When my mini lop had her first seizure, I was absolutely terrified.
It’s the worst feeling to see your rabbit-child suffer like that, so I began researching what rabbit seizures are, what causes them, and what to do about them when your rabbit has a seizure.
My goal was to be able to help my rabbit when she did have a seizure, ensure it wasn’t severe, and help her recover after.
I’ve since helped many other rabbit owners manage their rabbits when they have seizures and learn how to avoid rabbit seizures where possible.
Can Rabbits Have Seizures?
Yes, rabbits can have seizures. Like humans and other animals, a rabbit has a seizure when its brain enters a state of hyper-excitement.
The nerves in the rabbit’s brain fire all at once, causing a nerve overload.
Reasons for a rabbit having a seizure may include brain infection, trauma, genetics, or a brain tumor.
Treatment during and after the seizure will determine the rabbit’s chances of a full recovery.
What Is a Rabbit Seizure?
A rabbit seizure happens when there is an overload or hyper-excitement of the brain’s nerve tissue or neurons.
The brain reacts by sending out conflicting signals to the muscles throughout the body. The longer the seizure continues, the worse the after-effects will be.
Long-term side effects of a seizure (or several seizures) may include brain damage, heart failure, pulmonary complications, and nerve death throughout the body.
Rabbits that survive extreme seizures may have muscle weakness, uncoordinated movement, and be unable to manage basic tasks like eating, doing their business, or self-grooming.
The seriousness of the effects of a seizure may determine the rabbit’s life expectancy, and it may be necessary to have the rabbit euthanized if it is severe enough to affect its quality of life.
Major Causes of Seizures in Rabbits
There are several reasons why rabbits may have a seizure.
Metabolic Causes for Seizure
If your rabbit is on a diet that’s too high in sugars or even one that’s too low on healthy sugars, their blood sugar levels may spike dangerously.
As a result of your rabbit having low or excessively high blood sugar, they may have a seizure.
A diet that’s overloaded with too many pelletized foods, treats, and dense carbohydrates may prompt a sugar spike.
Take care to only feed your rabbit a healthy and balanced diet according to their body weight.
Ingestion of Something Toxic
Rabbits have a fast metabolism.
If they eat something that’s toxic such as mushrooms in your garden or nibbled on lead-based paint in your home, they can easily suffer toxic side effects.
Other food items like moldy food, foods rich in preservatives, and fertilizer or pesticide-contaminated foods may prove toxic to your rabbit and can prompt an allergic reaction.
Your rabbit may experience a sudden drop in blood pressure after eating these foods, leading to fainting and possibly a stroke.
A rabbit in this state of distress can easily have a seizure too.
Heart or Circulation Diseases
An overweight rabbit is likely to suffer heart complications and poor circulation.
The result of this is that the rabbit won’t have a good flow of nutrients, and they may experience a buildup of pressure in their arteries and blood vessels in the brain.
Soon, the rabbit may have a seizure when pressure is applied to the nerve tissue in the brain.
The seizure may turn into a stroke with permanent damage affecting brain function.
Some rabbits are unfortunate to be born with poor genetic makeup.
These rabbits may have a genetic predisposition to narrowed brain passages, poor neural networks, and heart defects, affecting blood circulation.
When combined, the rabbit may easily experience a stroke, seizure, or heart attack.
Trauma or External Factor
Rabbits are known for hopping about, but they may land awkwardly, hurting themselves.
An injury may result in a blood clot that can disrupt brain functioning, causing a seizure.
If the rabbit should fall or bump its head, it may also suffer brain trauma and a resulting seizure.
Other external factors that may cause seizures include overheating (such as from a cage placed in direct sunlight for hours on end), loud noise, stress, and excessive fear.
Illness and Infection
Like humans, rabbits can suffer seizures after a brain infection has occurred as a result of a bacterial infection.
Fever may contribute to this risk when the brain’s core temperature increases to the point of creating pressure on nerve tissue.
Lesions may also prompt seizures if present on the brain, brain stem, or spinal column. Lesions can be confirmed on a rabbit with an x-ray or exploratory surgery.
Signs Your Rabbit Is Having a Seizure
I never knew rabbits even get seizures before my rabbit had her first one. When it happened, I was utterly unprepared and didn’t know what it was I was seeing in her.
My rabbit was still doing mad binkies in the garden when she suddenly toppled over, began shaking, and twitched all over. Her little paws seemed to run in the air, and she looked so distressed.
A few minutes later, she seemed to recover. She managed to sit up, but her head was hanging at a crazy angle, and her face looked strange to me.
There was a little bit of creamy fluid dripping from her ear, and she dragged her feet when she tried to hop toward me.
A trip to the vet confirmed any fur parent’s worst fear: my rabbit had suffered a serious and long-term damaging seizure.
Here are some signs of seizure that many rabbits may exhibit.
Note the severity may differ for each rabbit, and your rabbit doesn’t need to have all of these signs for them to be having a seizure.
If you know your rabbit, you will know something is “off” and that will be your best cue.
Signs of Seizure in Rabbit
- Disorientation and brain fog
- Rushed breathing or gasping
- Loss of sight
- Poor hearing
- Head tilted to one side with an ear hanging limp
- Rolling on the ground
- Paws running in the air
- A discharge of cream-like fluid from the ear canal
- Loss of consciousness
- Over time, muscle weakness results
What to Do When Your Rabbit Is Having a Seizure
When you notice your rabbit is showing signs of a seizure, act quickly by following these steps:
1. Calm Yourself but Act Quickly
Seizures are short, but they can be severe, so you should act quickly.
Take a second to calm yourself as your rabbit won’t be okay with you shaking and weeping while holding them.
I find that a deep breath makes me shift into a “help-focused” mindset, which means I can set aside my emotions.
2. Restrain Your Rabbit
While most rabbit seizures only last a minute or two, you should still help protect your rabbit from external damage by restraining them.
I like to use a towel that I keep handy to burrito roll my bun.
With a nice plush layer wrapped around them, my rabbit feels safe and protected, and she can’t further injure herself.
3. Transport to the Vet
If your rabbit has their first seizure, it is important to get them to the vet as soon as possible for correct diagnosis and treatment.
The vet will take blood samples for tests to check for chemical markers that indicate the nature of the seizure.
Should your rabbit have suffered further complications like edema with the seizure, then the vet can possibly help them.
Work with your vet to determine a treatment plan to help manage your rabbit if they have future seizures.
Rabbit Seizures FAQs
How do I know if my rabbit is having a seizure?
There are several signs to look out for when your rabbit is having a seizure.
It can be scary the first time you see your rabbit having a seizure, and you may not know what is happening. Look for these signs and contact your vet for help.
- Uncontrolled rolling of the body
- Jerky padding of paws and arms (running in place)
- Head or ears hung to one side
- Pus discharged from the ear
- Lack of appetite and confused movements
Are seizures common in bunnies?
Seizures are not very common in rabbits.
Rabbits can suffer seizures following trauma, brain infection, the development of tumors, or because of a compromised immune system such as with dwarf breeds.
Can rabbits survive a seizure?
Most seizures may be light, and while scary, your rabbit will usually survive.
The problem is that your rabbit may have temporary or permanent damage as a result of the seizure.
If there is long-term damage, your rabbit’s quality of life may be reduced.
If the seizure is severe, your rabbit may die because of heart failure, stroke, or exhaustion.
When your rabbit has a seizure, it is important to get medical help for them as soon as possible.
Final Rabbit Seizure Thoughts
My rabbit will always be a high-risk case for seizures due to the damage already done to her brain tissue and the genetic structure that causes a spike in blood pressure when she gets too excited.
Now that I know, I can manage her excitement levels, and I can also help minimize risk factors with a good diet that’s low in sugars and carbohydrates that could further excite her.
Swift action in taking her for treatment when she has a severe seizure has saved her life numerous times.
With care, you can minimize the chances of your bun having a seizure.
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