By Dr Olivia Down
Luna a 1yr old pet rabbit presented to us with a sudden onset of complete paralysis. Luna was unable to use any of her legs andwas collapsed on her side. Her body temperature was low and she was very flat. Initially x-rays were taken by Dr Olivia Down to check if Luna had a fractured spine as this is a common cause of a paralysed rabbit.
The spinal x-rays were normal which was great news as it meant Luna had a chance to be treated for other causes of acute onset paralysis. Luna was then treated for hypothermia and shock with intravenous fluids and active warming using our ‘Bair hugger’ warmer. The supportive care was successful and by later that afternoon Luna’s temperature and vital signs had improved, she was able to take food by a syringe.
With the neurological examination and some advice from The Melbourne Rabbit Clinic, a presumptive diagnosis of Encephalitozoon cuniculi infection was made. E cuniculi is an obligate intracellular protozoan parasite. This parasite is carried by many healthy rabbits, with reports of up to 50% of healthy rabbits in the UK carry the parasite. Spores of the parasite invade the organs, especially the brain, liver and kidneys. Infected rabbits can become carriers and pass the infection onto their young. These spores can then become active at any stage and cause clinical disease as seen in Luna.
Luna was treated for several days in hospital and slowly started to be able to move around again. She was on intravenous fluids and several medications, including a drug to kill the protozoal infection. It is very important to keep rabbits eating when they are unwell so Luna was fed a special liquid diet by syringe frequently, and with lots of TLC and care from our veterinary nurses she was soon able to eat and drink by herself.
Luna was discharged on a long course of medication to be given at home. At home she quickly returned to her usual bouncy self which we were thrilled to hear as her initial presentation was very serious.
Thanks to Luna’s owner for allowing us to share her story and to be so committed to her treatment.