Arthritis, osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthrosis is the progressive, inflammatory, and irreversible deterioration of cartilage found in the joints.
- Lameness or stiffness in gait. It may be intermittent and slowly become more severe and frequent. There may also be a history of previous joint trauma, disease, or disorder.
- Restricted motion, inability to hop. May be intermittent.
- Unable to properly groom or obtain a normal stance while urinating due to stiffness or pain. May result in poopy butt due to an inability to consume cecotrophs directly and urine scald.
- May be exacerbated by exercise and result in long periods of rest.
- Crepitus - grating sounds produced by friction between bone and cartilage.
- Joint swelling and pain.
- Joint instability.
There are no gender predilections for osteoarthritis. Arthritis can be due to hereditary or developmental disorders in young animals or trauma or infection induced at any age. Giant breeds may be more prone to the disease due to increased weight loading and conformation.:334 The primary cause is thought to be the result of long-term usage combined with aging or joint instability.
Depending on severity, surgical options include the following:
- Arthrotomy, a surgical procedure that creates an opening in a joint, to treat underlying causes such as osteochondral diseases.
- Reconstructive procedures to eliminate joint instability.
- Arthroplasty procedures such as femoral head ostectomy as a salvage procedure to reconstruct or replace a diseased joint.
- Arthrodesis, the surgical fixation of a joint, for selected chronic cases and for joint instability.
Home care includes the following:
- Keep the bottom clean and dry through regular baths.
- Use soft bedding, and keep bedding clean and dry to prevent dermatitis or bed sores.
- Physical therapy may be beneficial in enhancing limb function and general well-being. This includes range-of-motion exercises and combination heat and cold therapy.
- Limit activity to minimize aggravation, but also encourage movement to keep joints loose.
- Reduce weight of obese rabbits to decrease stress placed on affected joints.
- Rabbits in pain often refuse food, so it is important to make sure they are eating normally to prevent GI stasis.
- Make sure nails are trimmed appropriately as needed to prevent awkward pressure on the feet and unnecessary wear on the joints.
- Use low-entry litter boxes so they can move in and out more easily.
- 15-minute daily heat pad sessions can help soothe joints and increase circulation
Drugs that can be used include the following:
- NSAIDs have been used for short- or long-term therapy to reduce pain and inflammation in rabbits with musculoskeletal disease. Common choices include meloxicam (Metacam, Mobic, Mobicox) and carprofen (Rimadyl, Novox, Vetprofen). Meloxicam should be used with caution in rabbits with compromised renal function.
- Polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (Adequan, Luitpold) is another drug of choice that has shown improvements.
- Acupuncture may be effective for rabbits with chronic pain.
Supplements that can help include the following:
- Chondroitin sulfate (Cosequin, Nutramax) has been used anecdotally using feline dosage protocols. They help to build cartilage and support the overall health an mobility of the joints.
- Myristol pellets contain cetyl myristoleate fatty acid complex, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), glucosamine HCl and hydrolyzed collagen, as well as vitamin C, copper, manganese and zinc to support joint health. Feed 1-2 pellets twice daily. Can also be found for sale at BunSpace.
- Oxbow Natural Science Joint Support Tablets contain glucosamine to aid in the prevention of cartilage degeneration.
- Sherwood Joint Support Tablets are an alternative choice to Oxbow with similar ingredients.
- Ground flax seed is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help with joint inflammation.
- MediRabbit. Arthritis, and the use of Glucosamine/Chondroitin
- Kirsten Love. (2007). Columbus House Rabbit Society Newsletter (search Rabbit Arthritis)
- PetMD. Arthritis due to Bacterial Infection in Rabbits
- PetMD. Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) in Rabbits
- Boaz Arzi, et al. Naturally-occurring osteoarthritis in the domestic rabbit: possible implications for bioengineering research
- Nancy J. LaRoche. Arthritis in Rabbits
- Mayer, J., & Donnelly, T.M. (2013). Clinical Veterinary Advisor, Birds and Exotics. (1st ed.).
- Oglesbee, B. (2011). Blackwell's five-minute veterinary consult: Small mammal. (2nd ed.).
- DisabledRabbits.com. (n.d.). Arthritis. Retrieved 06 Dec 2019 from http://www.disabledrabbits.com/arthritis.html