Wry Neck (e. cuniculi)
Wry Neck, or head tilt, is when a rabbit's head starts to turn to the side. The rabbit will also lose it's balance and be very unstable. In later stages, the rabbit will walk in constant circles, to one side. The rabbit's eye will typically dart (go back & forth), from one side to the other. Hind end paralysis can also be a sign of Wry Neck.
One initial sign can be a rabbit who goes off feed. Any time a rabbit goes off feed, they should be watched for signs of Wry Neck. If Wry Neck is caught early enough, it is easily treatable.
Wry Neck is most commonly caused by the parasite, Encephalitozoon cuniculi, or commonly referred to as e. cuniculi. This parasite attacks the brain and causes cysts on the brain. Which therefore causes all the above symptoms. Head tilt can also be caused by an ear infection. While this is not the most common form, in my experience, it is something to keep in mind. Wry Neck is often triggered by stress or dehydration, although it may show up at unexplainable times as well.
Some people say that Wry Neck is caused by pasturella, but I have never seen it to be caused by that. That is certainly something to keep in mind, but typically there will be other signs if it were to be caused by that. The other signs would include congestion and snot in the nose.
There are a lot of thoughts that swirl around online about how to treat Wry Neck. Over the years of raising rabbits, I have successfully treated several cases of Wry Neck. I have only had to put down one rabbit with Wry Neck over the years, but I believe that if I would have used the full treatment which I will mention below, I could've saved her. But, at the time, I did not know about the full treatment options.
What I have found to work the best for treating rabbits with Wry Neck are treatments for parasites:
-20mg per kg (2.5 lbs) of Fenbendazole given orally every day for 4 weeks. Fenbendazole can be found as the puppy wormer, Panacur. Panacur is an over-the-counter medication which you can get at any vet. This is probably the most important part of treatment. Fenbendazole works *very* well to completely rid the rabbit of Wry Neck.
The treatment I used to use was 1/10cc per lb of Ivomec orally, repeated in 7 days. But, that did not always work. And new research has shown that the above treatment works better. From my experience it works FAR better and the rabbits get better much easier. With Ivomec, the rabbits would almost get worse and then get better after the second treatment. I have used both Ivomec and Panacur for treating Wry Neck. But, I find no reason to use the Ivomec anymore, as the Panacur works amazingly well.
A rabbit with Wry Neck is likely to go off feed and possibly even water. It is of utmost importance to make sure the rabbit is consuming a good amount of both water & feed (even if it's not pellets, it needs to be something nutritious). If the rabbit is not eating or drinking well, the treatment is not going to be as successful. Whether the rabbit is eating well or not, I always give the rabbit a bowl of water (to make sure they are drinking enough), oats/barley with their feed, and some sort of fruit or veggie to help keep the appetite up (usuall use carrots or a banana). Hay is important also. Rabbit Nutri-drops and/or vitamins in the animal's water can also be helpful.
There are some who say anti-inflammatory medications should be used, but that is debateable. I have never used anti-inflammatoy medications and have never felt the need to use them.
If Wry Neck is being caused by something other than e. cuniculi, proper antibiotics to treat an upper respiratory infection and ear infection should be used. But, caution should be taken in treating a rabbit with an uppper respiratory infection, as it can be a sign of a more serious problems. In that case, the rabbit should be culled.
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