My Rabbit’s Back Legs Have Stopped Working (Weak, Wobbly & Shaking)

Has your rabbit suddenly started dragging their back legs or having trouble hopping around? Do their hind legs tremble and shake, or do they seem weak and unable to support themselves? These alarming signs indicate a serious problem with your rabbit’s back legs that requires urgent attention. In this comprehensive article, we explore all the possible causes of rabbit leg weakness, paralysis, and mobility issues. Get informed on conditions ranging from broken bones and spinal trauma to stroke and nerve damage. Learn about diagnostic testing, treatment options, and prognosis for recovery. Discover key information to ensure your rabbit’s hind leg problems are properly addressed and not ignored, because their quality of life depends on it. Keep reading for in-depth details on restoring your rabbit’s freedom of movement!

How Does a Rabbit Use Their Hind Legs?

Rabbits rely heavily on their strong and muscular hind legs for getting around and carrying out daily activities. A rabbit's back legs account for a large portion of their body mass and power. They use their hindquarters for:

  • Locomotion – The hind legs provide the force for a rabbit's hopping and jumping movements. Their powerful back legs allow them to leap several feet at a time.

  • Digging – Rabbits use their back feet to burrow underground tunnels and dens. They can dig very quickly with their long hind legs.

  • Grooming – Rabbits scratch themselves with their hind feet to clean their coat and skin. They are very flexible and can reach all areas of their body.

  • Defense – If threatened, rabbits will kick out powerfully with their back legs to injure predators. Their claws can cause significant damage.

  • Balance – When standing upright, rabbits rely on their strong back legs and feet to remain stable and balanced. Their front legs are much weaker in comparison.

  • Body Temperature Regulation – Rabbits have very little sweat glands, so they regulate their temperature by changing their body position to expose more or less of their bodies. They often sprawl out with their hind legs extended behind them to allow greater air circulation.

So in summary, a rabbit's hindquarters contain their biggest and strongest muscles which are vital for moving, digging, grooming, balance and temperature regulation. Damage, disease or paralysis of the back legs severely impacts a rabbit's quality of life.

Rabbit Hind Legs Anatomy

A rabbit's hind legs contain bones, muscles, tendons, blood vessels and nerves that work together to allow them to carry out their natural behaviors. Key structures include:

Bones:

  • Femur – The thighbone, the longest and strongest bone. Connects the hip to the knee.

  • Tibia – The shinbone, runs from the knee to the ankle. Forms the major bone of the lower hindleg.

  • Fibula – The smaller lower hindleg bone that runs parallel to the tibia.

  • Tarsals – Seven small ankle bones.

  • Metatarsals – Four long foot bones.

  • Phalanges – 14 toe bones.

Joints:

  • Hip joint – Connects the femur to the pelvis. Very mobile ball and socket joint.

  • Knee joint – Joins the femur and tibia. Hinge joint allows back and forth motion.

  • Ankle joint – Formed by the tarsals. Allows up and down motion.

  • Digit joints – Connect the metatarsals and phalanges. Allow flexibility of the toes.

Muscles:

  • Gluteals – Large hip muscles that drive the motion of the hindlegs.

  • Hamstrings – Muscles on the back of the thighs that flex the knee.

  • Quadriceps – Large thigh muscles that straighten the knee and generate power.

  • Gastrocnemius – The major calf muscle that flexes the ankle.

Tendons:

  • Patellar tendon – Connects the patella to the tibia and straightens the knee.

  • Achilles tendon – Links the gastrocnemius to the ankle, allowing flexion.

  • Digital flexor tendons – Bend the toes.

Nerves:

  • Sciatic nerve – The largest nerve in the rabbit's body. Supplies sensation and power to the hindlegs.

  • Peroneal nerve – Branch of the sciatic nerve to the lower leg and foot.

This complex hind leg anatomy allows rabbits to run, jump, dig and balance. Injury or diseases of any of these structures can impair leg function.

Rabbits Feet

A rabbit's feet are perfectly adapted for hopping and provide balance, traction and shock absorption. Key features include:

  • Four toes on each hind foot – Unlike the five toes on their front feet, rabbits have only four toes on their back feet.

  • Long metatarsal bones – Give the hind feet length and leverage for powerful pushes off the ground.

  • Thick padded soles – The undersides are covered in thick fur that cushions and grips the ground.

  • Toenails – The nails provide traction and help the feet dig into the ground for propulsion.

  • Small dewclaws – Tiny vestigial digits on the sides of the feet that don't touch the ground.

  • Plantar pad – Thick callus pad on the sole beneath the toes to absorb impact.

  • Flexible toes – The phalangeal toes joints allow the toes to bend as the rabbit pushes off.

  • Digit tendons – Connect and move the toes to grip, flex and spring off the ground.

The hind feet act like natural springs, flexing to absorb the shock of landings then springing back to propel the next jump. The toes help provide balance by adjusting and stabilizing the feet upon landing. Any damage to the feet impairs mobility.

Rabbits Thighs

A rabbit's thighs make up the largest portion of their hind legs. Key thigh structures include:

  • Femur bone – The long, thick thighbone that supports body weight.

  • Quadriceps muscles – Large extensor muscle group on the front of the thigh that straightens the knee. Provides power.

  • Hamstrings – Muscles on the back of the thigh that flex the knee joint.

  • Adductors – Inner thigh muscles that pull the legs together. Needed for hopping.

  • Hip joint – Thigh connects to the pelvis here. Large range of motion.

  • Knee joint – Joins the femur and tibia. Crucial shock absorbing hinge joint.

  • Thigh fur – Coat helps regulate temperature of the rear legs.

  • Fat deposits – Provide cushioning over the thigh bones and joints.

  • Femoral artery – Major blood vessel supplying the hind legs.

  • Sciatic nerve – Large nerve running the length of the thigh to the feet.

The powerful thigh musculature provides the force that propels a rabbit's jumps and hops in addition to stabilizing the hips and knees. Injury to the thigh can impair mobility.

Rabbits Legs

A rabbit's back legs make up over a third of their total body weight and are crucial for mobility. Key components include:

  • Femur – Thighbone between hip and knee joints. Has thick bone walls for weight support.

  • Patella – Small knee cap embedded in tendon, slides up and down the femur during knee flexion.

  • Tibia – Largest bone of the lower leg between the knee and ankle.

  • Fibula – Second, slimmer lower leg bone running parallel to the tibia.

  • Tarsal bones – Seven small ankle bones forming the tarsus that supports the foot.

  • Metatarsals – Four elongated foot bones.

  • Phalanges – Fourteen toe bones of the four hind toes.

  • Hock – Prominent ankle joint, equivalent to the human heel. Takes a lot of impact.

  • Powerful leg muscles – Thick thigh and calf muscles generate the force for jumping and acceleration.

  • Achilles tendon – Connects calf muscles to the ankle, essential for foot leverage.

  • Interosseous membrane – Fibrous connective tissue binding the tibia and fibula bones together.

Rabbits back legs contain connected bones, joints, muscles, tendons, nerves and blood vessels that synchronize to power rabbit movement. Injury or disease affecting any part of the legs can impair mobility.

My Rabbit Has Hurt Their Back Leg

If your rabbit has hurt their back leg, it's important to try to determine how the injury occurred and how severe it is. Causes can include:

  • Falling or jumping from a height onto hard or awkward landing. This can sprain joints or fracture bones.

  • Getting the leg caught in something resulting in strains, tears or dislocations. Rabbits can easily injure themselves in confined spaces.

  • Being stepped on or kicked by a person or another animal. This often damages muscles and tendons.

  • Biting from predators or other rabbits. Bite wounds are painful and prone to infection.

  • Blunt trauma from a heavy object falling on the leg. Can cause impact fractures or hematomas.

  • Dislocating the hip joint. Common in rabbits and causes obvious impairment.

  • Diseases like arthritis or bone infections weakening the leg over time.

Signs your rabbit may have a leg injury can include limping, hopping on three legs, swelling, unwillingness to put weight on the leg or abnormal positioning. Ensure they rest and avoid further damage. Seek prompt veterinary care. X-rays often needed to diagnose fractures.

My Rabbit Has a Broken Hind Leg

If your rabbit has a broken back leg it is a medical emergency requiring immediate veterinary treatment. Potential causes include falls, trauma, kicks and vehicle impacts. Signs can include:

  • Refusing to hop or bear weight on the affected leg. Keeping it lifted off the ground.

  • Obvious swelling, bruising or deformity over the fracture site.

  • Pain noises or aggression when the area is touched.

  • Bones grating or popping unnaturally if the rabbit moves the leg.

  • Sudden onset intense lameness. Sometimes heard a crack at the time.

X-rays will confirm the fracture location and severity. Common breaks are of the femur, tibia or metatarsals. Treatment aims to immobilize the bones to allow proper healing. This may involve:

  • External splint or cast to restrict leg movement and protect the fracture. Needs regular changing.

  • Surgical fixation using plates, screws or pins to stabilize the bones internally. Best for unstable fractures but invasive. Carries risks like infection.

  • Strict cage rest. Confines the rabbit in a small space to prevent too much hopping.

Pain medication and antibiotics are also important. Prognosis depends on the break severity and location. Your vet can advise on long term outlook and recovery time. Monitor the rabbit closely in the initial weeks.

My Rabbit is Wobbly on Their Back Legs

If your rabbit is unsteady, swaying or wobbling on their back legs, it indicates a problem with their leg muscles, joints, nerves or brain. Possible causes include:

  • Arthritis – Swelling and damage in leg joints from chronic inflammation. Makes bones grind and move abnormally.

  • Dislocated or broken bones – Impaired bone structure leads to instability. Fractures or joint dislocations need treatment.

  • Spinal injury or weakness – Damage to the spine impairs nerve signals to the legs resulting in poor coordination.

  • Muscle strains or myopathy – Torn leg muscles or muscle degeneration impairs strength and control.

  • Nerve damage – Dysfunction of nerves like the sciatic or peroneal prevents proper leg functioning.

  • Spinal or brain lesions – Tumors, abscesses or trauma affecting central nervous system control of the legs.

  • Inner ear infection – Alters the rabbit's balance making them sway and stagger.

Diagnostic testing like x-rays, CT scans and muscle biopsies may be needed. Underlying causes must be treated. Physiotherapy and providing grippy flooring may help improve mobility.

My Rabbit’s Back Legs are Twitching and Shaking

If your rabbit's hind legs are trembling, twitching or shaking involuntarily it indicates a problem with the nerves or muscles. Possible causes include:

  • Spinal injury or trauma – Damage to the spinal cord or vertebrae disturbs nerve signals.

  • Herniated disc – Puts pressure on the spinal nerves causing leg tremors.

  • Stroke or other brain disorder – Impaired signals from the brain lead to loss of muscle control.

  • Nerve damage – Injury or compression of the sciatic or peroneal nerves affects leg nerve supply.

  • Muscle cramps or tetany – Imbalances of electrolytes like calcium causes muscles to spasm and contract involuntarily.

  • Muscle fatigue – Overwork and lactic acid build up makes muscles quiver uncontrollably.

  • Myopathy – Muscle degeneration from disease causes trembling limbs.

  • Toxin exposure – Ingesting toxins like lead, chlorine or organophosphates can damage nerves.

The cause needs diagnosis through bloodwork, imaging and electrodiagnostic testing. Underlying disease must be treated. Medication can sometimes help control persistent shaking temporarily.

My Rabbit’s Back Legs are Not Moving

If your rabbit's back legs are limp, paralyzed or not moving at all, it signifies a problem with their nerves, spine or legs. Causes can include:

  • Broken back or pelvis – Fractures in the spine compress the spinal cord preventing nerve signals reaching the legs.

  • Spinal trauma – Direct blows or impact to the spine damages the vertebrae and spinal nerves.

  • Herniated disc – Bulging discs put pressure on the spinal cord. Most common in the lumbar area.

  • Stroke – Impaired blood supply damages the brainstem where nerves to the back legs originate.

  • Nerve damage – Injury to the sciatic or peroneal nerves stops nerve signals below the damage.

  • Arthritis – Severe bone changes prevent normal joint and muscle movements.

  • Muscle rupture – Torn leg muscles like the gastrocnemius or hamstrings causes paralysis.

  • Abscess or mass – Tumors or swelling compressing the lower spinal nerves.

  • Blood clot – Blocks blood supply to the spine or hind leg muscles. Causes ischemia.

If leg weakness develops suddenly seek prompt veterinary diagnosis. Underlying causes like spinal trauma or dislocated joints often need urgent treatment. Prognosis depends on the diagnosis.

What Causes Sudden Hind Leg Paralysis in Rabbits?

Sudden paralysis of a rabbit's back legs is alarming. It appears as a rapidly onset inability to move or feel their back legs. Common causes include:

  • Spinal Fracture – Broken vertebrae damage or compress the spinal cord and paralyze the hind legs. Falls and trauma often to blame.

  • Herniated Disc – Lumbar disc protrusions compress spinal nerve roots leading to paralysis. More common in large breed rabbits.

  • Dislocated Back – Partial dislocation of a vertebra impacts spinal cord function. Requires immediate reduction.

  • Blood Clot – A thrombus blocking the aorta or arteries to the spine or hind legs cuts off circulation, causing paralysis.

  • Cardiac Arrest – Interrupted blood flow during a heart attack damages the spinal cord. Requires prompt CPR.

  • Stroke – Impaired blood supply to the brain stem where leg nerve centers reside leads to paralysis.

  • Anesthetic Reaction – Some rabbits have adverse effects to anesthesia, causing temporary paralysis of the legs. Usually recovers quickly.

  • Toxin Exposure – Ingesting toxins like lead, nicotine or organophosphates can acutely damage the nerves to the hind legs.

Sudden onset leg paralysis is a true emergency. Seek veterinary assessment urgently to determine and treat the underlying cause before permanent spinal cord damage sets in. The prognosis depends on the diagnosis.

How is Sudden Hind Leg Paralysis in Rabbits Treated?

Treatment of sudden paralysis of a rabbit's hind legs focuses on protecting the spinal cord from further damage and restoring nerve function. Typical steps include:

  • Imaging – X-rays, CT or MRI scans to assess spinal alignment and sources of cord compression that require decompression.

  • Surgery – If a herniated disc, fracture fragment or hematoma is found compressing the cord, emergency spinal surgery may be done to remove it. This aims to restore nerve signals to the legs.

  • Spinal Stabilization – External bracing or internal fixation helps keep the vertebrae aligned and prevents further spinal cord trauma. Crucial after fractures.

  • Medication – Steroids reduce spinal swelling. Pain medication provides relief while natural healing occurs.

  • Physical Therapy – Gentle exercises and stretching maintains joint mobility while nerve function recovers. Helps prevent muscle atrophy.

  • Assistive Devices – Slings or carts allow mobility while the rabbit regains leg strength. Prevents pressure sores.

  • Time – The spinal cord and nerves have some inherent ability to repair themselves. Paralysis may slowly improve with conservative care alone.

The prognosis depends on the underlying cause and duration of paralysis prior to treatment. Permanent paralysis is possible if the spinal cord is badly damaged. Quick intervention is key.

My Rabbit is Dragging Their Back Leg

If your rabbit is dragging one of their back legs instead of lifting it normally when hopping there's likely an injury or mobility issue with the leg. Common causes include:

  • Broken leg – Fractures in bones like the femur, tibia or metatarsals make bearing weight painful. The rabbit drags the leg to avoid worse pain.

  • Dislocated hip or knee – Loss of normal joint structure prevents the leg muscles from contracting properly to lift the leg.

  • Severed tendon – Ruptured ankle or digital flexor tendons stop the foot from flexing normally when hopping.

  • Neurological issue – Spinal injury or stroke affects the nerves that lift the leg. The leg drags due to lack of proper nerve signals.

  • Arthritis – Inflamed, swollen joints limit the leg's range of motion causing an abnormal gait.

  • Muscle tear – Partial tears in leg muscles like the gastrocnemius make flexing the paw difficult and painful.

  • Abscess or wound – Localized swelling and pain causes limping and dragging of the leg.

Diagnostic testing like x-rays, ultrasound and nerve conductivity tests may be needed. Treatment addresses the underlying injury or condition. Rest and pain relief help recovery.

My Rabbit is Limping

If your rabbit is limping and favoring one of their back legs it signifies they are feeling pain or discomfort using the leg. Limping requires investigation to determine the cause, which may

Reference:
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