Mysterious bunny death--Wobbling side to side and Seizure

by P.J.
(Pittsburgh, PA)

I had a 5 year old male Mini Rex that passed a few weeks ago, and I'm still wondering what it could possibly have been that killed him. Here's what happened:

He showed no signs or symptoms. He was completely healthy (or so we thought) and was eating fine. Stool was normal. Until one night he wasn't able to stand up straight. He kept wobbling from side to side out of nowhere and had to lean up against his cage to stay upright.

I took him to an emergency vet immediately, even though it was almost 1 a.m. They prescribed him antibiotics and something else for a parasitic infection. They didn't know what it was, yet said it had to be one of those two things. So I took him home, administered medicine and syringe-fed him some emergency powder food since he wasn't eating.

He started to get a hang of walking again the next day. Still very wobbly. Had fits when he had an itch he couldn't scratch. It was like he was all there in his head, but his body wasn't doing what he wanted anymore. I didn't know what grinding teeth out of pain sounded like until the next night. He was in pain, and I wanted to help him but I couldn't. I felt so... Helpless.

He lied down most of the night, until I heard him jump up. He had a seizure and died within a minute. He was gone within 24 hours of his initial symptoms.

Some additional info: He wasn't neutered and had never been around other rabbits. He was an indoor bunny. It couldn't have been trauma, since he hadn't left the cage that day and his cage was only one level.

I loved him very much and it was traumatizing to see him go so suddenly. The vet told me it could have been Pasteurella or some kind of parasite, but as I said he had no contact with other rabbits and showed no other symptoms until it was really bad. He lived a happy and healthy lifestyle. I just wish I had some answers.

***** Karen Sez *****
Sorry for the loss!

From way over here it is hard to say with certainty what made your rabbit sick, but I'd guess the vet's opinion was very close to the truth.

Parasites can do just what you describe, but given your additional comments, Pasteurellosis becomes the prime suspect. Pasteurella multocida, if the germ travels through the ears, nose, or sinuses to the brain, can also create the symptoms you saw - wry neck (head tilt), dizziness, seizures, and in the case of your rabbit, a quick death.

He was a very sick rabbit, and you did heroics in your attempt to save him. I hope you can find another terrific Mini Rex bunny soon.

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