What is Partial or Complete Loss of Muscle Control?
There are a variety of possible causes for your rabbit experiencing a loss of muscle control, known as complete or partial paralysis. Depending on what is causing your rabbit’s condition, he may or may not exhibit signs of pain or discomfort. Prompt medical attention is important in order for your rabbit to have the best chance of recovery.
The complete or partial loss of muscle control is also known as paralysis (inability to move one or more body parts) or paresis (partial paralysis).
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Symptoms of Partial or Complete Loss of Muscle Control in Rabbits
In some cases, the only symptom that you will notice in your rabbit is the paresis or paralysis in one or more limbs. Depending on what is causing your rabbit’s loss of muscle control, you may witness the following symptoms:
- Your rabbit may sometimes have difficulty remaining upright
- Your rabbit may fall over or appear uncoordinated when engaging in his usual activities
- He may display a “hunched gait”
- He may or may not show pain or discomfort
- The hind legs of your rabbit may appear weak or unsteady
- Your rabbit may lose interest in food and lose weight
Paresis is the partial loss of muscle control in one or more limbs while paralysis is the complete loss of muscle control in one or more limbs. The condition is broken down further:
- Paraparesis or paraplegia - This is the weakness or lack of muscle control in the pelvic limbs; the most common presentation of paresis or paralysis in rabbits
- Quadriparesis/ quadriplegia (tetraparesis/tetraplegia) - This is when the weakness or loss of muscle control is present in all limbs
- Hemiparesis - Paralysis or paresis in two limbs on the same side
- Monoparesis - Paralysis or paresis in one limb
Causes of Partial or Complete Loss of Muscle Control in Rabbits
There are a number of conditions that can cause the partial or complete loss of muscle control in your rabbit. These include:
- Trauma inflicted upon the spine, pelvis or limbs
- Spondylosis or osteoarthritis either of the spine or pelvis
- Infection with the parasite Encephalitozoon cuniculi which can be found in the rabbit’s renal and/or nervous tissue.
- A bacterial infection
- Infection with the roundworm parasite Baylisascaris procyonis
Diagnosis of Partial or Complete Loss of Muscle Control in Rabbits
Your veterinarian will do a full physical exam to diagnose what is causing your rabbit’s loss of muscle control. This will include asking you for information regarding the onset of your rabbit’s symptoms. If the paresis or paralysis was sudden, this will point to the cause being a traumatic injury. If the symptoms developed over time, the doctor will consider the possibility of inflammatory or degenerative disease, or the development of a tumor. Radiography will likely be recommended so that the veterinarian can pinpoint and confirm the location of trauma or a degenerative process as well as the degree of damage. Other tests that may be conducted include:
- Blood tests and a serum chemistry profile
- A bacterial culture
- Antimicrobial sensitivity testing
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Serology (the testing of your rabbit’s bodily fluids)
Treatment of Partial or Complete Loss of Muscle Control in Rabbits
Your rabbit’s treatment will depend upon the cause of the loss of muscle control.
In the case of a traumatic injury, your veterinarian will likely want to provide your rabbit with anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation and hopefully reduce the extent of the damage. Possible medications include Metacam or corticosteroids.
Should your rabbit be suffering from arthritis or another degenerative condition, glucosamine supplements may be recommended. Cetyl-M is a relatively new product that has shown effectiveness in improving the mobility in rabbits. Physical therapy and acupuncture may also be recommended.
The immune system should be able to destroy E. cuniculi. Many rabbits have been infected over the course of their lives, however it is usually due to the immune system being compromised and unable to fight off the E. cuniculi that cause the rabbit problems. Treatment may include:
- Dexamethasone (0.1 mg/kg administered subcutaneously once, then administered 48 and 96 hours later) to reduce inflammation
- Chloramphenicol (50 mg/kg administered subcutaneously every 12 hours for seven days)
- Oxibendazole (30 mg/kg taken by mouth every 24 hours for seven to 14 days); if symptoms improve reduce the dose to 15 mg/kg every 24 hours for 30-60 days
Roundworm can cause severe neurologic disease in your rabbit. Treatment options are limited, though some success has been had with Oxibendazole (60 mg/kg taken orally every 24 hours ongoing).
Recovery of Partial or Complete Loss of Muscle Control in Rabbits
Depending upon your rabbit’s diagnosis, follow up appointments may be necessary. It is important that you follow the treatment recommended by your veterinarian to help your rabbit achieve the best outcome possible.
Your veterinarian may discuss changes that should be made at home to best support your rabbit. This may include minimizing stress for your rabbit; for example making sure he has a dark, warm and quiet living space and reducing or eliminating contact with other animals that may cause him anxiety. Should your rabbit be unable to express his bladder, you may have to help him relieve himself. Your rabbit may or may not be able to fully recover his muscle control. In some cases, focus will be less on recovery and more on quality of life.