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Rabbits/Urgent- Rabbit with head tilt (Rolling) , no longer repsonding to treatment


HI Dana,

We have a 2 year old Rex named Benie. About 3 months ago she started to have co-ordination issues and developed a head tilt. We took her to a general vet who examined her and recommended a 28 day treatment of Panacur as well as Baytril ( administered in her ears) after some research. We noticed significant improvements after about 3 weeks. After the 28 days on Panacur she seemed back to normal . 2 weeks later she started to get her head tilt back and we started the Panacur and Baytril again.She did not seem to be responding as she had previously. In addition to the head tilt she started rolling uncontrollably. At this point the vet who was very helpful recommended we see a rabbit specialist as she was in over her head. The new vet recommended we continue with Baytril (oral) , Penicillin and Pancur. Again Benie seemed to respond after several weeks ( less rolling and head tilt) . At this point the Vet recommended we stop the Panacur and continue with Baytril and Penicillin. Once again after about 9 days her symptoms got worse. We then stopped the baytril and went to Sulfamethoprim DS Oral (in case it was Toxoplasmosis) Penicillin (once weekly), Panacur and a Probiotic. Again the rolling was reduced (not stopped)  as was the head tilt. She has started to roll again and we are at wits end. The latest treatment is Penicillin twice weekly, Sulamethoprim ( twice daily) , Panacur and a Probiotic. Getting an MRI is difficult as their is no machine in my city .We would rather not but we are considering Euthanasia if her quality of life does not improve. She has maintained a healthy appetite throughout this ordeal and does move around her pen,which we customized to make her comfortable. We have spent thousands at this point . Can you suggest any other alternative treatments ?

Her current symptoms , heat tilt (30 degrees) , exhibits a Nystagmus only when on her back, rolls ,she can right herself fairly well. Appetite is good as are her droppings.



Dear Paul,

Our rabbit vets use dual-acting Penicillin G Procaine/Benzathine once every 48 hours.  If you are not using it that frequently, you run the risk of losing your therapeutic levels in the tissues.  This not only allows the susceptible pathogens to proliferate, but you also are performing a little experiment in evolution in your bunny:  natural selection. Only the most resistant bacteria will survive, and those will the the progenitors of the next generation.  This is one reason it's best to hit HARD and FAST with antibiotics if you are going to use them.  

What dose of penicilllin is the vet using?  If you are using only Penicillin-G Procaine, and not dual-acting penicillin, it's even worse, as the former does not last long in the tissues.  It is the Benzathine salt that is long-release, providing bacteria-killing protection for about 48 hours.

For more information, please also read:


I hope this helps.



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:

Find a rabbit vet at for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.

RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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