Epileptic seizures occur when certain neurons in the brain become overactive and unbalanced, which causes the body to experience a series of involuntary movements. When your rabbit has an epileptic seizure, they are at risk of brain damage, and you should have your rabbit examined by your vet if they have a seizure for the first time or they don't seem themselves after a seizure. Here's an overview of the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for epileptic seizures in rabbits:
There are several possible causes to consider when your rabbit develops epilepsy. Encephalitozoon cuniculi is a single-cell parasite that can cause neurological damage leading to epileptic seizures. The condition can also be caused by a head injury, brain lesions, a brain tumour, genetic predisposition to epilepsy and exposure to heavy metals or other toxic substances that can damage the nervous system.
Common symptoms of epileptic seizures in rabbits include the following:
- Limb paddling
- Loss of muscle tone
- Confusion and poor co-ordination
- Rolling from side to side
- Head tilting to one side
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Your vet will diagnose epilepsy by taking details of their symptoms and testing their blood and urine for exposure to parasites and environmental toxins. Diagnostic imaging, such as an MRI scan, can be used to identify lesions, tumours and inflammation of your rabbit's central nervous system. Your vet will develop a treatment plan based on the established cause of the epileptic seizures, and the goal of treatment is to address the cause and reduce the number of seizures your rabbit experiences. Treatment may include the following:
- Corticosteroids - These drugs are used to reduce inflammation in the brain.
- Anti-Parasitic Drugs - If your rabbit tests positive for encephalitozoon cuniculi exposure, anti-parasitic drugs will be required.
- Anti-Epileptic Drugs - These drugs can be used to control seizures and limit their occurrence.
It can take some trial and error to find drugs that will work for your rabbit and control their seizures, but you can help your vet by keeping a diary of when your rabbit has an epileptic seizure and what symptoms you noticed before, during or after the seizure. This will aid the vet in finding the therapeutic dose of the drug prescribed to your rabbit.
Without treatment, brain damage can occur as a result of repeated seizures. So, if your rabbit has any of the symptoms noted above, or if you are aware they have seizures but haven't sought treatment, have them examined by a vet right away.