Now, I’ve owned rabbits long enough to be careful when they sit on my lap or snuggle up at night.
I know how dangerous it can be if they launch off my knees and land badly.
A broken leg could be the least of our worries as rabbits can easily damage their delicate spine too.
When my new young bunny accidentally managed to jump too high and broke its leg, I wondered what would happen in the wild where there was no vet to set, splint, and x-ray it?
Can a Rabbit’s Broken Leg Heal on Its Own?
Rabbits have fragile bone structures. Their skeleton only makes up 28% of their body.
Their leg bones are especially weak and shatter upon impact with something hard like the ground.
The result is that a rabbit with a broken leg requires surgery and the use of pins and plates to keep the bone together to knit.
If the knitting process is unsuccessful, the only alternative is to amputate the broken leg as a way to remove the cause of the pain.
Why a Rabbit Can’t Heal Its Leg on Its Own
While humans can heal a broken leg by splinting it and letting it grow or knit together on its own, a rabbit is not so lucky.
When a rabbit fractures or breaks a leg, the bone usually fragments as it is brittle.
This means the bone has disintegrated into smaller pieces that no longer align.
The result of this is that the rabbit’s bone fragments can’t reattach or miraculously regrow correctly without medical help.
Healing becomes impossible as the fragmented bone will cause inflammation and infection in the leg, leading to septicemia and, ultimately, death.
A fractured leg also leads to blood flow getting compromised, which severely limits the body’s ability to heal.
Wild Rabbits and Broken Legs
I wondered what happens to rabbits in the wild that break a leg. Can they survive a broken bone without human help?
If the fracture is VERY mild and the bones are in alignment, a rabbit may potentially survive.
Rabbits are caring creatures, and the rabbit’s mates would bring them food and look after them when they are ill.
The rabbit would have to stay as still as possible, which means limited movement from the burrow to the fields outside to eat.
Any movement will likely start forcing the bone fragments apart, but if they are lucky enough not to further fragment the leg, it may start to heal.
Most likely, a rabbit that breaks a leg would suffer tremendous pain, be unable to move fast enough to evade its predators, and get hunted and killed.
If the rabbit lives in an area with no natural predators, it may survive long enough for the leg to either suffer atrophy or waste away.
The most likely outcome is that the rabbit would develop an infection and suffer septic shock within days and die.
Healing a Rabbit’s Broken Leg
Rabbits break legs when they fall, jump off something that is too high for them to safely land or twist their leg badly.
The back legs are the most difficult to heal when broken, but the front legs also require special care if they should fracture.
A rabbit can also break or fracture its leg if it gets the leg caught between the bars of its cage.
In the resulting struggle to free its leg, the rabbit may twist their own leg until it breaks.
So while you think your rabbit is safely in its cage, it’s possible for your bun to sustain a terrible injury in there.
What to Do When Your Rabbit Breaks a Leg
If you notice your rabbit suddenly starts limping or walks or sits strangely, it may be because they have broken a leg.
They may not need to do anything crazy or fall for their leg to break, so don’t assume they are only being stiff or lazy.
The success of your rabbit’s surgery and recovery (which takes upward of two months) will depend on the actions you take to get your rabbit to the vet, as well as the nature of the fracture.
These are the steps to follow when you suspect your rabbit has broken a leg:
1. Keep Your Rabbit Calm
Talk to your rabbit in soothing tones.
Be sure to handle them gently and avoid moving the leg in question too much.
2. Burrito Wrap Your Rabbit
Use a towel or blanket to gently burrito wrap your rabbit to restrict their movement.
Take extra care when you lay the blanket or towel over the injured leg. The idea here is to ensure the rabbit can’t kick or try to run when you handle them.
3. Phone Your Vet
When you need to take your rabbit to the vet, it is important to call ahead.
Not only will this help the vet prepare to take x-rays, administer the relevant medication, and possibly prep for the surgery, but it will also help you and your rabbit avoid a long wait when you get there.
Another reason to call ahead is to ask how busy the waiting area is and whether there are many large pets waiting for the vet.
Your rabbit will be in pain and extra nervous. Any additional stress such as barking dogs and hissing cats could further stress them and lead to a drop in their immunity.
4. Assist Your Vet
Your rabbit is likely bonded to you, so they will be calmer if you handle them.
Help your vet by holding your rabbit correctly so they can perform a visual examination of the leg and administer any medication like painkillers, antibiotics, and treatment for shock.
5. Ask Questions
When your vet has had a chance to examine your rabbit and has taken x-rays or done blood panels to test for enzymes indicating a fracture or infection, you need to ask questions.
Good questions to ask include:
- How severe is the fracture?
- What are the options?
- If a cast is possible, how can you assist your rabbit when they come home?
- After the surgery, will your rabbit be alone in a cage, away from other animals? Should you bring your rabbit’s bonded mate to the surgery too for comfort?
- Will the plates or wire be permanent, or do they need to be removed in future?
- What is the cost involved in the procedure?
- What are your rabbit’s chances of surviving surgery and recovery?
- If the only option is amputation, what are the chances of your rabbit surviving surgery? How can you assist your rabbit at home when they return?
- What quality of life will your rabbit enjoy at home with an amputated leg?
- Has the vet operated on a rabbit with a fracture before?
A Three-Legged Rabbit
So your rabbit suffered a major fracture and has zero chance of its leg healing or being able to walk on its leg again.
Amputation is the only option. Can a rabbit survive such a major surgery, and can they learn to hop on three legs?
Yes, a rabbit can survive an amputation surgery, and it can learn to function on three legs.
The important thing is your rabbit’s care following the surgery. Diet, wound care, and stress management will be determining factors of whether your rabbit survives.
If the surgery goes well, your rabbit suffers no secondary infections or circulatory complications, then your rabbit can heal and adjust to life with three legs.
Rabbits can still hop and move around on three legs. You will have to take special care to ensure they don’t get bullied by other rabbits if you keep several rabbits together.
Having a rabbit friend will help your rabbit as they mutually groom each other, which sorts out cleaning up and reaching hard to get to places.
Can a Rabbit’s Broken Leg Heal on Its Own FAQs
Below are some common questions people about rabbit and things to know when your rabbit has a broken leg.
Can a bunny survive a broken leg?
A rabbit can survive a broken leg if it gets the right medical care and surgery to set the fractured bone inside the leg.
Using a cast is also important as it alleviates pressure from the bone so it can knit.
Do rabbits break bones easily?
Rabbits have weak bones that are light in mass to facilitate their agility.
However, their bones are not strong enough to withstand any significant impact, which means they easily break when the rabbit jumps off high areas or lands strangely.
Can rabbits sprain their legs?
A limping rabbit may struggle to place weight on its leg for several reasons.
These include a potential fracture or broken leg, or your rabbit has sustained a soft tissue injury that has not broken the leg, but it may have strained its ligaments.
Rest and medication for pain and to ward off inflammation are the best treatments for a sprained leg in rabbits, and no surgery is then required.
Final Rabbit Thoughts
I was incredibly grateful that my rabbit would be okay after a long two months of rehabilitation and rest.
His break was not severe, and I knew my Mr. Binkie would make a full recovery.
Sadly, rabbits in the wild don’t usually have that luxury, and the survival rate of rabbits with broken legs ever healing was probably higher than I wanted to consider.
Therefore, to keep your rabbit on all four legs and happily bouncing about, be sure they can’t injure themselves in their cage or jump off high places and fractured bones.
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