Lordosis, scoliosis or kyphosis spine deformations
are observed in rabbits too
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Different types of deformities of the spine have been observed in rabbits:
- Lordosis, curvature of a part of the spine towards the interior of the body.
- Scoliosis, lateral curvature of the spine.
- Kyphosis, atypical curvature at the thoracic level where the column forms a bulge towards the outside of the body.
The degree of deformity varies and ranges from mild and barely visible to severe with locomotion problems. The origin of these congenital deformities is not well understood. It may be related to a lack of calcium in the food, calcium malabsorption in the intestines, lack of exercise, poor posture related to a cage too small in relation to the size of the rabbit, or genetic defects. Females appear to be more prone to develop these deformities of the spine than males. This seems to be related to a higher demand of the body for calcium, especially during pregnancy and the lactation period.
Physical examination and palpation of the spine can detect these deformities. X-rays of the abdomen confirm the diagnosis.
Rabbits affected by lordosis, scoliosis or kyphosis hesitate sometimes to move, to groom their fur and may stay in one place without moving. This is related to the pain. As a result, their appetite is reduced and their fur looks poorly maintained. In the perineal region, the accumulation of urine burns the skin and hairs fall off. The smell of urine mixed with fecal excrements may attract parasitic flies. These are dangerous as they lay their eggs on the damaged skin: myiasis, a terrible condition with a vital prognosis engaged.
If the deformity is severe, the rabbit is not inclined to move and his gait may be affected.
There is no treatment for spinal deformities in rabbits.
The pain caused by deformity or difficult gait can be relieved by the administration of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory analgesics such as meloxicam or carprofen.
Skin lesions caused by urine and excrements should be cleaned and disinfected. Dirty hair should be gently removed. A water repellent cream or Vaseline can be applied to the skin to protect it from moisture. If a secondary bacterial infection develops, antibiotics should be given to the rabbit.
by Cécile Gruhier - Belgium
Pépin was taken at the animal resscue in March, but we immediately noted her difficulties to using her hind legs (age estimated by the veterinarian: about 4 months). She was dragging with her front paws, hind legs gathered under her belly. We still took her with her friends, and her condition remained stationary, even with an improvement in her mobility until September.
The lateral and dorso-ventral radiographic views of Pepin show a severe deformity of the spine. A rabbit with such an abnormality often develops paresis of the lower limbs which worsens with time. The degeneration of vertebral discs (spondyloarthropathy) contributes to the difficult process. The rabbit will have trouble grooming its fur and collect its caecotropes.
Dr Maassen, cabinet Grodisiabois, Liège (Belgique)
Rabbit suffering from thoracic lordosis, a deformation of the spine towards the inside of the body, accompanied by paresis of the posterior limbs.
September, appearance of calcium crystals in the urine.
Treatment / change of food / daily washes ... nothing to do. Her condition did not improve despite regular follow-up, and her hind legs gradually began to fail supporting her, with regular falls. But she ate well, played again, with highs and lows, so we kept hope.
February, in less than 2 weeks, her condition became catastrophic, she often fell and washing her seemed like a torture ... we preferred to stop here and she was humanly asleep.
Scoliosis : Suzi
The curvature of the spine can be more or less severe in rabbits. This deformation is under the control of several genes, which can be inherited by newborn rabbits. It is therefore recommended not to use rabbits affected by this problem for breeding and reproduction.
Lateral view of the spine deformity:
The dorsal-ventral radiograph of Suzi shows a severe lateral deviation of the spine in the thoracic region:
Kim Chilson – Dr. B. Langhofer (The Scottsdale Veterinary Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ, USA)
Discovery during the autopsy of a rabbit :
Dr. Manfred Andratsch, Austria
Scoliosis of the spine in a rabbit. The lateral deviation is light, with a curvature on the side and inward of the body of the rabbit, which was not visible on the alive rabbit, only during the palpation of the column and following the finger. Left: normal structure of the spine. Middle and right: abnormal curvature of the spine.
Rabbit suffering from kyphosis
Dermod Malley FRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK
Rabbit with thoracic kyphosis, a curvature of the spine towards the outside of the body causing a dorsal hump.
Many thanks to Kim Chilson (USA) and Cécile Gruhier (Belgium) for their information, pictures, videos of their rabbits suffering from severe spine deformations.