Physical Therapy for Rabbits with Torticollis ("Head Tilt")

by Lawrence J. Gavlak

Our beloved 10 lb. bunny that answers to the name of "Boper" fell ill to the CNS parasitic dysfunction torticollis on August 4 of the year 2002. After taking him to three different vets on four separate occasions, we found that each vet gave him little or no chance to survive his bout with this very scary-looking illness.

After these veterinarian visits, I began to scour the internet to hopefully find a cure for our furry family member and came upon this website. After reading and re-reading each offering on the subject I finally took our bunny to a very good vet that was willing to look at this website and try the medications suggested.

Our bunny now is very functional and has survived his bout with torticollis and is almost back to normal. A twisted neck is all that is left from the disease. He can hop around his cage much as he did before the day of his sickness. Also, his balance is almost back to normal, after he exhibited almost no balance for quite some time after his illness began.

I am a therapist by trade and I put my training in the field of therapy to good use with Boper. To make a long story short, I will tell you in "layman's terms" how I contributed to our bunny's increase in balance.

When a person exhibits a lack of balance, a therapist will, using varying techniques and under strict supervision, let the patient while standing or sitting, lean to the affected side and then the unaffected side with help from the therapist. This sends signals to the brain that triggers a balancing response. After much of this type of therapy a patient usually shows an increase in balance. So, after some thought, I decided to try this balance therapy on our bunny. After buying a large clothes basket and a suitable carpet or rug (purchase one that your bunny can use for the most traction) for the bottom of the basket, place your bunny inside the basket and let him get comfortable with his new surroundings. After this, gently pick up the clothes basket and rotate the entire basket away from the bunny's affected side and then to the bunny's affected side. This sends signals to your bunny's brain that will make him attempt to "right" his balance.

Our bunny was severely affected from his bout with torticollis. Therefore, I had to start this type of treatment very gently and slowly progress upwards. Toward the end of his treatment sessions I was actually rocking the clothes basket very briskly in many directions to attempt to disrupt his balance and every time our little bunny friend balanced himself very well. After approximately one month of this therapy, two times per day, I did not feel the need to give therapy any more as our beloved little guy was back hopping around in his rather large pen and eating almost constantly!

Good luck with your treatments. It will be worth the time spent in the end!

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