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Ask Anna Your Own Question
Anna, Pet Expert/Biologist
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 11460
Experience:  40 yrs.: herps, pocket pets, rabbits, poultry, dogs, horses. Biology degree. Vet assistant.
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I'm glad to find you. I hope you can help us. My daughter

Customer Question

Hi Anna, I'm glad to find you. I hope you can help us. My daughter has a Netherland Dwarf as a 4-H project. She is 3 months old and we have had her for 6 weeks. She has seemed very healthy, happy and friendly. She won a first place ribbon just 8 days ago at our local fair for her age and breed. The judge commented on what a beautiful specimen she is. Four days after she was at the fair my daughter noticed a very marked difference in her. Her hind legs are super weak and she was nor hopping right although she was kind of hopping. She was also walking, with her back legs out behind her, and kind of pushing with her toes to go forward. It also seemed like she had lost the nice curve to her back and had what looks like a dip in her back when she tried to walk. We thought she may have a fractured spine, expected the worst and took her to the vet. The vet is not a rabbit specialist but has been a vet for 30 years. After crafts she showed us that she had what she felt was a congenital defect, Scoliosis in the lumber region, which she said she was born with. I am unclear as to why she was doing so well and then had such problems with her legs overnight like she is. She put her on an anti-inflammatory, Meloxicam, and an antibiotic, SMZTMP, IN case of an infection. I was worried about the fact that she had so recently been at the fair where she was exposed to so many other rabbits. She has been taking the medicines with no improvement for two full days. She seems healthy in every other way. She's still eating but was a tad grumpy yesterday afternoon. It doesn't seem like she's in pain but she does seem a bit stressed. But I would be too if it was me. I am just looking for answers to what seems to be an unusual problem. Could it be a vitamin deficiency, or an injury she could heal from? I am hoping you can give me some answers as to how to proceed with her care. Thank you.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Anna replied 2 years ago.
Hello. I apologize for the delay. I wasn't online at the time you posted your question, and I'm not sure why I was being shown as online, but thank you for requesting me. I'm sorry to hear of your bunny's problem.
This isn't likely to be a vitamin deficiency. We do see that in guinea pigs, but it would be very rare in a rabbit. It's also unlikely she caught anything at the fair. I have been involved as a volunteer in 4-H rabbit shows for years, and the only thing I've ever seen passed around is a respiratory infection.
An injury seems the most likely. Unfortunately, rabbits can very easily and injure their spines. I have seen them break their back just from jumping the wrong way. They are quite frail. What your vet has prescribed is appropriate. If Bethlehem doesn't improve soon, though, I would get a second opinion from a rabbit vet. If you don't know of a rabbit vet, give me your location, and I'll try to find one for you.
There is a protozoan parasite called E. Cuniculi. It causes neurological symptoms, usually involving the head and neck, but it's not unheard of for the hind legs to be affected. A rabbit vet would be able to tell you if this is a possibility it actually is quite common in rabbits. It is treated with Panacur or ivermectin.
You are right to be concerned because, regardless of the cause, this is a very serious situation. Shirt of seeing another vet, there isn't anything else you can do for her. Let me know in a REPLY if you have more questions or want help finding a vet. I hope Bethlehem will reach a full recovery.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
far there has been no improvement at all. She is kind of lungeing and snapping at us at times, which is completely out of character for her as she is usually so friendly. I am afraid she is in pain, even though the vet we saw didn't seem to think so. Can I put her an ivermectin as well as what she is already taking, or would that not be good. How long should we wait to see if things get better? Her meds still have 5 and 8 days left. What are our options if she does not improve? Can she live a life like this or is the kind thing to put her down? Could the scoliosis the vet diagnosed her with be an injury instead? What is a prognosis for a rabbit with scoliosis? Would this be something that happens to them? Thank you for your advice. I do appreciate it.
Expert:  Anna replied 2 years ago.
I have owned hundreds of rabbits and have never had one with scoliosis. I am going g to research that possibility and get back to you.
I wouldn't add Ivermectin except under a vet's supervision. As for how long to wait, with the weekend coming up, it might not be a bad idea to consider contacting one today. I'll get back to you on the scoliosis.
Expert:  Anna replied 2 years ago.

Scoliosis is not common, but does occur. It seems to happen most in females who are used for breeding, dud to increased calcium needs. apparently, there are a couple of other spinal conditions that also occur. I'm not sure if any of them really fit what happened to Bethlehem. Here are two sites where you can read more and even look at photos of rabbits affected by these conditions. X-rays are also shown.

Here is a story about a rabbit with a spinal condition who was helped by physical therapists and other alternative therapies:

As for pain, Meloxicam is a pain medication. However, rabbits in pain do often become aggressive, so it may not be controlling any pain very well.

I wouldn't make any decisions about putting her down at this point. There are too many possibilities. What I would do is make an appointment with a rabbit specialist or a veterinary neurologist. This link will take you to a directory of rabbit vets:

Here are neurologists (they are not just for dogs):

If you need anything else, don't hesistate to ask.