Rabbit Broken Foot - What Are Our Options? (X-rays Included)

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katk

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Four days ago our rabbit Memphis broke his left hind hock/calcaneus. We took him to our local vet who suggests euthanasia and does not believe that there is anything else we can do.

We are shocked by this. We've seen many stories online of rabbits who have healed broken bones naturally in confinement over time, had bones pinned or plated to help with healing, or lived good lives following amputation.

He is a rescue bunny and we believe he is about 8 years old and possibly a mini rex:



Here are the x-rays showing the break in the hock/calcaneus:




We currently have him in confinement in a pet carrier to limit movement, and we're giving him Metacam twice a day. He is still crazy about his food, drinking water, cleaning himself, and loving long cuddle sessions. He is keeping his weight off the foot; I bet it is uncomfortable.

I have contacted two vets a bit further away who are regarded as very bunny savvy and am waiting to hear back from them to see if they know of anything that can be done to fix this.

Having spent days reading stories now, I am somewhat hopeful that confinement might allow the bone to heal on its own, but I am worried that without casting or setting it that it might never heal properly and leave him in constant pain.

Has anyone got experience with this particular kind of break in that area of the foot? We'd really appreciate any advice we can get. He’s the cheekiest, happiest, loving little fella and we don't want to leave any stone unturned.
 

majorv

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It's certainly worth a try, to see if it heals. What may be working against him is his age. We had a young rabbit break her ankle..about the same place. With metacam and confinement it healed. She's doing fine now. The key is to limit his movement for a few weeks and then keep him in a small area where he can't hop or run much, until it heals. This is what the break looked like on our rabbit.
View attachment ImageUploadedByRabbit Forum1476050999.436079.jpg
 
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RavenousDragon

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I would say you could definitely try. Based on where it is though, if you want to prevent arthritis later in life, I'd at least try to get it set properly. They put a lot of weight on that calcaneus bone when they sit and it's very important for movement (6 muscles attach there!). I personally would not euthanize for a simple break like that, but I'd definitely get into contact with a rabbit savvy vet who will try to set it for you (like you've already done).

I had a wild rabbit living in my 'yard' (in the apartment complex grassy area) who broke his leg at some point and literally never used it. It set wrong and was up off the ground. I saw him for about 2 years like that! He probably got eaten or something eventually, but for a wild rabbit to have only use of one back leg, I'd say there is hope!

Let us know how it goes!!
 

katk

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Thank you all for your encouraging words.

majorv: Thank you for sharing your story and x-rays. Did you get the bones set and splinted/casted at all? Or did you just leave it and it healed straight on its own?

Waiting for vets to get back to me today. Have hardly slept in days and sitting on tenterhooks. Fingers and toes crossed!
 

katk

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UPDATE:

Out of the three other vets we have contacted, only one took the time to patiently listen to me and my thoughts and discussed the different options with me in detail.

He believes that there might also be a second fracture at the tibio-tarsal joint, but we'd need a front to back view to be sure. We decided that he is going to set the bones and fit a special, extended wire splint with support dressing tomorrow. He went into some detail about the technicalities of that splint, but I didn't quite understand all of it. I'll ask again tomorrow; he certainly sounded like he has good experience with that. He discouraged the use of using a cast because of the weight it would put on the foot and the skin problems it can cause.

The dressing will need regular changing and we hope that Memphis won't keep chewing it. He thinks that it will probably need to stay in place for at least 6-8 weeks, and after that there is no guarantee that the break(s) will have fused. But at least we are trying.

Once the splint and dressing is in place I can move Memphis out of the tiny pet carrier and into a larger dog crate. And I can re-unite him with Bailey, who has been sitting and lying in front the carrier missing his cuddles.
 

majorv

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Actually, no, we did not get it set, and we did not get X-rays after it healed. It sounds like you have a plan. If he chews at the splint you might could use an e-collar (like for cats)...and at his age future arthritis is sorta moot.
 

majorv

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Arthritis doesn't set in right away though...it can take years. This rabbit is already 8 years old so, JMO, it isn't a major factor.
 

JBun

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Even if he does develop arthritis, he's already on metacam at this point and likely will be for some time, and the vet can always just continue prescribing it if it's needed. Broken bone or not, most older rabbits will have some level of arthritis anyways and meloxicam/metacam is usually what is prescribed to manage it.

Katk, sounds like you have a good plan. I'm glad you found a vet that would help treat your bun, as there are several treatment options for breaks such as these when the rabbit is still doing well despite the injury, and pts would be my last consideration.

Just in case this doesn't work out or you find you may need other options, being in the UK you have some excellent rabbit specialists available to you. I believe John Chitty in Andover would be the specialist closest to you, and I've read of many recommendations for him from other rabbit owners. You also have Noel Fitzpatrick who is supposed to be a really good orthopedic veterinary surgeon. I know of one rabbit owner there in the UK, that took their rabbit to him for a hind leg break. He pinned it to fix the break and the rabbit healed perfectly. Surgery like this would probably be much more expensive though unless you have insurance on your bun that would cover it. But I thought I would share the info with you just in case you might be interested or need further options.
http://antonvets.co.uk/
http://www.fitzpatrickreferrals.co.uk/
 

RavenousDragon

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Arthritis does take years to set in! But I've had rabbits live to be 15. So that's another 7 years (or more) possible for this guy! I'd say 7 years is long enough to worry about arthritis, but that's just me.

How is the little guy doing?
 

Aki

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God, I can't believe there are still vets who suggest euthanasia for a broken foot. Of course, every case is different but a lot of them are treated by posing a pin or a splint, in most cases the rabbit is immobilized by being kept in a small cage for a month or two. And of course, pain medication in every case...
Anyway, I hope your little guy is feeling better.
 

katk

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Memphis has had his splint for almost two weeks now and is doing remarkably well.

The vet (Andrew at Oak Barn Vets) was the kindest, gentlest and most patient man I've ever had the pleasure to meet. He took the time to talk me through all the different treatment options again, even making drawings.

He fitted a splint which consists of a gutter shaped long plastic piece around the bottom of his foot and an L-shaped wire at the top, which points his foot forward and downward to stop the tendons in the back of his foot from pulling the bone upwards and pulling the break apart.

I stayed with Memphis non-stop for the first 24 hours, trying to keep him calm and adjusting his enclosure to ensure he could get as comfortable as possible. I could see he was distressed by the big thing on his foot for the first couple of days. I did feel cruel and had to keep reminding myself that this is hopefully all just a temporary glitch and will lead to healing. And with every day that has passed since then he has gotten more and more used to it and has figured out comfortable resting positions. And come food/treat time he his running back and forth like crazy. What a guy!

Based on the vet's recommendation, he came off the pain meds a day after the splint was fitted, as there shouldn't be any pain with a completely immobile foot and ankle.

He does chew on the bandage, but it's such tough material, he isn't causing considerable damage. The vet would ideally like to keep it on for 3 weeks before changing it. I might see if I can push it to 4 weeks and then get x-rays done at the same time. I am secretly hoping that signs of healing will be visible by then already.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to unite him with Bailey 24/7, as she chews the splint and tries to pick it up and throw it away. But I put them together supervised for a few hours during the day, so they can have some grooming and cuddle sessions, which they really enjoy.




Jenny: Thank you very much for your vet recommendations. I did try to contact John Chitty based on his amazing reviews, but they didn't allow me to talk to him on the phone. I would have had to travel the hour with Memphis there and he would have wanted to talk to the other vets first before he would have talked me through treatments. And yes, I am aware of Noel and his practice - love the TV show! If the break doesn't heal, I might have to contact them. But here’s hoping I won't have to!
 
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