Head tilt / loss of balance / uncontrolled rolling

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Head tilt / loss of balance / uncontrolled rolling

Postby fuzzy-rabbit.com » Fri Aug 11, 2006 7:35 pm

Head tilt, loss of balance, eye rolling and uncontrolled rolling are all symptoms that can be caused by various conditions. The most common conditions are an ear infection, Pasteurella and Encephalitozoon cuniculi (commonly known as E. cuniculi or EC). An affected rabbit is generally unable to hold its head upright, and the head is tilted to one side. Either one eye, or both eyes will roll backwards towards the rabbits tail every few seconds, requiring the rabbit to constantly re-focus.

If you suspect your rabbit may have head tilt, take the rabbit to a vet ASAP. If the head tilt is caused by an ear infection, the infection may spread to the brain. If the rabbit has EC, the next symptoms can often be paralysis of the limbs and severe loss of balance and muscle control, resulting in unstoppable rolling. If treated quickly, these horrific symptoms may be prevented, otherwise they are generally not reversable.

Generally it can be difficult to tell which problem is causing the head tilt, and most vets will provide medication to treat all three problems (Baytril, Panacur etc.). Further investigation, such as X-rays may be required to rule out ear infections.
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Postby Bunnehrabbits » Sun Sep 10, 2006 7:25 am

Thanks for posting that, 8)
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Postby TodsMum » Fri Mar 09, 2007 12:29 pm

I had a young rabbit that had EC, I noticed one morning that his eyes where rolling, I phoned the vet and had to insist that the vet saw him that day as the receptionist thought he might just have hay in his eye!

The vet treated him with panacur and he was doing well but he developed diarhoea about a week into treatment, the vet just said to stop the panacur. I wasn't happy, I knew diarhoea could be fatal and that the rabbit should be on panacur for sometime, so I made an appointment with another vet but my rabbit died before I could get a second vets opinion. When I telephoned the second vet to cancel the appointment they said that some rabbits do get diarhoea when given panacur and my rabbit could have been given a probiotic which could have saved him.

This experiance cost me over £100 and a lot of upset, I only had the rabbit for one month including the week I was trying to nurse him better. I hope posting this helps someone else and their bunny.
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Postby javalorum » Sat May 26, 2007 8:07 am

I had always planned to tell my rabbit's story because I thought it could help others in similar situation. In short, head tilt is treatable, and it’s not as bad as you might think. And, this experience told me I should put more trust in my rabbit than the 3 vets we’ve seen, because not all vets know that much about head tilt even when they say they’re experienced with rabbits. I found way more useful information on the internet than from my vets. Anyway, here’s the full story if you have the patience:

My pet rabbit Lucky started head tilt last summer. I noticed her eyes looked funny one night. Her head was tilted a bit and she was staring as if she was about to cry. Then the next morning I found her eyes were darting. She tilted her head so one of her eyes is turning skywards, it looks like it shifted sideways then moved back quickly. I also noticed she couldn't hop any more. I thought her leg was broken and took her to the vet, who was said to have experience with rabbits. He examined her, took out a big dictionary, and said Lucky had head tilt. But he couldn't tell what caused it. It might be ear infection. We never did find out the cause, it’s still a mystery to this day. He kept Lucky for 2 days, gave her 1 DEX (some sort of steroid) shot to reduce inflammation. He prescribed Baytril every 12 hours.

I gave Lucky the Baytril shots for a week. It wasn’t very easy since neither my husband nor I had experience with needles. But we thought it’d be more effective than oral liquids and we did learnt to deal with it. Lucky couldn’t move much at this point. We were told Baytril may cause loss of appetite but she seemed to be doing ok. She didn’t improve at all during the week, then at the end of it, she started rolling. She couldn’t stay straight and kept on flipping in the cage. We didn’t find much help from the first vet, so we took her to another vet, who was also supposed to have rabbit experience. I think his name was listed on some rabbit society page.

The second vet prescribed a very high concentration of Baytril. He said Lucky had reached the make-it-or-break-it stage, and once this method had saved a rabbit hours from dying – then I learnt that rabbits general don’t die from this condition … still have no idea how he determined that other rabbit was hours from dying. He also prescribed Penicillin G benzathine (aka Bicillin) and an oral fluid called Panacur (to reduce inflammation, I think). He said stop the Bicillin if it didn’t work in 2 days, and it didn’t work. Another week gone by, Lucky was rolling all the time, and she showed signs of loosing appetite. I think that was due to the heavy dosage of Baytril. We put lots of towels in the cage, since she couldn’t use a litter box any more. That was a hard week. We had thought she’d die.

Then we found out there’s a rabbit expert in the city so we took Lucky there. The third vet took a look at her and assumed we were going to put her down. After she found out that wasn’t our intentions, she prescribed more medicine. I can’t remember what it was, I think it was some sort of steroid, probably DEX. It had to be injected by her, so we’d had to bring the rabbit in every 2 days to get the injection. She wouldn’t let us do it ourselves and she wanted to charge a huge infection fee. We didn’t do that, partly because of the expense (at that point we had spend about $700), partly because I didn’t think steroid is the solution. I found a web site that had very good information on how to treat head tilt and contacted the site owner. She suggested continue with Panacur.

So we got home, and continued with Baytril and Panacur. We refilled Baytril with regular concentration, because that high concentration stuff didn’t seem to improve anything, and Lucky had lost appetite because of it. I also got some critical care (powder food that helps pets get nutrition and grow fat) because of her loss of appetite. She did like the critical care stuff though, I mixed it with water and fed it to her with a syringe.

Shortly after we got back, I finally noticed that she couldn’t reach the water bottle. I had always thought she had no problem because the bottle was low enough. But it’s really the angle of the bottle that’s the problem. I started feeding her water with syringe as well. Her condition improved almost immediately after I started to syringe feed her water. She just seemed to be more energetic, and ate and drank more every day. She was still rolling a lot. When it got started, she seemed to have trouble getting back balance. Once I found she was not hurting herself by doing that, I didn’t help her to stablize any more. It looked like she had to learn how to gain back balance on her own. Her everything else was almost back to normal after another 2 weeks, but the rolling continued on. To our surprise, eventually she got herself cured of this in the most unusual way.

We had another rabbit, the two bounded and used to go everywhere together. But when Lucky got sick the other rabbit was kicking and biting her so we had to separate them. After weeks of playing with Lucky on the carpet to get her exericed, we decided to put them together and see how it goes. They started fighting almost immediately. I was about to intervene when to my biggest surpise, Lucky wasn’t loosing. Despite her occasional loss of balance and rolling, she was still bigger and actually more powerful than the other bunny. We were also happy to see this was the exercise she needed, because as they chase each other and try to bite each other’s leg (they hardly succeeded, don’t worry), her movement improved a great deal. She was finally able to hop again, and the rolling happened less and less frequently until it was all stopped. Well, shortly after they started fighting, of course, they reconcilliated, and went back to become BFF, so we put them back to the same cage again.

Now it’s almost been a year. Lucky’s head tilts a tiny bit so sometimes her ears would fall onto one side (she’s a lop so normally it’d be one on either side). Once or twice to my horror I found her eyes darting a bit especially when she’s picked up, but then it was back to normal shortly after. So I think that’s just a sign of dizziness. All in all, I think she recovered fully, and everything is back to normal.

Wow, I can’t believe I yapped this much. That was some long story. Well, I just wanted to say head tile is not fatal, and as long as your rabbit is willing to fight it out, I think you shouldn’t give up. So many times I looked at Lucky and thought she was suffering and she was going to die any minute. But really, I think she was just very dizzy and had a hard time adjusting. It’s not life threatening, and there are medicine and food that helps it. We ended up spending quite a bit of money. Afterwards we learnt regular Baytril, or Panacur, or the combination of both worked for Lucky (and maybe most rabbits with head tilt). We had 3 vets, but really their opinions weren’t that different from one another. We probably didn’t need to go see someone just because he/she had a reputation of treating rabbits.

Java :D
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Postby Neko » Sat May 26, 2007 2:22 pm

Thank you for posting this story. I was so afraid you were going to say Lucky passed away, I'm so happy she got better! You went through a horrible situation but thankfully you didn't give up!
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Postby JacquiRubyCottontail » Mon Dec 17, 2007 8:03 am

My bunny has the uncontrolled rolling problem ...she's not tilting her head though, she just rolls and falls over. I thought it was probably because of the cancer and her age?
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Postby Bindi » Tue Dec 18, 2007 2:39 am

It depends on what exactly she is doing (I can't tell without seeing...). Rabbits can be standing up and then just flop over suddenly onto the ground- that's normal. If she doesn't appear to mean to do it, like if she always struggles to get back up again, that's a problem.
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Loss of balance

Postby PupuGirl » Thu Mar 13, 2008 6:34 am

Since last night my rabbit has got head tilt and loss of balance. She has been a bit tired for a couple of days and then last night she got this problem, she couldn`t stand still, ran around and kept falling down. I had never heard of this kind of problem before and I thought she would have already died last night. I called the vet who told me to wait until morning. This morning we could finally take her to vet who told me that it seems to be an ear infection which could be caused by Pasteurella.

The vet told me to give my rabbit antibiotics twice a day for 20 days. He said she could be better in a couple of days but in a case all the bacterias haven`t been gone this problem could come back, then the antibiotics wouldn`t work anymore and she would die. And in a case the doesn`t get any better during these next 20 days, it would be something serious and they`d have to put her down. How soon these antibiotics could work?

My rabbit is only 6 months old and she has always been in good health. Now I`m worried for her and I wish I could do something to make her feel better. Most of the time she is laying down but she is able to eat and drink if I put water and food right infront. I love her so much.
Last edited by PupuGirl on Fri Mar 14, 2008 9:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Sick bunny - rolling, head tilt etc

Postby Squiffsmummy » Thu Mar 13, 2008 8:46 am

Hello everybody,

I come in desperate need of advice, comfort and reassurance! Its a long, one, sorry, but please be patient whilst I explain...

My 6 (nearly 7) year old bunny, Miffy, started tilting her head about 2-3 weeks ago. As soon as I noticed I took her straight to the vet who diagnosed an ear infection and gave her anti-biotic eardrops.

After 36 hours, Miffy had diahorrea, looked very ill and wasn't eating, so I took her straight back to the vet who said the ear infection wasn't serious and advised me to stop the drops and start her on pro-biotics in her water and one sachet of Recovery (like liquidised hay to help ease tummy problems). I syringe-fed some of the recovery and she ate the rest unaided from a bowl. For a while after, she seemed to be on the mend.

On Sunday night I got Miffy out of her hutch (shes a house-rabbit with a hutch indoors) and put her on the floor and she immedaitely flipped onto her back, sideways, and struggled to find her feet. I picked her up, set her back on her feet and she did the same. I rushed her straight to a vet 10 miles away (by taxi) at 11pm on Sunday night. He suspected it was a middle ear infection but informed me about the possibilities of Encephalitozoon cuniculi. She also had diahorrea again.
The A&E vet prescribed:

0.8ml Baytril daily
2 sachets of Recovery
1 injection of anti-inflammatory
5 sachets of pro-biotic

On Monday she seemed a tiny bit better but I kept my 24 hour vigil. Yesterday (Tuesday) she seemed loads better so I took her to our own vet for the once-over. He spent 20 mins on the floor playing with her to assess her and said she was doing great and thought she'd recover very well, and gave her another anti-inflammatory injection.

2am this morning (Wednesaday) she suddenly started looking very ill. The diahorrea started again and I'd run out of Recovery and she seemed to be rolling about all over the place but not as bad as Sunday night.

I took her to the vet and saw a different vet to yesterday (same practice) and he took time to look at Miffy whilst I stood sobbing. She just seems to be acting like she has something wrong with her brain. Her head keeps suddenly jolting 20 degrees or so to the right then she rolls over onto her side. She finds her feet straight away (within 1-2 seconds) and looks a bit dizzy but I have not seen her eyes roll or dart. When she turns round she sways like she's been at the vodka. Her little eyes are pink. She looks tired and worn.

She is eating very well - since Sunday I've had her in a cage next to me at all times and she keeps me awake at night by noisily munching hay. She's also eating bunny food (Supa Rabbit Excel) and drinking loads of water which means she's getting the full dose of pro-biotic.
She also seems herself a lot of the time - trying to play with me, run round chewing things she shouldn't (nothing dangerous - I just mean a wicker basket waste bin etc), jump on and off the furniture and be her normal Miffy-self (although I have stopped allowing her trying to jump around as she was tending to nose-dives sideways off the sofa and I had my hands permanently attached to each side of her to steady her falls).

I alternate between feeling determined to do everything possible to help her fight this and focussing on the fact that her personality is still there and she's eating and drinking well, to sitting sobbing wondering how on Earth she's going to recover (especially at her age) and feeling paralysed with fear each time I watch her struggle to her feet.

I'm terrified its something affecting her brain and the vet has said even though he thinks she will recover, there's a small chance she might not, and also a chance she might be left with SOME lasting damage. Nobody knows until she improves.

Its heartbreaking watching this but Java's post makes me think it will be a long journey but there could well be light at the end of the tunnel.

Can anybody please advise me? I'm totally torn!
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Postby fuzzy-rabbit.com » Thu Mar 13, 2008 11:31 am

See how you go for the next few days - it is very distressing watching your rabbit go through the rolling/unable to get up stage.

It can take up to a week for medications to start working on the head tilt/rolling. Many rabbits totally recover.
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Postby PupuGirl » Thu Mar 13, 2008 9:37 pm

Today my bunny was rolling on the floor and that looked terrible, but I knew it was coming as I´ve been reading about it here. Finally she was able to sit and even run around which gives me a little hope that she could get better.
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Postby Squiffsmummy » Fri Mar 14, 2008 2:35 am

Thanks for your reply, Fuzzy. Miff seems a fair bit better today. In fact she's been stamping her feet in annoyance at being penned in. She'd much rather try and run round with the dog but the vet advised me to confine her to cage/hutch for two weeks and only get her out for cuddles. She isn't impressed.

I'm thinking and hoping this might be a sign that things are turning round for her, although I have to confess about being a little panicky over the fact that there is no vet open locally over the weekend, should she need immediate attention.

Here's hoping tomorrow will be even better - I'll keep you posted. Thank you for providing us bunny owners with somewhere to chat. It's amazing what help and strength can be obtained from groups of like-minded, loving pet owners!
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Postby PupuGirl » Fri Mar 14, 2008 9:40 am

Thanks Fuzzy, you are kind to advice and help us here. This morning my rabbit was still quite ill but now I´m happy and delighted to see that she`s much better. I think those antibiotics helped. Squiffsmummy, I`m glad to hear Miffy is getting better. I wish you all the best.
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Postby Squiffsmummy » Sun Mar 16, 2008 8:57 am

Thanks Pupu.

I've taken Miffy to the vet every day except Monday this week! She was doing ok when the vet assessed her yesterday. Her main problem was the head tilt which the vet said they CAN recover from (but not always) and progress is slow - months, potentially.

This morning I lifted Miffy out of her carry case (she still sleeps next to my bed at night) and put her gently on the carpet. Immediately she started running round in very small, tight circles, so that her body was having to twist to fold back on itself. I tried to straighten her out and get her to hop normally but it looked like she wasn't able to. Within 15 minutes we were at the vets but she wasn't doing it as badly by the time we got there. The vet gave her another injection of anti-inflammatories (I need to find out the name) and told me to try not to panic. He said behaviour in rabbits suffering from this display very nasty symptoms which sometimes appear the same as alzheimers or brain damage/tumours but they can still recover with time, treatment and lots of TLC.

Miffy in herself is a normal bunny and even the vet said psychologically she is well and happy. Her behaviour is otherwise normal - she is doing all the things Miff has done. She appears happy although does seem to be struggling with her illness for small proportions of the day. During these times the only thing I can do is cuddle her.

I will keep fighting!

How is your bunny today Pupu?
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Postby PupuGirl » Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:46 am

My bunny is getting better every day, thanks for asking :) I was so worried for her but it seems that Baytril is working and she is not feeling dizzy anymore. Sometimes when she is running around the floor, it looks like she doesn`t have head tilt anymore. When she is laying down, it seems to be back but anyway she has recovered well during this week.

Maybe Baytril is making her tired because she is sleeping a lot. She still needs lots of time to get well, it could take weeks or months to get rid of head tilt as you said. I just hope she won`t get ill again. I`m really glad to hear Miffy is getting better too. Our bunnies need lots of support and love :) Take care
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