Limping Due to Pain or Injury in Rabbits

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Lameness in Rabbits


Lameness is defined as the disabillity of a limb to the point where movement is impaired. This is typically the result of a severe limb injury or as a side-effect of severe pain in the limbs. As the rabbit spends less time using the limb it may begin to favor other unaffected limbs. Moreover, the rabbit will appear to walk rather than hop, as it will not use its hind limbs to push off. The muscular, nervous, and skin systems may all be affected by lameness.


Symptoms and Types


In addition to limited range of motion in the joints, abnormal positioning of joints, and abnormal joint sounds, a rabbit with lameness may display signs such as:


  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Hunched posture while sitting
  • Reluctance to move
  • Hiding
  • Teeth grinding
  • Grunting or crying with movement
  • Decreased appetite or water intake
  • Lack of self grooming
  • Faulty gait — difficulty with hopping, climbing (stairs)
  • Imbalanced muscle mass
  • Bony prominences
  • Swelling over joints
  • Urine scald in the perineal region (due to inability to correctly position self for urination)




There are a variety of causes for lameness, including:


  • Congenital development abnormalities
  • Injury to soft tissue, bone, or joint
  • Infection — abscess, septic arthritis, pododermatitis (foot infection)
  • Soft tissue or bone tumors
  • Arthritis
  • Shoulder or hip dislocation (dysplasia)
  • Elbow dislocation (dysplasia)
  • Ligament tears or injuries
  • Fractures
  • Spinal diseases (intervertebral disc disease)
  • Spondylitis (inflammation of the vertebrae)
  • Obesity, lack of exercise




Your veterinarian will need to begin by differentiating between lameness due to muscle imbalance and lameness due to a nervous disorder. You will need to give a thorough history of your rabbit's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. A blood and urine analysis will be performed, and an examination of joint fluid to identify and differentiate joint disease.


Visual diagnostics will include X-rays for all suspected musculoskeletal causes, and computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to help identify and differentiate between causes. Your doctor may also use electromyography (EMG) to test the muscle's electrical activity. A muscle and/or nerve biopsy to study the cellular structure of the muscle tissue may also be necessitated by your doctor's findings.