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Thread: Head tilt - maybe controversial, sorry.

  1. #1
    Mama Doe
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    Default Head tilt - maybe controversial, sorry.

    Iím so sorry if anything I write here is upsetting, or comes across as insensitive or cruel, itís really not my intention whatsoever. Iím also sorry if anyone has strong opposing views, I know everyone here knows and does what is best for their own pets.

    My 8 year old boy William presented with a sudden onset head tilt this morning when I went to give him his breakfast. We were seen by the vet within the hour, and he was given an injection to help his gut motility, and prescribed panacur, loxicom, and baytril, along with critical care. The vet explained how head tilt can be brought on by a number of causes, and that buns can go downhill very quickly. She said his prognosis was tentative, and would depend on how he responds to treatment.

    Iíve moved him to a quiet room indoors, where heís in a small pen to be monitored more closely. His head is severely tilted to the right, he circles, and often rolls right over. He has allowed me to syringe maybe 40ml of critical care through the day, and has eaten 2 pieces of spinach, but nothing else all day. Only 1 small poop.

    Iíve been reading an awful lot since getting back from the vets, and many papers, forums, social media pages, and anecdotes are quick to say how a head tilt bun can still live a long life, and that they adapt, despite often needing many adaptions and ongoing hands-on treatment.

    I suppose where Iím struggling is knowing what is an acceptable life for a bun, or for any animal in fact. In a similar vein, I donít believe itís always ethical to put elderly pets in wheelchairs when they canít walk anymore, or a pet which canít express its own bowels, or move by itself. Obviously there are a vast array of palliative treatments which can often help a pet with its difficulties, but I think that sometimes goes too far and crosses into murky water when it comes to whatís best for the animal.

    So while I read about and see people nursing their head tilt buns, creating small padded areas where they canít move around and fall, bathing them because they canít groom, syringing them long-term because they canít eat or drink, and then say that the bun is adapting and surviving, despite often still having that head tilt remain...I just wonder if thatís really whatís best.

    I worry that I could put him through the stress and uncertainty of a month of medication & syringe feeding, and it still might have an outcome which isnít an acceptable life for him. Does Ďbetter a week too early, than a day too lateí apply here? No matter how this post may come across, Iím not a hard nosed person who wouldnít give an animal a chance, I just have to know that that chance would lead to something that I could live with in my heart.

    Previously, Iíve thrown countless treatments, overnight vet stays, and a huge amount of money, when my cat was in kidney failure, only to have him pts 2 weeks later - he never shouldíve been put through that, and it shames me. Iíve also cared for, medicated, spent another fortune on my cat with a terminal cancer diagnosis, and nursed him for 5 months and then helped him on his way when it was time. Iím currently nursing and rehabbing my 10 year old dog, whoís cruciate operation was the most money Iíve spent on anything. He has a 12 week+ recovery ahead, and if there hadnít been a certainty that heíll fully recover and have a normal quality of life, I wouldíve definitely thought about whether or not to put him through it.

    I know nothing in life is certain, and a rabbit forum or rabbit social media is hardly the place to be completely objective, but I do wonder whether the path of treatment is the humane one, when there is a sizeable chance that the rabbitís life will continue to be impacted by their condition. They might not die from a head tilt, but is it really ok to let them live with one?

    Again, Iím sorry if I hit any raw nerves, particularly in others who have been in the same position. If anyone could offer maybe some anecdotes, or impartial advice, it would be appreciated. Admin, please also remove this post if it particularly upsets anyone, thatís not what I want to do, thank you.

  2. #2
    Moderator Graciee's Avatar
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    I totally get where you're coming from.

    My dog had cancer in her spine and they could've operated, but they were sure it'd come back, I didn't want to put her through that huge op just to be in the same situation months later. Animals live in the moment.

    I don't have direct experience with head tilt buns, my bun Clementine lost the use of her back legs and at first it was thought to be EC, just no headtilt and she was falling over etc..so I did a lot of research about headtilt, EC, ear infections. From what I gathered, it was worth giving them a chance, some buns apparently do recover even from severe head tilts, just needs the treatment and care. But I think if the 28 day course of panacur doesn't work, along with painkillers, and an antibiotics for a potentially ear infection - also anti sickness meds I read about? Helps with rolling? Hopefully someone else will know. But yea personally I'd probably give it til then and then reassess. Obviously you'll know best and its such a tough one to call and it's really distressing watching them roll it made me so upset. But I think from everything I read, I'd give it a go. Just my thoughts on it! I totally understand where you're coming from though and I hope you can make the best decision for you and your bun x

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  3. #3
    Mama Doe
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    Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply Graciee.

    Seeing him roll is very upsetting, as is wondering how much stress he’s going through. I agree that animals live in the moment, and going through this with a bun some how feels different to treatments I’ve gone through with cats and dogs. Not because the rabbits mean any less to me whatsoever, but because they’re vulnerable prey animals who are reliant on their senses to keep themselves safe. The cats and dog seek out human attention when they’re sick, whereas my rabbits have never been ‘people buns’.

    It must be horrifying for a head tilt bun to not be able to stand upright, see correctly, or navigate their environment. Add to that the stress of being handled, medicated, and syringe fed, to possibly end up still permanently tilted? I just wonder what sort of life that is, and whether that time period of treatment is worth it, for an animal which lives in the moment.

  4. #4
    Warren Veteran bunny momma's Avatar
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    While it is very upsetting to see head tilt bunnies, I have had five bunnies over the years who made full and almost full recoveries where they had minimal permanent tilt. Only one head tilt bunny did not survive and his tilt followed a injury when he got scared and hit his head, so not typical case.
    You really will not know if your bunny will recover quickly until several days after treatment begins, though I have seen it get worse before it gets better. Once I see consistent improvement-wanting to eat, less circling,trying to wash, I have faith bunny has right treatment and will likely regain good quality of life-by that I mean recovery with no or minimal residual effects.
    Of course causes vary and some cannot recover without invasive procedures or lengthy treatment-if at all. It is hard to know which ones will recover and which ones will not without trying.
    That being said , please know I will respect any decision you make because you know your bunny best.
    Sending positive vibes.
    Last edited by bunny momma; 02-03-2021 at 03:16 AM.

  5. #5

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    This will be a brief reply

    What is right for one head tilt Rabbit will be wrong for another

    Each case is unique,a holistic approach is needed, taking into account the ability of the individual Rabbit to cope with the intensive nursing care needed for weeks on end with no guaranties of a good outcome

    Treatment regime covering both EC and Otitis Media -
    Panacur for a minimum of 28 day, possibly 56 days
    Antibiotic for at least 4-6 weeks
    Meloxicam - duration can vary, at least 6 weeks
    Prochlorperazine if rolling is an issue,for as long as needed
    Subcutaneous fluids when needed
    Ocular care, down side eye prone to trauma, infection, corneal ulceration. Up eye prone to Ďdry eyeí
    Syringe feeding, in initial stages Rabbit may be anorexic
    Prokinetics when Rabbit is anorexic, to address secondary gut stasis risk
    Dental monitoring


    I have had Rabbits who could cope and one who could not, I let him go.

    I am sorry your Rabbit is poorly, only you can decide what is right/ethical for him
    Last edited by InspectorMorse; 02-03-2021 at 05:19 AM.


    I used to be ĎJackís-Janeí but I have been logged out of that account and I canít get back in !

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  6. #6
    Moderator Zoobec's Avatar
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    I don’t have any experience of this so I can’t advise, but I’m sending lots of vibes xx

  7. #7
    Wise Old Thumper
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    This is a horribly difficult decision to make and, as you have said, there will be differing views from members here. Possibly those views will be informed by their own experiences with pets, but the basic question about the ethics of euthanasia/quality of life will usually form an important part of that view.

    I really can't say what I would do in your position, but I completely understand your thoughts. I think I would take into account the rabbit's age and general health prior to the head tilt. I think it's also important to consider how well the rabbit would cope with the hands on care of the treatment. As an owner I would like, if possible, to live with 'no regrets' after a rabbit has died. These are all things I would take into consideration, but ultimately the decision sadly must be yours and I really feel for you. It might be seen as procrastination, but I think at the moment I would just take it one day at a time.

    Sending lots of hugs and lots of vibes for William.

  8. #8
    Mama Doe supersonic's Avatar
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    You know him better than anyone else - including the vets.

    I don't have any experience of head tilt, but I think it totally depends on the rabbit. As soon as I realised that Sonic was headstrong and independent to a point where it was a three man job to administer metacam ( ), I promised him that I wouldn't put him through anything that required more hands on care. When he broke his leg, the vet said they might be able to fix it, but there was no doubt in my mind it would cause him to become depressed.

    As totally useless as this advice is... only you can make the decision, and I'm sure you'll do what's best for William.

  9. #9
    Mama Doe
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    It depends on various factors - what you can cope with in terms of nursing and hands-on care, etc, and on the rabbit. If there are other health concerns, how they cope with the symptoms and the treatment...

    If it is most likely EC (could be other things), bunny is OK with handling, is eating (on its own or with help), and there are no other pre-existing health concerns, I would give the standard treatment a chance. Improvements can be rapid (within a week), although there are often temporary setbacks.

    Only you can tell if it is right for these circumstances, though. What bothers us may not bother the rabbit (eg rolling), but often you just 'know' when it's not right to keep going.

  10. #10
    Mama Doe
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    Thank you everyone so much for your kind, measured, compassionate responses - I know this is a very emotive topic, and I really appreciate it.

    I rehomed William along with his brother Jack nearly 5 years ago, from a tiny 4ft hutch, where they were bedded on a sprinkling of sawdust, and fed carrots and huge scoops of muesli. I was told they were about 3 years old at the time. I very sadly lost Jack, but while William has been the stronger of the two, he has still suffered from dental problems, bouts of stasis, sore hocks, and inability to groom. Some of these things we’ve successfully managed and adapted for, but others continue to reoccur.

    I am content that I gave him and his brother many years of good quality life, that they otherwise wouldn’t have had, but I made the decision a while ago that William and Roo will be my last rabbits, due to various personal circumstances.

    For now, William has taken his meds this morning, and is grooming his face as best he can with his front paws, but fights the syringe feeding. I’ll try again in an hour once he’s settled down. There won’t be any rash decisions made, but I don’t know if either of us can cope with long-term nursing, if I’m completely honest.

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