distressing conditions you may ever have to witness your rabbit go through, there is good news. If your rabbit is diagnosed with head tilt, he can survive and lead a happy and healthy life. In most cases head tilt is treatable. However, the recovery process can be slow and it is dependent on whether or not it was diagnosed and treated early enough, as well as the cause.

Due to the seriousness and progressive nature of head tilt in rabbits, it is highly recommended that you immediately contact your veterinarian if you notice that your rabbit is displaying balance or coordination trouble.

Head tilt in rabbits is also known as wryneck. The medical term for this condition is torticollis. It is a condition when a rabbit's neck twists and causes it's head to tilt to one side. Head tilt can affect male or female rabbits of all ages and breeds.

 

Head Tilt Average Cost

From 386 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$400

Symptoms of Head Tilt in Rabbits

Depending on how long the condition has been present, the severity, and the reason why your rabbit is suffering from head tilt, you may observe one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Ataxia
  • Circling
  • Disorientation
  • Head shaking
  • Head tilting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nystagmus
  • Paralysis or weakness in hind end
  • Rolling
  • Scratching at ears

In some cases, clinical signs can be very vague, or even nonexistent. If your rabbit is showing any of the symptoms listed above, you should take him to your veterinarian immediately.

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Causes of Head Tilt in Rabbits

While there are many different causes for head tilt in rabbits, the most common causes are an infection such as Encephalitozoon cuniculi (mainly observed in dwarf breed rabbits), Pasteurella multocida (mainly observed in standard breed rabbits), or head trauma. Other causes for head tilt in rabbits can be:

  • Abscess
  • Cancer
  • Cerebral larva migrans
  • Cervical muscle contraction
  • Encephalitozoonosis
  • Inner / middle ear infections
  • Parasitic infection 
  • Poor nutrition
  • Stroke
  • Tumors
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Diagnosis of Head Tilt in Rabbits

The first thing your veterinarian will want to do is perform a complete physical examination which will allow her to rule out other conditions that may present similar to head tilt.

Next, your veterinarian will perform a complete blood count and a biochemistry blood panel as well as a neurologic exam. She will then most likely want to perform a E. cuniculi test as well as a microbiology. Skull radiographs, CT scan, MRI, and endoscopy are other diagnostic tools that may be used to verify trauma, injury to the central nervous system, or issues with the inner ear. A history of your pet’s recent health will also be important to know for the diagnosis. Exposure to other rabbits, recent illnesses, present diet, and recent trauma if any, will be necessary to note.

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Treatment of Head Tilt in Rabbits

Treating the source of the head tilt will be key to your rabbit’s recovery. Depending on the cause for the illness, the torticollis may become a permanent part of your pet’s life. As long as your rabbit is able to eat, drink, groom, and move around, the balance issue may be present but not a reason for euthanasia. In cases where the rabbit is depressed, has severe anorexia, extreme stress, and is not thriving euthanasia may be the best decision. Your veterinarian may decide on the following options for therapy:

  • Antibiotics for infections (such as in the inner ear)
  • Fluid therapy in the beginning to help your rabbit improve his hydration and appetite
  • Nutritional aid
  • Physical therapy
  • Supportive care in the form of pain medication or anti-inflammatories
  • Surgery
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Recovery of Head Tilt in Rabbits

Rabbits can recover from torticollis, though often a residual head tilt or slight balance issue will remain. Pets who have coordination problems may need extra help with feeding, grooming, and daily basic needs as they recover. The prognosis for head tilt varies, but it is known that the recovery is often very slow. This will involve extra care from you as an owner, and possibly continued contact with the veterinarian for weeks to months.

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Head Tilt Average Cost

From 386 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$400

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Head Tilt Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Bugsy

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Netherland Dwarf

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Twitching
Drowsy
Lack Of Appetite
Lack Of Coordination

my rabbit bugs is a house rabbit he has free reign over the house and also the garden. He’s normals quite lively and over the last few days he’s just not himself he’s sleeping in his hutch which he never does! And tonight I went up to see if he was ok with seems wombwell on one side, it’s like he twitches to one side then comes back round. He’s eating and using the toilet etc. He’s only two and a half so I don’t think it’s his age. He’s a Netherland dwarf. Please help me

Aug. 24, 2018

Bugsy's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are various conditions which may affect rabbits which may include neurological disorders, infections, vestibular disorders, parasites among other conditions; without examining Bugsy I cannot say for certain what the cause is and would recommend visiting your Veterinarian for an examination if there is no improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 25, 2018

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Rusty, Bunbun, Blacky

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???

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1 Year

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis

My rabbits have tilt head. This is strange but Ive had 3 possibly 4 rabbits die from it in 2 weeks. It starts out with back left leg paralysis. They still eat but lie on their side. Then they get left eye infection, then head tilts to the left and then full body paralysis and then death. What is causing this? This all happened so quickly. I have 4 yard bunnies that look fine, but am scared they will contract it.

July 24, 2018

Rusty, Bunbun, Blacky's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

There are more than one cause for head tilt in rabbits, but if more than one rabbit is affected I would be more concerned with Encephalitozoon cuniculi; you should visit a Veterinarian to confirm whether this is the case or another infectious cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/rabbit/condition/parasitic-infection-e-cuniculi www.dechra.co.uk/therapy-areas/companion-animal/exotics/antiparasitics-antifungals/disease-information/e-cuniculi www.msdvetmanual.com/exotic-and-laboratory-animals/rabbits/parasitic-diseases-of-rabbits#v3306828

July 25, 2018

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Norman

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Netherlands dwarf

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt

I took my Rabit to a vet a few months ago. He had an ear infection as well as a tense neck muscle that twitches if I scratch his neck. I treated him wih the antibiotics fine, but the muscle relaxer gave him anxiety from holding and giving medicine. He took the antiobiotic straight from the syringe while in cage but not the muscle relaxer. The vet was not very helpful when I explained he was having panic attacks every time we did named time, so I stopped giving it to him. The ear infection is gone and hes very healthy with a better appetite and drinks a good amount a day. How can I treat his head tilt what are my options?

May 31, 2018

Norman's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

The head tilt is either from the ear infection causing vestibular issues or from tightness in the neck muscles; there is nothing I can recommend for you to give that is available over the counter and would suggest visiting your Veterinarian or another Veterinarian to manage the head tilt. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 1, 2018

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Arlo

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Netherland Dwarf

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4 Months

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt

Hi, my netherland dwarf rabbit has had head tilt like symptoms for around two weeks now. She is in the same cage as her brother, and we took her to the vet a week ago. They gave us Baytril, we were to give her 0.2ml per day for 7 days, the 7 days are up and she hasn't improved nor gotten worse. They also gave us Panacur and we are to give her 0.15ml per day for 28 days. Her symptoms are head tilted to left, at times her right eye looks as it may "pop out", while her left eye is sometimes half closed, she does not seem to be in any pain or bothered, when we pick her up to give her medicine her neck fully rolls and as you put her down in the cage she rolls on the ground. She is still eating and drinking very well and she is running around, her head seems to get worse when you pick her up, but she is still very friendly and wants to be pated. The vet seemed to think it was mites in her spine. After last time I cannot afford to visit the vet again, so I was wondering with these symptoms is she on the right meds? and is there anything we can do to help? Thank you, Sophie.

April 20, 2018

Arlo's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are a few different causes for head tilt in rabbits which may include infections, parasites, head trauma, cancer, poisoning, muscle contraction disorders among other causes. Antibiotics and anthelmintics are a good initial course of treatment, but if they have been unsuccessful further diagnostics would be required. Without examining Arlo for other symptoms or signs I cannot say what the next steps would be; it may be worth searching for a rabbit friendly Veterinarian on the links below. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://rabbit.org/vet-listings/ https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-care-advice/rabbit-friendly-vets/rabbit-friendly-vet-list/

April 21, 2018

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Hermes

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Netherland Dwarf

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt

Hi my rabbit was hospitalised last year because of head tilt everything seems fine with his recovery until today I realised that suddenly his head tilted slightly again. There is no changing in his behaviour so far but is this something that I need to be worried? Should I bring him to the vet soon?

April 10, 2018

Hermes' Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Without knowing why he was hospitalized previously, or what the diagnosis was, it is difficult for me to comment on what might be going on with him now, but given his history, it would be a good idea to have him seen by your veterinarian to determine if he is having a relapse, or an unrelated problem, and what treatment he may need.

April 10, 2018

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Benny

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Lion Head

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Circling, No Appetite

Benny is an indoor rabbit and bonded with another rabbit. Last year, Benny had head tilt with loss of appetite, imbalance, and weakness in hind end. He also suffers from cataracts. We took him to a rabbit vet. The vet provided him three medications for parasites, viruses, and bacteria, but he ended up getting worse and his bone marrow was lowering the production of red blood cells. It also cost over $1000. We took him off all the medication and just syringe fed him and helped groom him. He made a full recovery. This year, Benny has head tilt with circling, disorientation, head shaking, loss of appetite and weakness in hind end. Since, last year we are hesitant to bring him to the vet and want to just syringe feed him and groom him again. What should we do? Benny has a history of getting sick with any change in seasons.

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Copper

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Holland Lop

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt And Loss Of Balance
Head Tilt, Loss Of Balance

Copper started with being wobbly. I took him to the vet and he put him on baytril injections 2x a day for 14 days. It has progressed into a severe head tilt to where he rolls cause he cannot walk. He eats and drinks ok. What can I do to help him as he is finished with his meds?

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demon

dog-breed-icon

Mini lop

dog-age-icon

4 Months

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

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Unbalanced
Rolling

my rabbit has a head tilt and no one can figure out why its caused. he acts fine one minute then the next he cant get up on his own and he is still eating and drinking but then hell act like he cant move

Head Tilt Average Cost

From 386 quotes ranging from $200 - $800

Average Cost

$400