What is Inflammation of the Brain?
Encephalitis is often seen in conjunction with other nervous system conditions, such as inflammation of the meninges, the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. Many types of infections can be at the root of the inflammation, such as bacterial or parasitic infection. In more severe cases, impaired motor function could signal a disease of the central nervous system. If inflammation is suspected, a diagnosis should be sought immediately, as some causes can be lethal.
Encephalitis, or the inflammation of the brain in rabbits, and is a disease of the central nervous system, and has a myriad of causes. Often, the inflammation is a symptom of a serious condition affecting the body.
Symptoms of Inflammation of the Brain in Rabbits
Symptoms of inflammation of the brain are varied, and can often indicate a cause. These include:
- Changes in behavior
- Loss of balance
- Head tilt or wry neck, called torticollis
- Neurological symptoms
- Brain abscess
- Progressive dementia
- Loss of muscle movements
- Muscle spasms
- Increased state of agitation
- Inflammation of the iris in eyes, or phacoclastic uveitis
- Eye twitching
- Sight problems
- Eye pain
- Ear infections
- Sinus infections
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden death
- Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain
- Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges
- Meningoencephalitis is when both the above conditions occur simultaneously
Causes of Inflammation of the Brain in Rabbits
There are many things that can cause an inflammation of the brain. These include:
- Parasitic infection and migration, such as encephalitozoon cuniculi and roundworm
- Bacterial infection
- Viral infection, such as herpes simplex
- Fungal infection
- Exposure to a chemical agent
- Immune-mediated disease
- Sinus infections
- Ear infections
- Trauma to the ear
- Vertebrae infections
- Trauma to the head or spine
- Brain abscess
Diagnosis of Inflammation of the Brain in Rabbits
It is often difficult to detect inflammation of the brain, as the causes are numerous. A thorough physical examination is generally undergone to determine the cause and extent of the inflammation, and all known symptoms are taken into account. Testing can include blood cell counts, blood and serum tests, bacterial cultures, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, spinal fluid analysis, or biopsy of any affected tissues.
Each condition may require specialized testing to narrow down the cause, such as localized X-rays, and relevant tissue samples. To diagnose an eye or ear infection, further physical examinations are undertaken, along with a possible endoscopy. Parasitic infections can be hard to diagnose. With encephalitozoon cuniculi, some rabbits will not show any symptoms. It can only be diagnosed by studying brain tissue samples, which is very dangerous for the rabbit. A diagnosis can be made by ruling out other causes and looking for other signs of the infection.
A diagnosis of a roundworm infection, generally the raccoon roundworm baylisascaris procyonis, can be difficult because symptoms can be similar to other central nervous system conditions. If your rabbit has had exposure to raccoon infested areas, then this cause will more likely be pursued. No serum test can detect this, and a spinal tap may not be definitive. In the case of a possible tumor, growth or abscess, surgery may be needed to collect tissue for further study. Once a diagnosis has been given, an appropriate treatment regimen will be discussed at length with your veterinarian.
Treatment of Inflammation of the Brain in Rabbits
Treatment of the inflammation will be appropriate to the underlying cause. Antibiotics are often prescribed for many conditions, and often focus on those that can travel across the blood-brain barrier. These can vary, depending on the diagnosis. Antiparasitic medications can be prescribed in parasitic infections. Treatment for roundworm would include these medications, with short term corticosteroids to control the inflammation.
In cases of encephalitozoon cuniculi, treatment can be difficult because there is not enough evidence to support clear correlations between treatment and an improvement of symptoms due to the complications of collecting data. Often the data is collected post mortem. Antiparasitics, such as albendazole, fenbendazole and oxibendazole may be prescribed.
Corticosteroids may be prescribed in many cases to decrease brain swelling and inflammation, as well as pain medications, such as nsaids or metacam. If your rabbit is experiencing seizures, anti-epileptic medications may be prescribed. Treatment for ear infections can include antibiotics, anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months, and corticosteroids are sometimes recommended for a shorter amount of time. Occasionally, surgery may be needed to remove debris. Other treatments include cleaning ears, and pain medication with an anti-inflammatory component.
Any other treatments will be in accordance to the diagnosis, and can range from general antibiotic treatments, to surgery to look for malignant growths. Your veterinarian will design a treatment plan with you.
Recovery of Inflammation of the Brain in Rabbits
After care will depend on the diagnosis and treatments involved. Any surgery will have accompanying follow up care. Some conditions, such as cancer or some infections, may require future veterinary visits for checkups and continuing care.
To prevent a parasitic infection such as roundworm, keep your rabbit away from raccoon infested areas. Often, when any type of infection is involved, maintaining a clean living space and environment free of infectious agents is key to preventing re-infection in your rabbit. If your rabbit has any companions, watch their behaviors and have them tested. Separate any infected rabbits from non-infected ones to prevent transmission.
With any health condition affecting your rabbit, diet will be looked at and adjusted if needed. In cases where impaired motor function can cause an injury, make sure your rabbit’s home and feeding environment are safe.