Rabbits with a congenital splay-leg



Esther van Praag Ph.D.



MediRabbit.com is funded solely by the generosity of donors.

Every donation, no matter what the size, is appreciated and will aid in the continuing research of medical care and health of rabbits.

Thank you  


Warning: this page contains pictures that may be distressing for some persons.


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 from 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.




Michel Gruaz


Young rabbit suffering from unilateral splay leg of the hind limb (arrow) caused by a luxation of the kneecap 8patella). This can be corrected with a surgical procedure similar to that performed in cats.


Riggs J. and and Langley-Hobbs S.J. Surgical Correction of Patellar Luxation in a Rabbit. Hindawi Publishing Corporation
Case Reports in Veterinary Medicine, Volume 2013

Clinical signs

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.

Lateral view showing joint laxity and luxation of the shoulder and hip.

Ventro-dorso view of the shoulder joint (it goes without saying that protection should be worn by the vet technician or veterinarian while taking x-rays, to avoid unecessary radiation)

Megan Matter

Top view showing joint laxity and luxation of the shoulder.


Radiographies of a young rabbit affected with a severe degree of joint laxity and luxation. His limbs have been splinted and tied in order to help reposition the affected limbs and obtain some more normal upright position when this rabbit exercises.


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).



Akira Yamanouchi


Rabbit suffering from three splayed limbs. Sore lesions are observed on the skin of the inner side of the posterior limbs and tail.


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.


Kate Jenkins


Arie van Praag


Rabbit suffering from bilateral (left). Spay leg should be differentiate from a slightly turned out limb caused by joint deformities (right).


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.

Further information

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.






e-mail: info@medirabbit.com