Thursday, September 29, 2011



Yang ni pula berkenaan "Cannibalism" - ibu yang memakan anaknya selepas bersalin terutamanya bagi ibu yang pertama kali beranak. Di harap melalui artikel ini, ianya menjawab persoalan yang sering diutarakan oleh penternak-penternak kepada saya selama ini.


When a strange visitor, rodents or household pets enter the rabbitry; almost immediately after the doe has delivered her young, rabbit cannibalism occurs. Rabbit cannibalism means eating of the young rabbits by their parents. This act of eating up of the young is an inherent survival response of the doe. The problem of rabbit cannibalism usually occurs at night. It is this time when varmints and rodents are most active. If you want to know more about rabbit cannibalism, help yourself by reading the following piece of writing.

Causes of Rabbit Cannibalism

Rabbit cannibalism may result from various conditions. These conditions include the one when a doe becomes excited by an environmental change or when the status of nutrition, generally water is limited. The most common cause is when a doe gets fright around the time when she gives birth. Noise, strange people, predators in the barn can act as a cause of stress for the doe. The doe can be stressed to that extent where she can eat up her own kids. There are some rabbit lines or families that are more panicky or high-strung than others. If you catch a doe destroying a second successive litter, take her away from your breeding program. Some more causes of rabbit cannibalism that should be taken into consideration to ensure the best rabbit health care are mentioned below-

Anomalous maternal instincts- Does that disperse their kits and/or build a poor nest are liable to be more likely to also cannibalize their kits. Give them just one second chance if this is the doe’s first litter.

The chances of rabbit cannibalism are increased by a low-calorie or restricted feeding. On palpating the abdomen of a pregnant rabbit around day 10 and you feel babies, gradually increase the amount of feed until the doe has her fill to her heart’s content.

Other concern includes a check of the water supply system to guarantee that ample amounts of fresh and cool water are available. If water is not flushed regularly from overhead water pipes when weather is hot, the water may become too hot to be drunk. The does may not drink adequate water and result may be cannibalism.

Treatment of Rabbit Cannibalism

Cull the doe that continues with cannibalism. Feed it a pellet ration, offer ample fresh and clean water and keep her calm. If a doe becomes disturbed or excited during kindling, cannibalism occurs; especially, barking dogs can upset a doe and she can eat up her litter. A doe belonging to a production strain having excellent maternal instincts should be bred into the line. This usually helps in putting a check to the practice of cannibalism. If you have a cannibalistic doe, try to change her hutch from the last litter and check water supply also to see that she has ample drinking water. Make use of vitamin/electrolyte supplements in the drinking water during hot periods. Water consumption is increased with addition of electrolytes to the water. At mid-afternoon, hot water in these pipes should be flushed so that it is not excessively hot for drinking. Last but not the least; check all animals and visitors from entering or roaming near the rabbitry.

A fairly common grievance is that does neglect their newly-born young or eat them. These vices may be due to several causes. The temperament of the doe is important and a doe may neglect her first litter. If she destroys or neglects her second, she should be eliminated. It is probable that lack of maternal instinct has a familial tendency and does which do not show these signs should be selected. Bad nutrition, particularly the lack of B group vitamins, has shown to be a cause and lack of water another. Undoubtedly some does will destroy their young if they have injured them whilst panicking. A doe will consume the afterbirth which is attached to the youngsters and may, inadvertently, eat part of the youngster as well. By selection of does having a quiet temperament and by supplying adequate food and water, rabbit cannibalism can largely be eliminated.



Artikel kali ini pula berkenaan masalah-masalah yang sering berlaku pada bulu arnab, yang kadang-kala kita sangkakan disebabkan oleh masalah kurap sahaja.

Fur Loss and Skin Problems in Rabbits: Common Causes and Treatments
by Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

There are many reasons a rabbit can lose fur, some of them completely normal, and others a sign of health or behavior problems.

  • Causes of Normal Fur Loss
  • Causes of Abnormal Fur Loss

  • Normal Shedding: Proper Care

    A healthy rabbit will usually change her coat twice a year. If all things are normal, the shed areas will regrow fur as the old coat falls out.

    Some unfortunate rabbits seem to shed all the time. This may be due to inbreeding causing a problem with the normal genetic response to day length and other seasonal cues, or to too much artificial lighting disrupting the rabbit's normal Circadian rhythms. In any case, when your rabbit sheds, even during a normal shed cycle, there are certain things that you, the caregiver, can do to make sure the shed is uneventful and comfortable for your bunny.

    When a fastidious self-grooming animal such as a rabbit undergoes a shedding cycle, it's almost inevitable that some fur is going to be swallowed. Although rabbits do not typically get "hairballs" (with the exception of some of the long-haired breeds), ingested hair can be difficult to pass, and can make the bunny uncomfortable. The goal of the rabbit caregiver should be to reduce the amount of ingested hair as much as possible.

    Correct Diet Will Help Push Ingested Hair Through the Intestine

    Intestinal motility problems arise when a rabbit does not eat sufficient rough fiber and does not drink enough liquid to keep the intestinal contents well hydrated. Dehydrated intestinal contents are prone to form desiccated, difficult-to-pass masses of food and hair, and the situation can be made worse if the bunny is shedding/molting.

    During a molt, it's important that your bunny have free-choice, unlimited fresh grass hay, plenty of fresh, wet greens, and plenty of fresh, clean water to drink. A heavy, ceramic crock is better than a sipper water bottle, as a rabbit will usually drink more from a bowl, and in a more natural position. Hay, wet greens and water will all keep the intestinal contents well-hydrated and easy to pass, and the bunny far less likely to suffer from any intestinal irritation related to ingestion of hair.

    Don't worry if you see your bunny leaving "strings of pearls": fecal pellets strung together with twists of fur. If the fur is coming out, then things are working fine, though you might want to do more grooming to reduce the amount of hair the bunny swallows. Here's how.

    Grooming Off Loose Fur Will Help Prevent Fur Ingestion

    Daily grooming will help prevent discomfort during a shed cycle. A soft-tipped, wire brush or small, very fine-toothed flea comb will help you gently comb out loose fur. Careful plucking of loose fur tufts is also fair play, though many bunnies will object, and need to be groomed on a secure surface where s/he can't run off in protest.

    A good way to remove loose fur that's not tufting is the Wet Hand Rubdown. Moisten your hands, and gently rub the bunny backward and forward over the entire length of the body. Loose fur will stick to your moist hands and form a thick sheet. To remove the felt, simply rub your hands together to make a roll, throw it away, and repeat the procedure until your bunny's loose fur is mostly removed.

    In some cases, a bunny will undergo what we call a "coat blow," shedding great clumps of fur all at once, and sometimes even leaving small bald patches. If the bunny is healthy, within a few days the bald patches will become pigmented, and then start to grow hair. If this doesn't happen, however, the fur loss may be due to one of several disease processes, and you should consult your trusted rabbit veterinarian for help in determining what the problem is, and how to appropriately treat it.

    If you do not already have a veterinarian who is experienced and familiar with rabbit medicine, please use the House Rabbit Society Veterinarian Listing to find one near you.

    Abnormal Fur Loss

    Fur loss associated with

    Parasite Problems

    Fur loss can be caused by several different kinds of mites that can infest rabbits, including mange mites (Sarcoptes spp.), fur mites (Cheyletiella spp. and Leporacus spp.), and mites causing ear canker (Psoroptes spp. or Chorioptes spp.) and other problems (see below). A severe flea infestation also can cause such severe itching that the rabbit scratches off his own fur. Fortunately, there are excellent, modern medications available that are safe for rabbits, and will kill these parasites quickly, as described at the end of this section. rabbits.

    Sarcoptic Mange

    Mange is caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabei and other Sarcoptes species. In rabbits, the disease appears as beige to whitish crusts, often starting around the borders of the ears, edges of the eyelids, the nose, mouth, and toes. The crusts often have an unpleasant, musky smell, especially in the ears. If left untreated, the condition will progress until crusty, sometimes raw lesions cover more extensive areas of the body, causing itching, and predisposing affected areas to baceterial and/or fungal infection. Even mild cases of mange should be treated without delay, to avoid worsening of symptoms. The parasites are not difficult to treat, and results can be swift and dramatic, as Luke and Leia's "before" and "after" (one week after treatment with injectible ivermectin) pictures show:

    Fur Mites

    Symptoms of Fur mites (Cheyletiella parasitivorax) are more subtle than those of mange or ear canker, and these mites usually do not cause as much itching as some other types of mites. Fur mite infestations usually manifest as flakes in the skin that look like dandruff. In more advanced cases, the fur may actually start to fall out, leaving tufty or bald patches. Unfortunately, some types of fur mites are not easily found on skin scraping or visual inspection. But treatment with the proper medication (We have had excellent results with selamectin, sold as Revolution or Stronghold, depending on where you are.) will often clear up this problem, even if mites cannot be visualized.

    Ear Canker

    Psoroptes cuniculi, is one of the most painful and nasty types of mite infestations your rabbit can suffer. When Gypsy first came to us as an abandoned stray, she had the worst case we'd ever seen:

    Tropical Rat (and Pigeon) Mites

    Found in both subtropical and temperate regions is the Tropical Rat Mite (Ornithonyssus bacoti ), which feasts on many mammals, including humans. These can be extremely itchy, but also can be killed with ivermectin or selamectin. Permanent eradication of these mites is more challenging than of those that live on rabbits: because Ornithonyssus mites live permanently on a primary host (rats, and sometimes pigeons), the problem of mite transmission to your rabbit or other companion animals will persist until the population of primary hosts is removed from your local environment.

    Burrowing Mange Mite

    Also worthy of mention is a nasty, though fairly uncommon (in rabbits) mite, the Burrowing Mange Mite (Trixacarus caviae) that can cause extremely painful itching. These may be quite difficult to visualize, even with skin biopsy. Although they are more common in Guinea Pigs (in which they can cause fatal seizures) than rabbits, these mites have been rarely reported on rabbits. Rabbits affected with Trixacarus caviae may itch so badly that they become aggressive and sullen, while showing no apparent symptoms of illness other than scratching. Fortunately, treatment with selamectin will kill these nasty parasites, affording the rabbit relief within 24 hours of medication. We have heard of several cases in which a formerly sweet-natured rabbit (already neutered) became inexplicably vicious. Attending veterinarians could find nothing obviously wrong, but it was only treatment with selamectin that solved the problem and allowed the rabbit to become his old, sweet self again. A mite infestation was never confirmed, but the circumstantial evidence leads us to wonder.

    Rabbit-Safe Remedies for Mites, Fleas, and Ticks

    Almost any species of mite can be killed with topical application of selamectin (Revolution or Stronghold) from your veterinarian. An older, related drug, ivermectin, is also effective, but is injected, and does not last as long in the system as selamectin.

    Even though they may be labeled for use in rabbits by the manufacturer, over-the-counter products such as permethrin or pyrethrin-containing flea powders or shampoos are NOT recommended. They are neither as safe nor as effective as the aforementioned medications.

    Similarly, although mineral oil or topical ointments instilled in the ears are sometimes suggested as treatments for ear mites, they are not effective in the long term, and may make things worse, if there is underlying infection. For this reason alone, it is wise to always seek the help of a rabbit-savvy veterinarian to treat any of the problems listed below, and not try to diagnose or treat them yourself.

    DO NOT, under any circumstances, use Frontline (fipronil) on your rabbit! Although this flea control product is apparently safe for other species, it has been implicated in many rabbit deaths due to severe neurological side effects. Check the package labeling, and you will see that the manufacturer now states that their product should not be used on rabbits.

    We have found selamectin to be the most effective medication for persistent flea and mite infestations, and particularly for fur mites. Mange-afflicted little Tyler--shown below as "before", "during" and "after" selamectin treatment below--would agree!

    Ringworm fungus

    Fur loss due to this microorganism is usually patchy, characterized by relatively round bald patches with distinct edges. The skin may be only slightly irritated, sometimes with tiny, raised red spots. Ringworm can be treated with topical application of miconazole- or ketoconazole-containing creams from your veterinarian (Do not use over-the-counter preparations for humans! These have not been formulated for use on an animal that grooms itself.). Fungal infections also can be treated with Program (lufenuron), which inhibits the formation of chitin (an important structural component of the fungus' cell walls). Always consult your veterinarian for the most appropriate medication for your rabbit's condition.

    Other Possible Causes of Fur Loss

    Parasites are not the only reason your rabbit may be losing fur. Here are some other possibilities.

    Fur Loss Around the Mouth and Under the Chin: Dental Problems!

    In some rabbits, fur loss is restricted to the area just under the chin, in the folds of the dewlap (the fleshy flap of skin and tissue under the skin), or down the chest. Often, but not always, the fur and/or skin there will be wet. In many, but not all cases, the rabbit will also develop suddenly picky eating habits. These can vary greatly among individuals, with some rabbits being willing to eat pellets, but not hay, others eating hay but not pellets, some refusing to drink, and still others refusing everything but the most favorite treats. In short, any change in eating preferences is usually a good enough reason for a dental exam by an experienced rabbit vet.

    Signs like this are almost surely due to molar spurs or other dental problems such as a molar abscess. These will make the bunny drool. Since saliva is caustic, it burns the skin, making the wet area itchy and sore, and causing the fur to fall out. Some rabbits will actually chew at the irritated area so much that they develop open sores.

    Although just about any rabbit can get molar spurs and other dental problems, they are more prevalent in short-faced breeds such as lops and dwarf rabbits, as well as in rabbits five years or older.

    The solution to this problem is to find a very experienced rabbit vet who can do a deep oral exam to detect any molar spurs (some sensitive rabbits will show these signs even from very small spurs), and file them smooth, as necessary. If no spurs are visible, then head radiographs may be necessary to see if there are any signs of tooth rooth infection or other mouth problem that's causing the bunny to drool.

    Fur loss around the rear end and belly: Urine Burn

    In some rabbits, fur loss is restricted to the area between the hind legs, around the tail, and sometimes up the belly and onto the feet. If there is no fur loss anywhere else on the body, then the possibility that a urinary tract problem (e.g., urinary tract infection, bladder sludge, bladder stone) causing urine leakage should be considered. It is important to learn a little about specific
    urinary tract disorders in rabbits, so that you will know what questions to ask your veterinarian.

    Like saliva, urine is caustic. If it collects in the fur, it will burn the underlying skin, causing fur to fall out and the skin to become red and raw. While the veterinarian is sorting out the cause of the urine leakage, and while medications are starting to do their work, you can keep your bunny comfortable and start the skin healing and fur growing back with a safe way to administer a rinse and/or dry Bunny Butt Bath. A rabbit should never be bathed completely, as this can cause so much stress as to be life-threatening. But a badly urine-burned behind must be gently cleansed, dried and protected so that the pain doesn't elicit worse problems, such as GI slowdown, or ileus.

    Bacterial Infection

    Rabbits living in warm, humid climates are particularly susceptible to bacterial skin infections, since they often cannot stay sufficiently dry. Moisture (from rain or just from atmospheric humidity) collects in the fur, especially around the hindquarters, just above the tail and the backs of the thighs where the rabbit cannot easily reach, and the skin becomes friable, stinky, and dangerously prone to deadlyi myasis (fly strike).

    The best way to prevent this is to keep your rabbit in a dry habitat, and if your bunny is outdoors, to constantly check for signs of skin irritation due to too much moisture. Fly strike can occur and develop so quickly that missing fly eggs laid on bacteria-laden skin and fur can become a life-threatening situation in as little as twelve hours.

    If your vet diagnoses bacterial skin infection, the bunny may need to be shaved down over the affected areas, and appropriate medications administered, preferably guided by the results of a culture and sensitivity test to see which rabbit-safe antibiotic will be most effective against the particular pathogen your bunny has.

    Nest building due to false (or real) pregnancy

    If your bunny is female and unspayed, you may witness her pulling tufts of fur from her chest, belly and sides, then rushing off to line a nest she's made of household items (such as the stuffing of your couch and pillows). If there's no way your bunny could be pregnant except by Immaculate Conception, then she's having a false pregnancy. This means it's time to have her
    spayed to avoid the risk of uterine cancer, mammary cancer, and other health problems associated with an intact female reproductive system that's not being used.

    If your bunny is actually pregnant, please see our section on how to care for a surprise litter of babies, and how to avoid this in the future.

    Overgrooming by a bonded companion

    You'll have to catch them in the act to determine whether this is the cause. Overgrooming is not a normal behavior, and can be a sign of boredom. Try letting your bonded bunnies have more free running time, or provide them with a variety of new toys to distract them from the grooming behavior, and break the cycle. It's important that your rabbits have a large enough running space so that the groomee can get away from the attentions of the groomer if s/he wishes to do so.

    Tufting/fighting among rabbits

    If you have a group of rabbits living together, there's always the possibility that they're having turf wars while you're not there. Check the bunny for any scabs or cuts. These would be an indication that there's fighting going on when you're not watching.

    If the bunnies are fighting, it's important to have them all spayed and neutered, for their health and longevity, and your peace of mind. Severe fighting should be absolutely prevented, as serious injuries can result, not to mention permanent hatred between the warring bunnies. For tips on how to bond bunnies and how to mend broken bunny bonds, please read this information from the House Rabbit Society.

    Hormone imbalance

    This is not often seen in rabbits, but is one possible cause of fur loss in any mammal. If your vet suspects this is the cause of your rabbit's fur loss, s/he may wish to take a blood sample and send it to a laboratory for analysis of thyroid function, and other endocrine systems.

    I hope this helps you on the road to determining the cause of fur loss in your companion rabbit. Please feel free to email me if you have questions.

    Saturday, September 24, 2011



    Berikut ini adalah artikel berkenaan mengapa dan bagaimana untuk merawat arnab yang mempunyai masalah gigi yang memanjang lebih daripada saiz biasa. Di harap artikel ini dapat membantu rakan-rakan yang mempunyai masalah tersebut.


    By Sari Kanfer, DVM and Alexandra Logsdon

    Most people know that rabbits have four large incisors (front teeth), but not everyone realizes that they also have other teeth besides those large incisors. They have two tiny incisors located right behind the upper incisors. These are called peg teeth. In the back of their mouth they have six upper and five lower cheek teeth on each side. The incisors have a sharp edge and scissor-like action, and are mainly used to slice through vegetation; and the cheek teeth are used for grinding food into smaller pieces (chewing) for swallowing.

    Rabbit teeth are similar to horse teeth. They have evolved over time to break down tough, fibrous vegetation, such as grasses, weeds, twigs and leaves, the natural forage of wild rabbits. To compensate for this constant wear, rabbit teeth are open-rooted, which means they grow continuously throughout their lives.

    A rabbit whose diet is insufficient in fiber, such as a pellets-only diet, will be unable to properly wear down its teeth. When this happens, the crown (the visible section of the tooth) grows higher and meets the opposing tooth abnormally, leading to abnormal wear and the eventual development of sharp edges or points (also called spurs). Sharp tooth edges are painful and can get long enough to cut the tongue, or can cut the inside of the cheeks, causing soft tissue abscesses. When teeth don't occlude (meet) properly, it is called malocclusion. Maloccluded teeth create abnormal pressure against one another, which can cause the tooth roots to become impacted, elongated and inflamed. Tooth root impaction is extremely painful and will eventually lead to an infection in the bone, or "jaw abscess."

    Once a rabbit has a malocclusion, it is likely that he will never have normal teeth, and may require frequent vet visits, regular tooth trims under anesthesia, and possibly even abscess surgery. With tooth trims and increased dietary fiber we can keep rabbits comfortable and provide them with a good quality of life. But tooth problems cannot be ignored - they will not get better on their own. Your best bet is early diagnosis and careful monitoring.

    Normal Rabbit Teeth

    Some Commonly Asked Questions

    How Do I Keep My Rabbit’s Teeth Healthy?

    Yearly or twice yearly dental check-ups by your rabbit savvy vet, plus a healthy, high fiber diet are two important factors in keeping the teeth in good shape.

    Hay is the most important part of your rabbit’s diet, not only because of the necessary fiber content that keeps the gut functioning properly, but also because it requires a great deal of chewing. We also believe, from hours of observing both domestic and wild rabbits, that it is important to offer your rabbit a daily variety of hays. Why? Because different hays have different textures, and different hay textures require different chewing mechanics, and thus help to keep those ever-growing teeth worn down naturally. Limiting the pellets that you feed your rabbit is important, because it will help encourage your rabbit to eat more hay, rather than filling up on the less fibrous food.

    It is also helpful to offer your rabbit tough, fibrous tree branches, leaves and twigs. It is important to make sure you gather these from rabbit-safe trees and bushes that have NOT been chemically treated with fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. While wooden chew blocks are fun to play with and great for the front teeth (if your rabbit chews on them), they are not particularly useful for the back teeth.

    Some rabbit-safe chewables you may find in your yard:

    • Orange or lemon trees – branches may be fed fresh or dried
    • Apple trees – branches may be feed fresh or dried
    • Willow - branches may be fed fresh or dried
    • Maple, Ash and Pine trees – branches should be dried
    • Rose Canes – remove thorns, branches and leaves may be fed fresh or dried

    You may want to rinse the branches in water, or place in the freezer overnight to kill any bugs.

    To Sum Up: Both the rabbits front and back must be considered for good dental health. To help keep the teeth properly worn down, a rabbit must use them almost constantly; munching on hay throughout the day, as well as offering frequent branches, twigs and dried leaves helps to accomplish this.

    How do I know if my rabbit has bad teeth?

    Yearly (or more) visits to a rabbit-experienced veterinarian are essential. The veterinarian can do a fairly decent dental exam on an awake rabbit using a special mouth cone and good palpation, but a complete and thorough oral exam requires anesthesia. When your rabbit is under anesthesia to be spayed or neutered, this is an excellent time for the doctor to do a thorough oral exam. And of course, when a problem is suspected a complete oral exam, including skull x-rays, is indicated.

    What can I do at home, on a regular basis, to monitor my rabbit's teeth?

    1. Make sure your rabbit eats his daily pellet and veggie portions eagerly, and that he munches on his hay frequently throughout the day.
    2. Note any changes in your rabbits eating habits: no longer eating produce, ignoring pellets or having a hard time chewing them, eating less hay than usual, abnormal feces.
    3. Feel the left and right sides of your rabbit’s head - in front of the eyes, below the eyes on the cheekbone, and under the lower jaw. If you feel a lump on one side that is not on the other, go to your rabbit vet as soon as you can.
    4. Gently lift up upper lips to look at the incisors - do they meet evenly? If not, give your vet a call.
    5. Check for any drooling or excessive wetness under chin (but don't worry if your rabbit has a moist chin for a short time after drinking or after eating vegetables).
    6. If your rabbit gives bunny kisses, you can smell his breath. A rotten odor is reason for a vet check. Beware - parsley-breath is nice, but cecotroph-breath can be pungent!
    7. Eye and/or nasal discharge can also be a sign that something is wrong with your rabbit's teeth.

    My rabbit is eating and not showing any signs of pain, doesn't that mean his teeth are healthy?

    NO! Rabbits are prey animals. This means that in the wild everything eats them, and if they show signs that they are ill, they are more likely to be targeted for dinner. Our domestic rabbits hide their pain in much the same way: This is why rabbits are so (frighteningly) good at hiding illnesses and why we as owners must be so diligent in observing them for small changes, as well as making sure that they get frequent vet check-ups and good vet care as-needed. Many rabbits have huge abscesses, or tongues nearly cut in half, before they start to show signs like drooling or decreased appetite. This is why its so important to have your rabbit's mouth checked regularly by a rabbit experienced vet.

    Rabbits have the potential for many tooth problems, which can affect their lifelong health. This is why it is so important to be observant, proactive and diligent about preventative care.

    Dr. Sari Kanfer practices at Animal Medical & Dental Group in Manhattan Beach and can be reached for appointments or consultations at (310)546-5731. She joined the board of Zooh Corner as Medical Director in January of 2002.

    Alexandra Logsdon has run Zooh Corner Rabbit Rescue since 1993 and has many years of practical experience. She may be reached via e-mail, or via the website

    Zooh Corner Rabbit Rescue



    Ramai yang bertanya kepada saya berkenaan "TELENG" yang berlaku pada arnab peliharaan mereka. Diharapkan pos ini sedikit sebanyak dapat memberi maklumat tentang penyakit tersebut.

    Treating Head Tilt (Torticollis)

    by Dana M. Krempels, Ph.D.

    What exactly is "head tilt?" The condition medically known as torticollis (which is Latin for "twisted neck") and sometimes as "wryneck" causes a rabbit's head to twist over sideways. Often, torticollis is accompanied by a rapid side-to-side movement of the eyeballs (nystagmus), an indication that the bunny is suffering from dizziness/vertigo that should be treated along with the problem causing the head tilt.

    Symptoms may appear very suddenly or exhibit a gradual onset, but the result is the same: a bunny is walking around with his head on "sideways." In some very severe cases, the bunny may be so disoriented that he simply cannot walk, and spends much of the time rolling sideways in a wild attempt to regain his footing. This is most distressing to the human caregiver, and far too many a bunny with head tilt has become the victim of his caregivers' well-meaning desire to "not let him suffer."

    In truth, head tilt is usually quite treatable, though recovery may be slow. Euthanasia should be considered only as a last resort, when all attempts to cure the infection have failed, leaving the bunny in misery, unwilling to eat, drink or act normally at all. Note, however, that a permanently tilted head is not a symptom requiring euthanasia! Many rabbits with their heads tilted at a jaunty angle are living completely happy lives, running and playing with all the vigor of their straight-headed bunny pals. The most important thing is to cure the source of the head-tilt symptom. Once this is accomplished, improvement of the rabbit's posture will follow more gradually, with physical therapy and exercise.

    It is not at all uncommon for symptoms of torticollis to appear very suddenly. As with almost any illness, the more rapidly the disorder is diagnosed and treated, the greater the chance for full recovery. If you do not already have a good veterinarian who is experienced with rabbit medicine, please use the House Rabbit Society veterinary referral list (linked here) to find one in your area.

    Causes of Torticollis

    Torticollis is not a single disease. It is a symptom of a problem with the rabbits' balance system, components of which include the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord, collectively called the "CNS"), the visual system, the vestibular apparatus in the inner ear, and even the pads of the feet, which tell the bunny he's standing on solid ground, the way gravity "intends" him to. Hence, a rabbit exhibiting torticollis may have a problem with one or more of the balance components, and causes of this include (but are not limited to)

    • middle- or inner-ear infection
    • parasitic infection of Encephalitozoon cuniculi in the CNS
    • parasitic infestation of a nematode worm, Baylisascaris procyoni
    • stroke
    • abscess or tumor in the brain (intracranial abscess)
    • head trauma

    Most of this article will focus on what we have found to be by far the most common cause of torticollis: middle- or inner-ear infection. A shorter section at the end will address each of the other possible causes.

    Ear Infection Of the causes listed, we have found that by far the most common is a middle- or inner ear infection. The Vestibular Apparatus, largely responsible for the sense of balance, is located in the bulla of the skull, a large, hollow space near the base of each ear. An ear infection can cause the tissues of the ear and inside the bulla to become inflamed, and this can interfere with proper function of the Vestibular Apparatus. A very severe inner ear infection can actually cause the bulla to fill with hard, caseous (i.e., of a tough, cheeselike texture) pus. This presses on the Vestibular Apparatus, and prevents its proper function. Any inflammation of the VA can cause head tilt.

    Under the best circumstances, pus is visible inside the ear, and the vet can take a sample for culture and sensitivity testing. This will reveal (1) the species of bacteria most likely responsible for the infection and (2) the types of antibiotics most likely to kill that species/strain of bacteria. Although the most common pathogens we have seen associated with head tilt are Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Pasteurella multocida, but there are many others which also can cause this problem. Each species/strain of bacteria has its own specific sensitivity and resistance to various antibiotics. Before you throw good money after bad in a "guess" at an effective antibiotic (some vets will automatically prescribe Baytril, since it's safe--but it may not be effective against the bacteria causing the problem!), it's really best to invest in For a culture and sensitivity test if there is pus inside the ear to culture.

    Once the results of the culture and sensitivity test are back, don't be surprised if your vet tries a combination of two different antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Many experienced rabbit veterinarians are now finding that combining two antibiotics is more effective at killing some of the more resistant bacteria found in rabbit ear infections. It is especially important that your veterinarian be familiar with the specific needs of rabbits in terms of antibiotics, since some of these drugs (e.g., any oral penicillins such as amoxycillin or ampicillin, and any lincosamine antibiotics) can be deadly to rabbits, even if they are commonly used on other species.

    Whatever the prescription, it is vitally important that you continue to give the rabbit the full dose for the full time span your vet has indicated. Stopping the antibiotic therapy before the infection is fully gone can simply promote the selection of a resistant strain of bacteria, since those are the last ones to die off when exposed to antibiotics. If you stop the antibiotics too soon, only the most resistant ones will be left to reproduce and repopulate your poor bunny's ear!

    In some cases, an ear infection appears highly resistant to the most commonly used antibiotics. A relatively recently "rediscovered" therapy that has proven highly effective in cases of head tilt, jaw abscesses and other infections of the head is treatment with bicillin, a rabbit-safe combination of injectible Penicillin-G Procaine and Benzathine. This has been used on rabbits who were deemed terminal and untreatable, and produced miraculous cures. It is something to consider if conventional antibiotic therapies are not effective.

    While the antibiotics are doing their work, your vet might also prescribe other drugs to help restore balance and control the discomfort associated with vertigo. Meclizine (commercially known as Anti-Vert) is excellent for controlling dizziness, though it will not work for every rabbit. If meclizine does not control the nystagmus, your vet might prescribe a course of short-acting corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation interfering with the vestibular apparatus. We have found that these drugs can sometimes help restore normal posture even before the infection is fully cured.

    It can sometimes take weeks or even months to completely cure an inner/middle ear infection. This may sound like a long time, but if supportive care is offered, and the rabbit continues to eat and drink normally and is still interested in life, it means she's not ready to give up. The condition is disorienting, but does not seem to be painful. The illness is temporary, if hard to watch, but it's worth a course of supportive care to see your bunny happy and running around again.

    The results of patient nursing a bunny through torticollis can be very rewarding. I have nursed three rabbits through head tilt. Slooby's head tilt appeared very suddenly. After only fourteen days on Baytril (enrofloxacin), he was completely cured, and has not had a recurrence.

    The other two, Hamish and Jamie Blue, had severe head tilts when they came to us as rescues. Jamie Blue not only had severe nystagmus; she was so disoriented that she could not stand up. She spent most of the time rolling uncontrollably, and had to be placed in a padded pen so that she would not accidentally hurt herself. Meclizine and corticosteroids helped with the immediate symptoms, but it took eight months on antibiotics to completely clear her ears of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa (which happened to be resistant to all the antibiotics tested except ciprofloxacin and colymicin) that was causing the problem.

    Hamish's head tilt was also due to Pseudomonas aeruginosa, but his strain was sensitive to Baytril and aminoglycosides (e.g., amikacin, gentocin). I mention this to illustrate that randomly selecting a common antibiotic that is "usually effective" against many strains of bacteria may be a waste of time and money. A culture and sensitivity test will usually end up paying for itself in terms of time and money saved on ineffective antibiotic treatments.

    Acupuncture, chiropractic treatments and massage have helped immensely with both Jamie Blue's and Hamish's head tilts. But it seems that the single most important form of physical therapy--once they stopped rolling--was regular exercise in a spacious play area where they can run in wider and wider circles, working themselves up to straight lines. Jamie Blue and Hamish both emerged from their head-tilt ordeals as happy, frolicking bunnies with a slight, residual head tilts. But even the slight tilts improved with exercise and more massage. You might be interested in a simple, but effective form of physical therapy shared with us by Larry Gavlak, who helped his bunny (Boper) regain his balance with a technique used on humans who have lost their sense of balance.

    The bottom line is this: treatment for head tilt caused by an ear infection is not only possible, but often very successful. It might take a lot of patience, and a realization that rabbits do not mourn over what might have been, nor what the future might hold. If your rabbit is willing to survive the moment, is eating and drinking and showing affection, and interest in life (however dizzily), s/he deserves a chance to heal. It is so rewarding to see a head tilt bunny race and frolic like a normal bunny, even if it takes several months of treatment and love.

    Encephalitozoon cuniculi

    Although there is very little conclusive evidence that this microsporidian parasite--related to coccidia and to the protists that cause malaria and other serious diseases--is truly a causative agent of torticollis. However, more and more circumstantial evidence seems to support the contention that--if only in some cases of rabbits with immunosuppression--that E. cuniculi can cause head tilt and other nervous system disorders, such as hind limb paresis, general weakness, and even seizures.

    E. cuniculi is apparently passed from rabbit to rabbit via cysts in the urine. The adult organisms inhabit the central nervous system and the renal (kidney) system, and rabbits with symptoms of "E. cuniculi type" head tilt (this is subtly different from that caused by infection, and is difficult to describe) often show signs of renal disease, as well. A number of excellent articles on this putative pathogen have been written, and can be accessed HERE.

    At the moment, positive diagnosis can be made only upon necropsy, and even then, histological results are not always conclusive. Some vets take blood samples to send to a laboratory for titer testing, to see whether the rabbit is producing antibodies against E. cuniculi. All this test will tell the vet, however, is that the rabbit has been exposed to the organism. A high titer may indicate that there is an active infection being battled by the immune system, but such results may be interpreted differently by each professional.

    Some practitioners have reported success in arresting symptoms of E. cuniculi (head tilt, hind limb paresis, renal dysfunction) with administration of the bendazole drugs (albendazole, oxibendazole, fenbendazole), which cross the blood-brain barrier and inhibit the function of tubulin, a protein vital for the parasite's feeding and infection of new cells. In a recent study, Suter, et al. (2001) reported that administration of 20mg/kg QD (once per day) of fenbendazole (which is metabolized to its active form, oxfendazole) was effective not only at preventing infection of rabbits by E. cuniculi, but also at eliminating signs of E. cuniculi infection in seropositive rabbits after four weeks of treatment. This is a promising new finding for a disease that was considered fatal and untreatable not long ago.

    Baylisascaris procyoni

    This is a roundworm (Phylum Nematoda) that ordinarily inhabits the intestine of raccoons. However, if other species (including humans) come into contact with eggs in raccoon waste, there is a possibility of "wrong host" infection. The larval worms migrate, not to the intestine, but to the kidneys and central nervous system, causing horrible, life-threatening problems.

    At present, there is no treatment and no cure for this parasitic infection.

    Central Nervous System Infections or Trauma

    If head tilt is caused by a stroke or head trauma, the best one might hope to do is treat accordingly and hope that administration of appropriate anti-inflammatory drugs will help restore normal posture over time.

    If the problem is believed to be caused by an intracranial abscess, with no pus to culture, then we would suggest treatment with bicillin at the outset, as this is often the only antibiotic able to cross the blood-brain barrier and be effective against many of the anaerobic bacteria that often cause such infections. In many cases, intracranial abscesses are associated with molar root infections. Because these often are caused by bacteria normally found in the intestine, antibiotic treatment can be particularly troublesome. Bicillin is one of the only drugs we have found that can combat these pathogens without entering the intestine and causing potentially life-threatening cecal dysbiosis associated with oral penicillins and lincosamine antibiotics.

    Whatever the cause of your rabbit's head tilt, I hope that some of the information here will give your vet and you some leads to pursue. Many, many people have written to me before, asking about head tilt. I'm happy to say that almost every one of them has written back to say that patience, loving husbandry and the proper medicine and physical therapy had their bunnies up and running. It may have taken a week, a month, or even several months, but everyone said it was worth the work.

    Literature Cited

    Suter, C., U. U. Muller-Dobles, J. M. Hatt and P. Deplazes (2001). Prevention and treatment of Encephalitozoon cuniculi in rabbits with fenbendazole. Veterinary Record 148, 478-480.

    copyright June 2002
    Dana Krempels, Ph.D.
    Department of Biology
    University of Miami
    Coral Gables, FL 33124