Rabbit newborn with frontal encephalocele



Esther van Praag, Ph.D.



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Rarely a newborn rabbit presents with a deformation of the head. It can have a hereditary origin or be linked to a developmental defect of the fetus. This is the case of encephalocele, which results from an abnormal development of the neural tube at the beginning of gestation. This defect is associated with an autosomal recessive gene that can be expressed at the level of the spinal cord spina bifida, or of the skull, in form of an encephalocele


Rabbit fetus that present an open severe spina bifida. Note the absence of vertebra in place of the vertebral column. This fetus is not viable.

At skull level, this defect hinders the proper closing of the skull bones and of the skull. This incomplete closing is at the sagittal level, between the forehead and the nostrils. There is a protrusion as result, or a hernia of the skull that contains part of the brains and sometimes the membranes that surround and protect the brain as well as spinal cord.

Only one case has been described by Geelen in 1974 in a hydrocephalus rabbit. In this case, the newborn rabbit, aged 3 weeks old, was the result of inbreeding.

This 1 day old newborn rabbit was part of an 11 member offspring of a female Belgian beard rabbit (an older breed that became almost extinct). It was alive and active, yet, it was decided to humanely euthanize this newborn as its chance to survive in an 11 members nest is poor and to spare it future sufferings.

Michel Gruaz

Belgian beard rabbit newborn aged 1 day that suffer a frontal encephalocele and detail of the head.


Once more, a huge big thank you to Michel Gruaz (Switzerland) to share this rare defect in a newborn rabbit.

Further information

Geelen JAG. A case of hydrocephalus and meningo encephalocele in a rabbit caused by aqueductal malformation. Laboratory Animals (London) 1974 : 167-176.





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