What is Nerve Damage?
Unfortunately, neurological disorders are very common among rabbits and there are a variety of causes for nerve damage. Some of the conditions are caused by exposure to infections, parasites and more. Other causes can be medical issues, injury, environmental factors and even nutrition.
Due to nerve damage being such a broad diagnosis, it may be difficult to identify what is causing your rabbit’s symptoms. The symptoms can often mimic other conditions. Some of the things your veterinarian may have to differentiate are infections, parasites, injuries and other underlying conditions that have similar symptoms.
Nerve damage in your rabbit is any condition that impacts your rabbit’s nervous system, and is commonly referred to as a neurological disorder. This condition can be due to medical disorders, hereditary conditions and environmental variables.
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Symptoms of Nerve Damage in Rabbits
Symptoms can be generalized for nerve damage, however, there are also more specific symptoms depending on the cause of your rabbit’s nerve damage.
- Behavioral changes
- Torticollis – tilting of your rabbit’s head or a stiff neck
- Nystagmus – repetitive and uncontrolled movement of the eye
- Tremors – you may notice your rabbit begin to shake or shiver for no reason
- Paresis – muscle weakness in your rabbit
- Paralysis – typically it is his hind legs
- Skin sensation – your rabbit may lose his ability to sense pain, however, this can be difficult to identify due to rabbits typically patient personalities
- Motor control loss – urinary incontinence may occur, fecal incontinence may occur
- Ulcer formation – pressure sores may develop due to your rabbit’s weakness and paralysis
- Feces on his perineum
Causes of Nerve Damage in Rabbits
- Caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida
- This bacterium can cause torticollis in your rabbit if the bacteria gets into his nasal cavity or ears
- Can mimic many other bacteria
- Causes runny noses, upper and lower respiratory infections, inflammation of the ear, abscess on all organs, facial paralysis and more
- Infection that can infect the eyes, kidneys, and nervous system in your rabbit
- Caused by the organism: Encephalitozoon cuniculi which is a parasite
- Even if infected your rabbit may not exhibit any symptoms of the infection until nerve damage appears
- Can cause nystagmus, head tilt, difficulty walking, tremors and seizures
- Rabbits are somewhat susceptible to overheating
- It is easy for them to overheat without proper ventilation, shade and water
- If the signs of overheating go unnoticed your rabbit may suffer nerve damage and end up having seizures, collapsing, or going into a coma to cope
- Vitamin deficiencies can cause neurological symptoms
- If your rabbit’s diet does not have enough magnesium, for example, he is more susceptible to seizures
- It is important to feed your rabbit a fresh diet that is of good quality
Diagnosis of Nerve Damage in Rabbits
To determine if your rabbit is suffering from nerve damage, a visit to his veterinarian will be necessary. Once there, the veterinarian will want to perform a full physical and get a history of your rabbit. A neurological exam may be necessary as well to determine what is causing your rabbit’s symptoms.
Blood tests may be done to identify what if any parasite, bacteria or infection he is being impacted by. X-rays, CT scans, MRI and other imaging testing may be done to see what type of nerve damage or neurological damage has been done.
Treatment of Nerve Damage in Rabbits
Treatment will be specific to the underlying cause of your rabbit’s nerve damage.
This bacterium will be treated with antibiotics. Some of the antibiotics used are enrofloxacin, trimethoprim sulfa, chloramphenicol, penicillin G, azithromycin and ciprofloxacin. Regrettably your rabbit’s head tilt, caused by this bacterium may not be corrected even with treatment.
If this infection is found to be the underlying cause of nerve damage, the treatment options are limited. This is due to there not being any medications that can treat the infection. In the event no medications work and your rabbit’s condition continues to worsen, euthanizing him may be discussed.
The immediate response for overheating is to cool your rabbit’s temperature down as quickly as possible. This can be done several ways including spraying him with slightly cool water, wrapping him in a wet towel or putting him in water. If for whatever reason these tactics do not work, your veterinarian may suggest IV fluids that will help to rehydrate him and also cool his temperature.
If nutritional deficiencies are found to be the culprit for your rabbit’s symptoms, a change in diet may be needed. First and foremost, your veterinarian will want to stabilize any seizures or other symptoms he is experiencing and then move on to diet changes.
Recovery of Nerve Damage in Rabbits
Recovery will be largely dependent on what the cause of your rabbit’s nerve damage is. If he has been diagnosed with pasteurella, antibiotics can clear the bacteria up quickly. If his symptoms do not decrease quickly enough, long term antibiotics can be used.
If the cause of symptoms is encephalitozoonosis the prognosis is dependent on how your rabbit does over time due to there being no standard treatment currently. Euthanizing your rabbit may be suggested if his health continues to decline.
If his symptoms are due to nutrition concerns and those issues are corrected his prognosis is good. If heat stroke is caught quickly the prognosis is good and he should be monitored closely for the days following his heat stroke.
Nerve Damage Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Our rabbit is a 4 year old female mini lop and has been suffering from head tilt for almost a month now.
She is a house rabbit and has been perfectly healthy up until recently.
She has been diagnosed by a rabbit specialist with nerve damage in her ears since having a CT scan and ear flushing several weeks ago.
Up until a few days ago she had been coping well with the tilt and was on painkillers to keep any discomfort at bay. Now her eating has slowed right down apart from taking fresh veg and she drinks barely anything.
Also the eye which is facing away from the floor has started to weep moisture and looks sore in the corner by her eyelid and appears like a contact lense but with erosion in the centre of the eye on the surface. There is also some yellowish discharge forming beside her eye which is supposedly from the eye itself.
We have been given two forms of eye drops plus an antibiotic to add to the painkiller to clear up whatever seems to be going on with her eye.
Since the problems with her eye her balance and sense of where things are around her has been very poor which makes handling her difficult especially when administering the drops and medication. The specialist did say there was a possibility that her vision is either impaired or perhaps going entirely.
Is there anything else we should be doing? Or is there anything else you can suggest her symptoms are leading to?
Also her ear keeps flipping over head which does not help her balance issue.
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