A Small Injury Takes a Later Toll

When I first saw my baby French lop, I noticed a small wound on his left lower leg, and when I asked the breeder about it, she said another bunny had probably nipped him. The day I took Wesley home, we made a stop at his “pediatrician’s office” for a well baby check. Dr. Thiele said that when Wesley hopped, his left foot was thrown out at an angle, but he was otherwise a perfect baby bunny.

Lost Hop

Three years and 15 pounds later, Wesley was being baby-sat by my daughter when we were out of town. We received a phone call at 9:30 p.m. Wesley couldn’t hop and was dragging his left foot behind him. I told my daughter to take him to the 24-hour veterinary hospital.

I called the doctor on duty and gave her Wesley’s history. After an examination and X-rays, the doctor made a diagnosis of a dislocated left hip. Wesley spent the night in the hospital. The next morning Dr. Thiele gave him a general anesthetic and rotated the hip back in place.

We drove twelve hours straight through and as soon as we got back into town, I headed for the hospital to see Wesley. Although I couldn’t pick him up or move him, he sure was glad to see me. I hand-fed him, and he ate small amounts and drank some water.

Home Support Care

Dr. Thiele re-examined him and let us take him home. I kept him confined in a small cage so that he wouldn’t move around. Within the first few days, I noticed sore hocks and urine burn, as he wasn’t able to use his litterbox.

I started using Panalog ointment on the areas, and I bought four large synthetic sheepskin rugs–two to use while two were washed. They wash up beautifully and dry fast. I discovered you cannot use water softener on them, as the urine beads up on the top and does not run through.

We saw an improvement within the next couple of days, and then I noticed his dewlap was wet and soggy, and his chin was inflamed. I clipped the hair around the area, started using Panalog and raised his water dish. The inflammation cleared up in a couple of days also. I gave Wesley a sponge bath twice a day with a damp warm cloth, since he couldn’t yet groom himself.

Within a week or so, Dr. Thiele said he could go back into his condo, which is about 6 feet by 3 feet, and needless-to-say, Wesley was glad to get back “home.” He stayed in his condo throughout the day while I was at work, and as soon as I got home, I put him in his small cage in the living room so he could be part of the family, which consists of two English Springer Spaniels, one cat and two birds. He loved it, as he is used to being able to run free in the house. This way, at least, he had a chance to be a part of the family in the evening.

Recovery Efforts

Within the next couple of months, we had our ups and downs. Every three to four weeks, he would get X-rays and an exam. Dr. Thiele said the bone was in the joint, but not as tightly as in the right hip. Wesley gets around now in the living room only, so we can keep a good eye on him. He can groom his right side, but not the left hindquarters. He hops, somewhat, on the left leg, but mostly he still has a tendency to drag it. X-rays showed Wesley’s hip and pelvis had grown out of alignment due to the fracture he had when he was a baby.

Dr. Thiele and I have checked with many other veterinarians and no one has come up with any real suggestions except to cut off the head of the bone and hope it will grow into an artificial joint on its own. veterinarians are familiar with treatment of fractured backs and legs, but none had heard of a dislocated hip, much less its treatment.

By Sheila Winn

The anatomy of the rabbit’s rear legs predisposes it to fractures of the femur as well as separations of the vertebras in the lower back. Both of these conditions are all too familiar to anyone associated with rabbits, so the treatment options and prognosis for these particular conditions are well known.Wesley, an 18-pound French lop, owned by Sheila Winn, presented with the unusual problem of a disclocated hip. His tibia had been broken as a very young rabbit. It had totally healed, but with an angular deformity. This caused an outward force on the hip, which eventually led to a breakdown of the tissues holding the hip in place and resulted in the dislocation with much less trauma to the hip than is usually necessary to dislocate a hip.

We placed Wesley under anesthesia and were able to get the hip back into the socket, but, because of the rabbit’s anatomy, we were unable to place a sling on the leg to hold the hip in. He was kept confined until we felt that the muscles and joint capsule had had a chance to heal. He had done very well for the first 8 weeks, and then the hip dislocated again. At that time we were faced with the decision of doing surgery to remove the head of the femur to form a false joint, or leave the femur intact and see if he would form a non-painful false joint where the hip landed on the pelvis. We chose to see how he would do without surgery. After three weeks he has regained about 90% use of his legs, and exams and radiographs show that he is in the process of forming a strong false joint.

One case must not be used to determine the best way to treat any particular problem, but I feel that with this particular problem in rabbits, the best course of treatment would be to try to reduce luxation, and if that fails, to allow 4-6 weeks to see if a non-painful false joint can be formed. If these attempts fail, then a femoral head ostectomy may be tried to remove the protrusion of bone that is causing the pain.

By Wayne Thiele, DVM