Neck and back pain are common causes for discomfort along the spinal column. For a rabbit that is affected by pain in the neck and/or back, the pain may originate in the epaxial muscles (in the back near the spinal axis), turnk muscles, or in the muscles along the vertebrae or spinal column.
Symptoms and Types
The symptoms and types of neck and back pain will depend largely on the underlying cause(s) of them. Disc diseases and other neurological problems may cause mild to severe neck and back pain, either of which can lead to partial (paresis) or full paralysis of the body. Trauma and injury can lead to temporary back and neck pain, or can lead to a condition of chronic (long term) back pain. Nerve entrapment can also occur, leading to acute (sudden and severe) or sporadic (occasional) neck and back pain, which may or may not respond to treatment.
Other signs and symptoms of neck and back pain may include:
- Weakness in the limbs or other areas of the body
- Painful movements
- Limping or inactivity, hunching, hiding
- Loss of bladder control (incontinence)
- Inability to control bowel movements, which can lead to sores and infection, especially if the rabbit is unable to move properly to facilitate bowel movements, or is not able to properly self groom
- Loss of hair (alopecia) or skin lesions in the affected area (possibly from rubbing, limping, or from improper movement of the affected area)
- Weight gain or weight oss
- Teeth grinding
- Pain when breathing
- Abscesses that result in skin infections, including cellulites that can lead to scabbing and additional areas of patchy hair loss
Causes for neck and back pain in rabbits may include trauma or injury, infections that have grown into abscesses, wounds under the skin, or other related infections.
You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your rabbit's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. A blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. The blood and urine tests may show evidence of a bacterial or viral infection.
Your veterinarian will want to rule out systemic diseases that might have led to the back and neck pain, including cardiovascular diseases, which may also contribute to symptoms of lethargy and obesity. Other diseases, including neurological diseases that can cause musculoskeletal pain, will also need to be ruled out prior to a final diagnosis.
Treatment and care will depend on the underlying cause for the back and neck pain. In fact, your veterinarian will not want to minimize the symptoms with palliative care before the exact cause for the symptoms has been determined. Most activity will be restricted and a modified diet may be offered to help reduce obesity and further weight gain.
Medications may include anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids to bring down swelling and inflammation, and to help relieve pain. Patient monitoring and treatment for infections, along with preventative steps for avoiding -- or treating -- urinary tract infections may also be necessary.
Living and Management
For minor injuries the prognosis may be good. However, if the pain is related to a more severe injury or condition, your rabbit may need to cope with chronic pain and you may need to administer long-term pain management.