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Radiographic interpretation of the vertebral column

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Abstract

The rabbit has a relatively delicate skeleton, which accounts for 6–8% of total bodyweight compared with 13% in a similarly sized cat. However, the rabbit has increased hindlimb musculature designed for explosive running. This chapter observes physical examination; indications for radiography; positioning for radiography; myelography; the approach to the paralysed or paretic rabbit; and features that can be diagnosed using radiography.

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Figures

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6.1 Normal lateral view of the cervical and thoracic spine of a 3-year-old entire male dwarf rabbit. Early signs of dental disease were an incidental finding. The alignment of the tympanic bullae (black asterisks), ribs (white squares), wings of atlas (red circles) and mandibles (yellow circles) denote correct positioning. Normal flexed-neck lateral view of the cervical and thoracic spine of a 3-year-old entire male dwarf rabbit. Early signs of dental disease were an incidental finding. The alignment of the tympanic bullae (black asterisks), ribs (white squares), wings of atlas (red circles) and mandibles (yellow circles) denote correct positioning.
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6.2 Normal lateral view of the lumbar spine of a 2-year-old neutered male Dwarf Lop rabbit presented with gastrointestinal stasis. The alignment of the lumbar transverse processes (black circles), ribs (white squares) and wings of the ilia (red circles) denote correct positioning.
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6.3 Normal VD view of the lumbar spine of a 2-year-old neutered male Dwarf Lop rabbit presented with gastrointestinal stasis. The symmetry and centrally positioned spinous processes (red circles) denote correct positioning.
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6.4 Suggested diagnostic approach to the paralysed/paretic rabbit. LMN = lower motor neuron signs; UMN = upper motor neuron signs.
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6.5 Kyphosis of the mid-thoracic spine in a 2-year-old neutered female Dwarf Lop rabbit with chronic perineal soiling. Reduced mobility resulting from the kyphosis resulted in caecotroph accumulation around the perineum. The problem was managed by regular shaving of the fur around the perineum, which reduced the accumulation of caecotrophs and allowed easier cleaning by the owner.
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6.6 Lumbar vertebral spondylosis in a Dwarf Lop rabbit with a history of reluctance to exercise and obesity. There were no neurological deficits and there was no evidence of spinal pain. A calorie-controlled diet was advised, consisting of predominantly hay with an eggcupful of pellet diet daily. Free exercise and foraging were encouraged.
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6.7 Discospondylitis in a 7-year-old neutered male rabbit with a recent history of sudden-onset severe depression, lethargy and anorexia. Physical examination revealed hindlimb paresis, lumbar pain and a doughy abdomen. Abnormalities on the radiograph include collapse of the intervertebral disc spaces and osteosclerosis of the vertebral endplates from T12–T13 through to L3–L4. Calcified disc material is visible in the L2–L3 intervertebral foramen. There is also gas dilation of the gastrointestinal tract. The owner declined further investigation and elected for euthanasia.
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6.8 Lateral myelographic view of an extradural compression on the ventral aspect of the spinal cord at the L4–L5 intervertebral disc interspace of a rabbit that had sustained a fracture of the vertebral endplate of the 4th lumbar vertebra. (Courtesy of Frances Harcourt-Brown)
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6.9 Radiograph of a 6-year-old giant-breed rabbit presenting with the right forelimb extended laterally at a 45-degree angle from the body. Wastage of the triceps musculature was noted; the left forelimb was also affected but to a much lesser extent. There is spondylosis evident at T1–T2 and T2–T3. (© John Chitty)
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6.10 Subluxation of the 3rd lumbar vertebra in a 5-year-old crossbreed neutered female rabbit with a history of hindlimb paresis following a recent fall from its hutch. The clinical signs improved following treatment with oral meloxicam.
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6.11 Vertebral body fracture (L4) in a 1-year-old entire female Dutch rabbit with a recent history of dog attack. The rabbit presented with acute-onset hindlimb paralysis with no deep pain sensation. The rabbit was euthanased.
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6.12 Marked generalized osteosclerosis of the axial and appendicular skeleton of a 6-year-old entire male Dwarf Lop rabbit with chronic renal failure. The rabbit was presented because of forelimb pain and polydipsia. Note also the calcified aorta, which is a common feature in chronic renal failure.

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