Lordosis, scoliosis or kyphosis spine deformations
are observed in rabbits too
Esther van Praag, Ph.D.
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Various types of spinal deformations have been observed in rabbits:
· Lordosis, which presents an inward curvature of a portion of the spine.
· Scoliosis, which is a side to side deformation of the spine.
· Kyphosis, an abnormal condition where the spine curves out and forms a bulge on the upper back.
The degree of curvature is variable and may range from mild and barely visible to severe and causing gait problems. The origin of these congenital deformations is not well understood. It may relate to a lack of calcium in the food, improper absorption of calcium in the intestine, lack of exercise, wrong posture due to being kept in a small cage, or defective genes. Female rabbits appear more frequently affected by these spinal abnormalities than males. It is linked to their higher needs in calcium, especially during pregnancy and lactation.
Physical examination and palpation of the spine enables to detect these deformations. X-ray will confirm the problem.
Rabbits affected by lordosis, scoliosis or kyphosis may be reluctant to move, groom themselves and may remain in a hunched position. This is due to pain. As a result, their appetite is reduced and their fur is poorly kept. Urine scalding and accumulation of dry feces in the perianal region is frequently seen. The accumulation of feces and the smell of urine may attract flesh flies that lay their eggs on the wounded skin. This causes myiasis (fly-strike), a devastating condition with poor prognosis.
If the deformation is severe, the rabbit may be reluctant to move or presents an unusual gait.
There is no treatment for spinal deformation in rabbits.
Pain is relieved with the administration of NSAID analgesics, e.g. meloxicam or carprofen.
Skin damage caused by urine and feces is cleaned. The soiled fur is carefully clipped. A cream or Vaseline can be applied onto the skin to protect it from moisture. If there is secondary bacterial infection, antibiotics should be given to the rabbit.
Suzi, a rabbit with scoliosis
The curvature may be less or more important in rabbits. It is governed by several genes, which may be inherited by offspring. It is thus best not to use a rabbit affected by this problem for breeding.
The dorso-ventral radiographs taken from Suzi shows a severe side to side deformation of the thoracic spine:
Kim Chilson – Dr. B. Langhofer (The Scottsdale Veterinary Clinic Scottsdale, AZ, USA)
Finding during the necropsy of a rabbit:
Dr. Manfred Andratsch, Austria
Scoliosis of the spine. The deformation is light, with an inward and lateral curvature of the spine, which was not visible on the live rabbit, only by palpation and following the spine with a finger. Left: normal shape of the spine. Middle and left: abnormally curved spine.
Rabbit with kyphosis
Dermod Malley FRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK
Rabbit affected by kyphosis, an outward curvature of the spine leading to a bulging in the shoulder region.