What are Seizures?
There are many causes of seizures in rabbits, including zoonotic diseases. Seizures are considered an emergency and it is vital if your pet suffers from an episode that you contact your veterinarian immediately for assessment. Cancer, blood clots, and head trauma are a few of the causes that may be diagnosed by your veterinarian; any time your rabbit has a change in behavior he should be evaluated by the veterinary team.
Seizures in rabbits are an uncommon occurrence, caused by abnormal neuronal hyperactivity. These can be generalized with loss of consciousness and signs affecting the entire body or partial, which affect the motor activity while the pet is conscious.
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Symptoms of Seizures in Rabbits
Seizure symptoms can vary due to the many different possible causes. Focal seizures only affect some lobes in the brain, so presenting symptoms can vary depending on the affected lobes. Symptoms that you may notice are:
- Loss of bodily control
- Peddling of feet
- Disorientation or complete unawareness
- Excessive salivation
- Urination or defecation
In some cases, altered behavior, blindness or coma may occur following the seizure.
There are a number of underlying conditions and diseases that may cause seizures to occur in your pet. These include:
- Infectious encephalitis
- Virus such as rabies (which presents a zoonotic risk)
- Degenerative diseases
- Head trauma (caused by animal attack or vehicle accident)
- Febrile seizures (caused by cerebral edema)
- Parasitic infections
- Congenital malformation
- Poisoning from plants, drugs or chemicals
- Metabolic diseases
- Blood clots
Causes of Seizures in Rabbits
Seizures occur following a neurological imbalance, they may occur as a single seizure or in cluster or status seizures many may occur. Despite the many possible causes for the occurrence there are known factors that predispose pets to suffering from one. These include diseases of the major systems such as cardiac, renal or hepatic systems, lesions or injuries of the brain, accidental ingestion of drugs or poisons.
Diagnosis of Seizures in Rabbits
Your veterinarian will perform a full clinical examination, including a neurological examination, on your pet and discuss his history with you. Your veterinarian will discuss the character of the seizure with you to attempt to determine the cause of it; your pet’s behavior prior to and after, the duration of the seizure and the nature of it may help guide the diagnosis. If vomiting occurs, the gastric contents should be examined for evidence of ingested toxic materials. Your veterinarian may choose to do following diagnostic tests:
- Blood chemistry
- Analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid
- Radiography of the skull performed under sedation
- Magnetic resonance imaging
Treatment of Seizures in Rabbits
If your rabbit presents while still suffering from a seizure emergency treatment will be provided.
An anticonvulsant such as diazepam will be given intranasally and your pet monitored for signs of improvement. If the seizure does not cease phenobarbital sodium may be given via intravenous injection, repeat dosing may be required at 30 minute intervals. Your pet will be carefully monitored during this time. For animals who do not respond to this treatment, sedation under general anesthetic may be necessary. Propofol is commonly used for general anesthesia in rabbits and is short-acting with non-cumulative effects, however it may cause respiratory or cardiac depression so careful monitoring is essential.
During this time your pet may be assessed for the cause, if your pet is hyperthermic cold compresses may be applied, and intravenous fluid therapy given to assist with temperature regulation. To reduce cerebral swelling around the brain, mannitol may be given. It is vital that your pet maintains a patent airway, it may be necessary to intubate your pet for adequate oxygen supply. Your pet will be provided a dark, quiet room for recovery away from other animals or stressors.
Recovery of Seizures in Rabbits
The prognosis for your pet varies depending on the underlying cause. Your rabbit may occur clinically normal following the episode, or show signs of confusion or restlessness in the following hours. In some cases, especially those caused by terminal illness, advanced sepsis or trauma the prognosis is poor.
If your rabbit suffers from repeat convulsions on-going medication may be necessary. Your rabbit may be prescribed phenobarbital for twice daily oral administration. This dose will be revised and your pet will require follow up appointments with your veterinarian. Unfortunately, there is a lack of research around on-going treatment for rabbit’s suffering from epilepsy. If ingestion of a toxin is suspected as the cause, it is vital that the pet’s environment is checked for any other possible poisoning sources.
If your pet suffers from repeat seizures recording the details of the timing, character, and any presenting symptoms may be beneficial. If possible, record the seizure to share with your veterinarian as it may assist when planning the long-term management of your pet’s condition.
Seizures Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My rabbit who's a little over a year old is doing backflips and kind of shaking he started doing this Tuesday I took him to the vet and they think it was his teeth but the more I've done research I'm thinking he's having seizures I'm really not sure but I'm really concerned I've had rabbits before but never Netherland dwarf rabbit he's done this twice since I've had him I adopted him from the Humane Society and they never told me that he's had seizures they told me that he was perfectly healthy but he's apparently not perfectly healthy
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My rabbit is about 5years old he's partially dwarf I believe. And just recently he hasn't been eating or drinking well and has started having seizures. He's had two this week. Tonights was the worst he was squealing and all I could do was comfort and hold him so he didn't hurt himself more. What could cause this?
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My pet rabbit started having multiple seziures a day. He is lethargic, eating a small amount and drinking. He has a weird mucus in his stool. He also has a bad smell. I cannot find a vet in my area that is comfortable diagnosing or treating a rabbit. What can i do?
You may be noticing mucus faeces which come from the cecum and are usually ingested by rabbits during the night or Davros may have cecal impaction which would lead to a buildup of mucus in the stool; a worse case scenario is mucoid enteropathy which is something that would need to be confirmed and treated by a Veterinarian (you would need a prescription for antibiotics, prokinetics and other supportive care). The seizures may be caused by infections, parasites, poisoning, trauma, dehydration etc… Without a physical examination I cannot tell you for sure. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
My Mini Rex is almost 13 years old. She started having "episodes" where she falls over to one side and can't get up. She kicks fractically to no avail and sometimes her eyes roll down and you can see some white at the top. The episodes have become more frequent and last longer. She is on Metacam and Tramadol. This last time she seemed to be doing well, but she's had another episode and I'm afraid it's not going to go away. Is there any hope for her or is it time to let her go so she doesn't suffer needlessly. I love her to death but I want to do what's right for her.
Our rabbit is having same symptoms as yours the vet reckons it's seizures or a tumour on brain but there is no swelling we feel helpless and hate watching her fall over
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My rabbit got attacked by a dog about a year ago and his head was in the dogs mouth. He gets seizures about once a week but they keep getting longer. Is there an over the counter medicine I can give him? I'm 12 and am interested in an herbal alternative, since going to the vet is too expensive for my family.
I am not sure about for rabbits, so I don’t want to recommend a product that isn’t intended for use in rabbits (due to possible poisoning risk); also there are many products available online, but I am not aware of their efficacy. When I recommend a product or a natural alternative, I like to have a scientific basis than just a recommendation in a forum post. For other types, of seizure control which may be over the counter, there aren’t any medication in that class that you would be able to purchase without a Veterinary prescription. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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