Spondylosis deformans is a degenerative, non-inflammatory condition which affects a rabbit's spine. It causes the rabbit's body to form noncancerous tumor-like growths (or osteophytes) in the spinal column, most commonly the lower spine. And while many rabbits with this condition show no symptoms, some will suffer from pain.
Some rabbits with spondylosis deformans will display neurological problems because of the compression of the spinal cord. Other symptoms include:
- Weakness of the rear limbs
- Hair loss or flaking of the scalp
- Matted fur or soaking of under-belly or perineum area
- Buildup of ear wax in the canals because the animal is not able to properly groom
Trauma, genetic predispositions and obesity are all risk factors for spondylosis deformans. Obesity can especially lead to this spinal condition because the rabbit's bones alter and deteriorate due to the excess weight.
The veterinarian will first want to rule out common causes of back pain, such as degenerative joint disease, certain forms of arthritis and even dental disease may lead to similar symptoms. X-rays, however, are generally used to identify osteophytes in the spinal column and diagnose spondylosis.
If obesity is the cause of the spinal disorder, the veterinarian will put the rabbit on an exercise and diet regimen. If the rabbit is not able to move or get around, it may require basic hygiene care such as regular baths and a constant change of bedding.
Pain is a frequent symptom of spondylosis and the veterinarian will usually prescribe pain-relievers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for this, while antibiotics are recommended to protect against infection. In some cases, however, certain steroid medications are used in rabbits to assist in wound healing or to protect against ulcers.
Living and Management
Regular exercise and a healthy diet rich in fresh greens will help prevent or reduce obesity, a contributing factor to this spinal disorder. Also, the disease typically progresses with age, so bring the rabbit to the veterinarian for routine follow-up exams, especially as it gets older.