Muscle spasms in rabbits can be a sign of illness, and you should take them seriously. If you notice your pet rabbit is having muscle spasms, call a veterinarian immediately. Typically, muscle spasms are a symptom of two major rabbit illnesses: head tilt and Viral Hemorrhagic Disease of Rabbits, or VHD.
Head Tilt Cause
Head tilt is a serious illness in rabbits which causes the rabbit's head to tilt to the side, and the rabbit is unable to move it back to the upright position. Head tilt can be caused by a variety of things, one of them being muscle spasms. A rabbit that has muscle spasms in the cervical muscle may experience temporary head tilt. If the muscle is able to relax, the head tilt will subside. Other causes of head tilt include ear infections, stroke, cancer and trauma. If you notice head tilt, call a veterinarian immediately to diagnose and treat the rabbit.
Head Tilt Treatment
Depending on the cause of head tilt, a veterinarian will likely prescribe a round of antibiotics for the rabbit. Rabbits need special care when suffering from head tilt. The eye that faces closes to the floor will not be able to close, so you must put eye drops into the eye to keep it moist. Also, rabbits suffering from head tilt may have a hard time eating, and you might need to hand-feed them fresh fruit and veggies. If the rabbit refuses food, you may need to feed it through a syringe.
VHD is an infectious viral disease that typically spreads to domesticated rabbits. This disease attacks the rabbit's internal organs, most often specifically the liver. One symptom of VHD is muscle spasms. Other symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, congestion, lethargy and bleeding. VHD is exceptionally dangerous, because symptoms may not show themselves until just before death, or there may be no symptoms at all.
Unfortunately, not many treatments work for VHD because once a rabbit has contracted the virus, it usually dies within 24 hours. This is because the internal organs affected typically experience massive hemorrhaging. VHD is prevalent in Australia, New Zealand and China, as well as several European countries including England, Spain and Italy. VHD has little to no presence in the United States.
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Catherine Copeland has been writing professionally since 2005. Her articles have been published in newspapers such as "The Jackson Citizen Patriot" and "The State News." Copeland holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University.