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broken leg 1
broken leg 1  
Hi Dana,
I have a 7 year old female bunny which broke her right hind leg 3 days ago. My mum was moving stacks of boxes in our house and did not realise that our rabbit  was chewing the string that held the boxes together. One stack weighing approx 12 kg fell on her and she broke her right hind leg in the accident. Fortunately I was at home when the accident happenned. When I found her, her leg was dangling from the knee. I immediately took her to our regular vet (who is a rabbit specialist). An xray showed that the bone was broken in multiple places. The vet concluded that a surgery to join the broken pieces together would be very difficult and risky so she gave me 2 options: amputation or an external splint for 4 weeks and see whether the bone heals. I opted for the external splint. The vet then put my bunny under general anaesthetic and put a splint from above the knee and all the way to the foot. My bunny was prescribed tramal 3x a day for 3 days to help with the pain. Since the accident my bunny has been eating normally. However i noticed that the leg is now twisted inward and I can see her toes from the other side of her body (see attached photos). The toes are still warm which is a good sign. The vet saw my bunny again today and she thinks that my bunny intentionally twist her leg inward to avoid putting any pressure on it while hopping. My bunny has been caged since the accident to limit her movements. My question is, given my bunny's age, will the bones ever heal? Secondly, if the leg does heal, will it be in the twisted position it currently is in? If the leg doesnt heal, can we still avoid amputation and what are the risks? Have you seen rabbits with this kind of injury before and what wad the outcome? My vet is a very experienced rabbit vet but I get the feeling that she may have downplayed the extent of my rabbit's injury as I was already in tears when I took my bunny there :( this rabbit has been a part of my family for 7 years and we hope that she can live the rest of her life peacefully and pain free. I have contacted you as I read your response to other rabbit owners questions on this website and found them very informative. Thank you very much for your help!

Answer
Dear Indri,

I'm so sorry about this terrible accident. Poor bunny, and poor you!

The good news:  I think the vet did the right thing by trying the splint first.  Whether the bones knit or not is impossible to know in advance.  But that the toes are warm and responsive is good.

Yes, she might be turning her foot inwards to avoid pressure.  But it's also possible the bones are moving a bit, making her foot turn inwards.  If this is the case, and the bones are already starting to knit, then there is little you can do about it.  She may live her life with her foot turned inwards a bit.  It's probably better than not having a foot at all!

That said, if the bones do not knit, then amputation is the only other option.  If the bones have been left for weeks without surgery, then it might be too late to surgically pin them together, and the results might be no better.  

But on the plus side, I have had *several* tripod bunnies, and they all do very well.  A hind leg is actually easier for a bunny to lose than a front leg, and they do learn to negotiate quite well with only one hind leg.  You'll just have to keep her ear clean for her on that side, and be sure to scratch her when you see that she's trying to use her "phantom leg" to scratch herself.

Just as a note:  We recently had a bunny with a similar injury to yours:  Her ankle was dangling, and her tibia and fibula were shattered at the bottom.  The vets wanted to do the "traditional" amputation, mid-femur.  Because the femur was intact, I asked if it would be possible to simply remove the tibia and fibula at the knee, and leave a generous pad of muscle and tissue under the knee for cushioning.

Both vets involved were skeptical, saying that the leg would bruise and be painful.  But the surgeon said he was willing to try it.  So he did.

All three of us have been pleasantly surprised!  It has now been more than a year, and Saraluna is doing GREAT.  She has MUCH better balance than a mid-femur amputee, and is able to sit normally on her bum, unlike a mid-femur amputee.  The two vets in attendance were very happy with the results, and both plan to try this type of amputation in the future, if the necessity presents itself.

So that might be something to consider, if it comes to amputation.  Just discuss it with your vet, and please feel free to share the information above with your vet.

I hope all turns out well!

Dana

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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Expertise

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:
THE INTERNET IS NOT THE PLACE TO SEEK HELP IN AN EMERGENCY.

...it is an EMERGENCY.

Find a rabbit vet at www.rabbit.org/vet 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.

Experience

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.

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

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

Education/Credentials
Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology
(http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare)

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