Arthritis does occur in rabbits. Arthritis is the medical term used to describe inflamed joints or swelling in joints. There are a couple of types of arthritis that rabbits can develop.
Signs of Arthritis:
• Favoring one or more legs while hopping
• Lifting or dragging a leg
• Trouble pushing upright from a lying or squatting position
• Slower less coordinated movement
• Balance Problems
• Previous damage to leg or joints
• Genetic disposition
Arthritis due to bacterial infections in the bones or joints is called Septic arthritis. Septic arthritis can occur in any rabbit, any age, breed or gender. It is caused by pyogenic bacteria which is a bacterium that produces puss such as staphylococci or pasteurella. An infection anywhere in a bunny’s body can migrate to the joints thus causing Septic arthritis.
Treatment of Septic arthritis starts with treating the primary cause which is the infection. Antibiotics are generally used in treating infections.
Osteoarthritis it is common in older rabbits and overweight rabbits, just like it is in humans. You can delay the onset of Osteoarthritis by making sure your rabbit does not become overweight and receives lots of exercise throughout his/her life.
Treatment of Osteoarthritis can begin with the use of supplements such as Glucosamine/Chondroitin, Cetyl-M, Cosequin, Adequan, or Myristol. Keep in mind when using supplements that they do not have an immediate effect. It generally takes approximately 4 weeks of continued use before any results can be seen. If these treatments do not work, NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) such as Metacam can be prescribed by your veterinary. As a last resort, Dexamethasone (also known as cortisone), can also be used. However, this medication is given via injection and would need to be given every three days. It would be wise to try several of the other supplement or NSAID treatments prior to electing the use of cortisone.
When dealing with any type of arthritis, there are additional measures to treating the pain and swelling that can make your bunny comfortable. Provide your bunny with a soft bed, lots of hay for padding in his/her hutch, and gentle massage may also help.
For information on other rabbit health issues see this link: Health Problems in Rabbits