Rabbits with Seizures?
by Janet Burnett
I just started raising rabbits 8 months ago. I have meat rabbits and Mini Rex. I spend an hour every morning and evening with my guys, plus check 2 to 3 times a day. Yesterday at feeding I found one of my 8 week old meat babies not at the hutch door ready for food as usual, but in the corner.
When she tried to move she just fell over on her right side kicking her back legs. She was fine that morning, and the day before she was first at the door for food. No sign of illness at all. I took her from the cage immediately, I could find no sign of trauma, no injury at all. Yet she was listless.
And when she did move it was like watching a seizure happen. Her head bent back, front feet straight out, back feet angled straight back, and stiff as a board. This was heart breaking!! After 20 minutes she cried out 2 times then died! What is going on?
One of her siblings did the same thing at 4 weeks. They are on good feed, fresh grass (pesticide free) 3 times a week. I clean the feed bowls every 2 days, more if they are dirty. Can Anyone give me a clue? I am at a loss, and I do not want to lose any more of my babies this way! It was horrible!!!
Any help would be Greatly appreciated!!!***** Karen Sez *****
So sorry to hear it. The problem is clearly infectious, as a sibling died with the same symptoms 4 weeks earlier.
It is very important that you get a correct diagnosis for the causative agent. We have a couple ideas and we'll share them with you, but your best bet is to have a necropsy done by a vet, or a nearby university ag program might also be able to help.
The symptoms are the result of an inflammation/infection in the brain. A likely suspect is the protozoan parasite known as Encephalitozoon cuniculi. The symptoms depend on the part of the rabbit that is infected. Learn more at http://www.raising-rabbits.com/rabbit-illnesses.html.
BUT: you're feeding grass clippings, right? From your yard? Do you have raccoons in the area? This brings up another chilling possibility: the roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis, which has an affinity for the brain, and which is dangerous to rabbits AND humans. I don't want to scare you, but I'd be getting a necropsy on that dead rabbit asap. In the meantime, don't let any kids around your rabbits until you've figured out the problem. (Kids are usually more susceptible than adults to this roundworm.)
There is also the chance that a case of wry neck caused by Pasteurellosis has advanced directly into the brain from the inner ear. We're not sure however that this would offer the same constellation of symptoms that E. cuniculi is known to produce, and that you've described. If your rabbits are generally healthy otherwise and you haven't had any outbreaks of sneezing or white snot, there would be no real reason to suspect pasteurellosis.
We hope you can take the next sick rabbit straight to the vets and establish an accurate diagnosis. For E. cuniculi, researchers are saying there is no cure, but the anecdotal "word on the street" is that various antibiotics or antiparasitics such as Ivermectin have produced a cure in some situations. You need a vet...