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Normally, rabbits have very strong hind legs, which they use for hopping. Vertebral fracture or luxation (dislocation) of the limbs in rabbits is a common cause for weakness and paralysis of the hind limbs.
Sometimes, often because of improper handling, caged rabbits can twist their legs right at the junction of their lumbar spine and sacrum (base of the spine), which can result in a vertebral fracture. Some develop what is called a luxation, which is a dislocation that occurs at the lumbar L7 point (the lower spine), though fractures are far more common than luxations. This type of trauma may cause the rabbit to lose control of its bladder function, and possibly lose control of its bowel movements too.
The signs and symptoms often depend on the severity of the condition. The following are some of the more common signs and symptoms:
The causes for vertebral fracture and luxation are varied and may include:
Because there are several possible causes for weakness and/or paralysis of the hind limbs, your veterinarian will most likely use differential diagnosis. This process is guided by deeper inspection of the apparent outward symptoms, ruling out each of the more common causes until the correct disorder is settled upon and can be treated appropriately. You will need to begin by providing a thorough history of your rabbit's health leading up to the onset of symptoms.
Other causes may include infection with Encephalitozoon cuniculi, central nervous system (CNS) infections, lesions on the CNS, metabolic diseases, or damage to the spinal cord. Your veterinarian will also test the spinal reflexes, along with taking radiograph images to assess any damage to the limbs. These will reveal the condition of your rabbit's spine, and whether the bone is in fact fractured, or has become dislocated from its socket. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to provide the most accurate images of what is going on with the limbs, but this type of imaging is not always available for small animals.
The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance
A type of paralysis that may be only slight; affects the way that an animal is able to move
A record of body structures using an x-ray
The fourth in a sequence of fused vertebrae near the pelvis and the spinal cord
A medical condition; implies that the patient is unable to control their urination.
The dislocation of a bone from the joint
The part of the back between the pelvis and the thorax
The end of the gastrointestinal tract; the opening at the end of the tract.
Inducing death on an animal or putting them to sleep
The digestive tract containing the stomach and intestine
The condition of being drowsy, listless, or weak
Any substance known to eliminate feeling; usually applied during a painful medical procedure.