Paresis, paralysis and their various causes


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Flora showing a very slight loss of balance. In her case it was an early sign of encephalitozoonosis, a parasitic disease that she developped over the next months. She also started to lose weight, in spite of a huge appetite.

Sandra Pittet

Taiga, a paralyzed rabbit (front), due to the parasite Encephalitozoon cuniculi, with her healthy rabbit friend Lichen (back)

Amy Carpenter

Typical sitting position of a rabbit with weak or paralyzed hind-limbs



Acute paresis (hours)


Serum electrolyte abnormalities:

Profound hypokalemia




Traumatic causes

Spinal cord injury, trauma of the spinal cord, fracture, or disease of the CNS.

Spinal cord hemorrhage, e.g. after trauma

Disease or lesions (e.g. brain hypoxia from severe seizures)

Disc disease, compression of the sciatic nerve

Congenital spinal deformities




Karan Nixon

George rabbit enjoying to move around in his wheelchair after suffering from hindlimb paralysis.


Subacute paresis (days)


Bacterial infestation

Brain abscess, encephalitis, meningitis, spinal abscess caused by e.g. Pasteurella multocida, Lysteria sp., Staphylococcus sp..


Traumatic causes

Muscle trauma, after excessive exercise, or prolonged pressure and ischemia.

Spinal compression

Congenital spinal deformities




Slow onset of paresis (weeks, months)


Protozoal parasites

Encephalitozoon cuniculi in the brain, accompanied by an inflammatory response of brain cells

Toxoplasma sp.

Sarcocystis cuniculi, causing muscle weaness in rabbits. Possibly in presence of cats, the main host of this parasite.


Neoplastic diseases:

Bone neoplasm, development of tumors in the spinal cord, carcinoma


“Mechanical” causes:

Advanced arthritis

Spondylosis (spinal osteoarthritis), disco-spondylitis, presence of bone spurs or osteophytes, which can lead to pain and irritation of the nerves

Disk deformation

Intervertebral disk disease


Unknown cause:

Floppy rabbit disease


Thank you very much to Sandra Pittet (Switzerland), Karan Nixon (USA) and Amy Carpenter (USA), for their pictures.