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Rabbits/unresponsive rabbit?


QUESTION: Re Mimi - 5 yr old speyed female (overwight).

was thrashing in her box - and our 17 yr old took her out of her box and found she could not walk or move, other than to kick with her hind legs

trip to vet, eyes mostly closed, x-rayed (no probs detected), some reaction to head to toe when left hind leg manipulated, but no effort to get up or try to do anything, given pain-killer and obs til tomorrow morning. (Australia near midnight)

able to turn herself around in the carry cage, but not to raise self, or stand, just to re-position in carry cage, otherwise very unresponsive

any ideas or suggestions to vet for tomorrow morning?

ANSWER: Dear Helen,

I hope your bunny is better today.  It sounds as if you have done the right thing so far.  Keep her warm and quiet.  It is possible she has an inner ear infection that is causing extreme vertigo, and she cannot stay upright.  If this is the case, then the information here might help:

and for recovery:

If she is not able to eat or drink, you might have to help her until medications for this condition start to take effect and she improves.

I hope the vet was able to find out what was wrong, and that she is now recovering.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your advice and quick response Dana. The vet visit this morning made him pretty sure Mimi has hurt her spine - perhaps nerve damage/twisted disc - and is in pain.  She is on painkillers & anti-inflammatories.  She just has no strength and seems hardly able to lift her head - yet she will respond to me this morning by vaguely lifting her head and opening her eyes - where she just seemed unable to do this last night.

When the vet lifted her - it's as though her muscles no longer exist - yet she can move her legs (with no control) with quite a bit of strength. Her front legs also respond, but her left front leg seems a little stiff.  There's no control.  She can barely lift her head, and when she does (ever so slightly), it's as though she's either exhausted or it's just too much.  She very quickly closes her eyes again - but at least she's opening them in response this morning.

The vet thought he saw a little improvement.  Temp is fine, she looks at you clearly - but doesn't keep her eye open (except at the vet when handling her - she certainly kept her eyes open then) - but pupils/eyes operating normally (apart from her wanting to close them quickly.

It's more a lack of any muscle strength, that is the problem. Yet every few hours she has somehow managed to change her position - but with a lack of control about where her body/legs go - almost dragging herself (it's hard to explain)and ending up in very uncomfortable looking positions where she lays.  She is pretty much prone on her side.

I did rouse her slight interest in a piece of banana (the size of a small fingernail) and she held on to that piece - but I had to keep patting her and 'waking' her for her to chew and swallow it.  No response with hay or greens.  I don't know how to keep her nourished at this stage.

My husband has been dealing with a slipped disc, and he reckons the first few days he didn't even want to move his head or open his eyes for the pain.The vet is so certain it's spine damage - perhaps nerve or disc damage - but I just don't know.  I  don't think she has vertigo - it's as thought the middle of her body doesn't want to move - yet she's firm in the hand. Just no movement.

At the moment I am keeping her company and stroking her nose which she has always liked. I will offer her small wet greens again shortly and pat her again.  Dana, there have been times that, because she's so fat (I don't know why - she eats the same diet of green oaten hay and fresh greens as our lithe 10yr old rabbit and hare) that she's found it difficult to roll back off her side/back - and we've always worried she would damage herself by twisting too hard.  Is this possible and the vet is right?

Dear Helen,

If the vet cannot confirm a back injury via radiograph or other positive diagnostic test, he is just guessing.  And to tell you the truth, I don't buy that back injury suspicion. It just is not all that consistent with the signs, though it's not impossible.

If she is this weak, I wonder if bloodwork would be indicative of a problem.

And--this might sound crazy--but if this were my rabbit, I would start her on dual-acting Penicillin G/Benzathine injections (once every 48 hours) in case this is sepsis.  If it is sepsis, then you have little time to act.

I would strongly recommend you get a second opinion from a rabbit-savvy vet ASAP.  You may be able to find one here:

Can you listen for GI tract sounds?  This type of stress could elicit ileus, and that could make things even worse:

Please also see:

though I'm not sure how much that will help in a case like this.

I am sending healing thoughts, and hope that some of this will help the situation.



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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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