Q: I got my rabbit about a month ago. I’d say he’s about 4 to 5 months old. Yesterday he jumped onto the couch and after about a second of sitting on my lap his head started to tilt backward and he fell backward also. He was also making a weird noise with his mouth, almost like lips smacking together. I immediately tried to pick him up and see if he was OK, but he kept doing it. It was almost like he had no control of himself. I looked up rabbit seizures and it didn’t seem like that’s what it was, or maybe it’s just not as severe as what happens to others. But he stopped after a few seconds and then just sat there like he was shocked. I decided to wait it out but it happened again today, just not as long. I don’t know what to do or what I did wrong. Please give me any advice you can.
A: It is very difficult to determine exactly what happened to your rabbit from your description. When any animal has an episode that sounds like a seizure, for most owners, it can be difficult to fully describe exactly what happened. That is why making a diagnosis of a seizure disorder can be so difficult.
Usually the seizure itself happens at home, not at a veterinarian’s office. When pets are brought into the hospital when the owner suspects a seizure, one of the first things we do is perform a specialized neurologic exam. Part of that examination includes testing the cranial nerves of the brain that control movement and sensation of the face and head. We look at reflexes of all four limbs and try to see if the rabbit “recognizes” where it is in space and can it right itself. Sometimes, there are subtle, telltale signs of a seizure that we can see by doing these tests. But many times, the patient appears absolutely normal at our hospital.
If these are seizures, what your veterinarian may suggest you do before you visit is to keep a very detailed log of these items:
1. What time of the day did the seizure start;
2. How long did it last;
3. How often do they happen;
4. How long after the seizure did it take for your rabbit to look normal again;
5. Did anything seem to cause the seizure?
Having a record of the answers to these questions can help your veterinarian decide how best to proceed.
Finally, what causes seizures in rabbits? In general, the causes are the same categories of disease as we list in all animals — infections, genetic disorders, inflammation, toxins, cancer, and nutritional imbalances. The physical examination findings, the information in your log book, and a variety of diagnostic tests will help your veterinarian decide what is causing the signs you have seen and how best to treat your rabbit.