Rabbits with Seizures?

by Janet Burnett
(Chelsea, Alabama)

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...

Good luck!

Comments for Rabbits with Seizures?

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Oct 02, 2012
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Have Several Kit Litter with SAME symptoms
by: Stacey

Hi,
I have been looking all over the internet for the answer to the same symptoms that 4 of my current litters have had. I raise Silver Foxes and have lost at least 3 - 5 kits from each litter due to the exact same symptoms as described by Janet. All of these kits range from 3 - 10 weeks of age. I do admit that I have fed grass clippings that were raked, dried and stored like hay. There are no vets in my area who are savvy with rabbit issues.

This has never happened before and it's bothered me so much that I'm thinking about getting out of rabbits completely.

If it is the E. Cuniculi, will my adult rabbits be affected as well and die?

Stacey

***** Karen Sez *****
If it is E. cuniculi, the youngsters are getting the parasite from adult carriers of the infection, rabbits that will stay healthy unless their immune systems get weak or fail, say, from old age.

Since the parasites are transmitted in the urine, it becomes very important to keep the cages very clean.

A rabbit with a strong immune system may be able to overcome the infection and not remain a carrier.

Have you seen any trends with the deaths? For example, are all the deaths in the litters of the same one or two rabbits? If you can figure out which of your rabbits carry the parasite (enlist a vet's help if needed), you may be able to cull the sick animals and continue your breeding with healthy animals.

Could it be the problems are a blessing in disguise? Identify and solve the problem, and your rabbits will be better and better. The next time a kit dies, do a necropsy or pay to have one done. Take a look at its kidneys. E. cuniculi pits the surface of the kidneys and otherwise damages them.

I'm hoping you can get to the bottom of the symptoms! Good luck.


Sep 14, 2012
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Another consideration
by: Karen

I keep mulling over your story, Janet. Let's add another possible cause of rabbit death to the list: some sort of neuro-toxic plant poisoning. Given that you're feeding fresh grass from the yard, perhaps there could be dangerous weeds mixed in with the grass? Gotta say though, I am no expert on plant poisoning. Try pasting the following web address into your browser and checking out the long list of toxic plants:

http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/htm/bc/ttox04.htm

There - now I'm truly out of bright ideas. I hope you can solve the problem. Good luck.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Comments.

Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Check Software