Rabbits with a congenital splay-leg
Esther van Praag Ph.D.
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A rabbit suffering from this condition loses gradually the ability to adduct one to all four limbs. It can affect the fore- and/or hind limbs, which become twisted, so that the animal has a double-jointed posture. The rabbit can no more put weight on its limbs and ambulation becomes difficult due to the inability to adduct the limbs. The severity of the condition ranges from light to paralysis.
Video by Kim Chilson
Various causes can lead to splay-leg in rabbits. The condition is frequently inherited in one or more recessive genes with reduced expressivity and possible involvement of environmental factors. Other causes have a traumatic or iatrogenic origin. They include does that have few newborn and overfeed them, or newborn that are in a nest on a slippery surface due to lack of bedding.
Rabbits affected by a congenital or traumatic splay-leg eat and drink normally, and their health is good. The only clinical signs are deformities at the shoulder and hip joints leading to a wrong position of the limb, difficult ambulation, by wriggling along on its belly or chest.
When a rabbit is seen with splay-legs, the first steps should be to check for physical deformities. X-rays will expose skeletal deformities like:
· pelvic hypoplasia, with femoral luxation,
· torsion or subluxation of the hip,
· femoral neck anteversion,
· femoral shaft torsion,
· distal foreleg curvature,
· achondroplasia (growth impairment) of the hip or shoulder joints,
· syringomyelia (chronic progressive disease, characterized by the appearance of fluid-filled pockets in the spinal cord).
There is no treatment for splay-leg, so each case should be evaluated on an individual basis. Indeed, rabbits showing light deformities can move around quite well and thus have a good quality of life. In other cases, amputation of the affected limb may be considered. For rabbits severely affected by splay-leg, euthanasia may be overweighed.
Secondary skin complications may develop, in areas that wear the body weight. Skin ulceration (sore lesions) and pododermatis are most frequently observed.
Thanks are due to Michel Gruaz (Switzerland), Kate Jenkins (Canada), Arie van Praag (Switzerland), Megan Matter (USA) and Akira Yamanouchi (VEIN), for the gracious permission to use their pictures.
Arendar GM, Milch RA. Splay-leg - a recessively inherited form of femoral neck anteversion, femoral shaft torsion and subluxation of the hip in the laboratory lop rabbit: its possible relationship to factors involved in so-called "congenital dislocation" of the hip. Clin Orthop. 1966;44:221-9.
Jirmanova I. The splayleg disease: a form of congenital glucocorticoid myopathy? Vet Res Commun. 1983;6(2):91-101.
Van Praag E., Maurer A., Saarony T. Skin diseases of Rabbit. Geneva, CH: MediRabbit.com; 2010.