Diagnosing and treating common neurologic diseases in rabbits - Veterinary Medicine
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Diagnosing and treating common neurologic diseases in rabbits
To identify the source of neurologic signs in a rabbit, use the same diagnostic process as you would in a dog or cat. Here are some disorders to include in your differentials and how they can best be treated.


VETERINARY MEDICINE


OTHER NEUROLOGIC CONDITIONS

Although less commonly observed, general neurologic signs in rabbits have also been associated with listeriosis and other infectious causes and trauma.5 In addition to the aforementioned causes in this article, seizures in rabbits may also be caused by hypoxia secondary to empyema, pneumonia, hepatic lipidosis (terminal stages), or metastatic tumors or may result from the azotemia and electrolyte imbalances associated with renal disease. Bacterial encephalitis can also cause seizures in rabbits.5 Primary epilepsy has been described, but most of these cases are thought to be associated with encephalitozoonosis or other forms of meningitis.14

Although rare, cases of rabies have been reported in pet rabbits. Rabbits usually develop the paralytic form of this disease. Early signs of rabies in rabbits may be nonspecific and include anorexia, fever, and lethargy.17 Thirty cases of rabies in pet rabbits were reported from 1971 to 1997, and most of these cases occurred in rabbits housed outdoors that were exposed to raccoons.17 One case resulted from an encounter with a skunk. Another report reviewed seven cases of rabies in pet rabbits in New York state between 1992 and 2001.18 In one of these cases, neurologic signs, which developed about one month after exposure to a raccoon, included blindness and forelimb paralysis. Because no rabies vaccine is approved for use in rabbits in the United States, pet rabbits housed outdoors should be protected from contact with wildlife, especially in areas where rabies is endemic or a rabies epizootic is under way.5

James W. Carpenter, MS, DVM, DACZM
Zoological Medicine
College of Veterinary Medicine
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506


James W. Carpenter, MS, DVM, DACZM
Dr. Carpenter lectured on this topic at the 2006 CVC Central, and this article is adapted from the conference proceedings. Parts of this article are also adapted from Deeb BJ, Carpenter JW. Neurologic and musculoskeletal diseases. In: Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW, eds. Ferrets, rabbits, and rodents: clinical medicine and surgery. 2nd ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders Co, 2004;203-210.

REFERENCES

1. Kunstyr I, Naumann S. Head tilt in rabbits caused by pasteurellosis and encephalitozoonosis. Lab Anim 1985;19:208-213.

2. Gentz EJ, Carpenter JW. Neurologic and musculoskeletal disease. In: Hillyer EV, Quesenberry KE, eds. Ferrets, rabbits, and rodents: clinical medicine and surgery. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Co, 1996;220-226.

3. Donnelly TM. Applications of laboratory animal immunoassays to exotic pet practice. Exotic DVM 2006;8:19-26.

4. Deeb BJ. Respiratory disease and pasteurellosis. In: Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW, eds. Ferrets, rabbits, and rodents: clinical medicine and surgery. 2nd ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders Co, 2004;172-182.

5. Deeb BJ, Carpenter JW. Neurologic and musculoskeletal diseases. In: Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW, eds. Ferrets, rabbits, and rodents: clinical medicine and surgery. 2nd ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders Co, 2004;203-210.

6. Harcourt-Brown F. Update on Encephalitozoon cuniculi in pet rabbits. Exotic DVM 2004;6:41-44.

7. Harkness JE, Wagner JE. The biology and medicine of rabbits and rodents. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Williams & Wilkins, 1995.

8. Percy DH, Barthold SW. Rabbits. In: Pathology of laboratory rodents and rabbits. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1993.

9. Rosenthal KL. Therapeutic contraindications in exotic pets. Sem Avian Exotic Pet Med 2004;13:44-48.

10. Suter C, Müller-Doblies UU, Hatt JM, et al. Prevention and treatment of Encephalitozoon cuniculi infection in rabbits with fenbendazole. Vet Rec 2001;148:478-480.

11. Carpenter JW. Exotic animal formulary. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders Co, 2005;409-444.

12. Donnelly TM. Basic anatomy, physiology, and husbandry. In: Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW, eds. Ferrets, rabbits, and rodents: clinical medicine and surgery. 2nd ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders Co, 2004;136-146.

13. Harcourt-Brown F. Textbook of rabbit medicine. Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002.

14. Boydell P. Nervous system and disorders. In: Flecknell PA, ed. Manual of rabbit medicine and surgery. Gloucester, Great Britain: British Small Animal Veterinary Association, 2000;57-61.

15. Deeb BJ, DiGiacomo RF. Cerebral larva migrans caused by Baylisascaris sp in pet rabbits. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1994;205:1744-1747.

16. Kazacos KR, Boyce WM. Baylisascaris larva migrans. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1989;195:894-903.

17. Karp BE, Ball NE, Scott CR, et al. Rabies in two privately owned domestic rabbits. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1999;215:1824-1827.

18. Eidson M, Matthews SD, Willsey AL, et al. Rabies virus infection in a pet guinea pig and seven pet rabbits. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;227:932-935.


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