Cardiomyopathy in Rabbits

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle; it is a collection of conditions that combined affects the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body. Cardiomyopathy is commonly seen in domestic rabbits and can be fatal in not treated.

Further examination of rabbits with cardiomyopathy show that there is often indications of myocardial fibrosis. This causes the fibrotic cardiac muscle to become stiffer and less compliant and progresses to heart failure.

Symptoms

  • Not eating or reduced food intake
  • Weight loss
  • Fast breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargic
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Swelling predominantly in the lower limbs
  • Collapse
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sudden death

It is also possible that your rabbit will show no signs of cardiomyopathy.

Causes

  • Age
  • Stress
  • Pasteurella
  • Vitamin e deficiency
  • Bacterial infections including salmonellosis and pasteurellosis
  • Tyzzers disease
  • Catecholamines (such as adrenaline/ dopamine)
  • E cuniculi may be linked to cardiomyopathy
  • Giant breeds are predisposed to this condition

Diagnosis

  • Chest radiography
  • Full physical examination
  • Examination with a stethoscope
  • ECG

Treatment

  • Minimising stress is very important; dim the lighting, reduce noise levels and try to make the rabbit as comfortable as possible.
  • Supplementary oxygen may be needed.
  • ACE inhibitors to reduce high blood pressure. Furosemide may also be used.

Long term care will include reducing stress therefore putting less strain on the heart. Rabbits can live happy healthy lives with heart conditions, as long as they are not in respiratory distress.

If you notice any of the above symptoms take your rabbit to a rabbit savvy vet immediately.

Resources used: Second Edition, Textbook of Rabbit Medicine/ Rabbit Medicine and Surgery for Veterinary Nurses

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