In this real-life story, rabbit owner James McManus from Surrey explains how his bunny Willow, a Dutch rabbit, is now jumping for joy after an accident left her with a very bad break.
When Willow was four years old, James came home from work one day and let her and her companion Waffles out of their home area for a run around the house. He says: ‘I noticed Willow was sitting awkwardly and, on closer inspection, I noticed something was not right with her front right leg.’
‘We’ll never know exactly what happened for Willow to break her leg, but I would speculate she was trying to explore and maybe fell as she was trying to jump up on something’ he says.
There are a few possible causes for a rabbit having a broken leg. Rabbits can fracture their leg if they’re dropped while being held, or if they land awkwardly when trying to jump down from a high surface. Rabbits can also get their legs caught in cage bars with the wrong width spacing – and, if they struggle to get free, they may accidentally break their leg in the process.
As rabbits’ bones are brittle, they may shatter when they break, making repair more complex. The first sign that a rabbit may have a broken leg is they suddenly start to limp. They may also show signs of pain including a hunched posture, shallow breathing, lethargy, or reluctance to move at all.
Getting vet support for Willow
Once James realised that Willow may have been injured, he arranged an appointment with an emergency out-of-hours veterinary practice. ‘They gave me some oral pain medication to administer, and booked an appointment for Willow to return and see our registered vet the next morning,’ he says.
After an examination, Willow was referred to a specialist. She underwent surgery on the broken leg, which the specialist described to James as ‘trying to do surgery on a small knitting needle.’ Luckily, the surgery went well and, shortly afterwards, Willow was discharged to recover at home.
In some cases, when a rabbit has a broken leg, amputation is the recommended course of action rather than trying to fix a complicated fracture. In Willow’s case, James had been told there was a big chance that Willow’s leg would need to be amputated if it couldn’t be repaired. Fortunately, rabbits with amputated legs can adapt incredibly well and still experience a great quality of life.
How to help a rabbit with a broken leg
While Willow avoided amputation, her road to recovery was a long one. Her foreleg was placed in a tiny splint, with a steel cap on the base of the paw for extra protection. Foreleg breaks in rabbits are generally less complex to repair than hind leg fractures, but they still require extensive rehabilitation.
After she was discharged, James says that ‘for nine weeks after the initial fracture, Willow had to be confined to a very small area and separated from her friend Waffles for the duration.’ After the nine weeks were up, the splint was removed and Willow was allowed small amounts of exercise under supervision.
The next stage was to start reintegrating Willow and Waffles. James set up areas that allowed the rabbits to be ‘close by, so they could relax next to each other.’ This stage took another three weeks, by which time Willow was ready to go back to her normal enclosure with Waffles.
Fortunately, Willow made a full recovery from the accident and returned to being her usual energetic and curious self.
Willow is now nearly seven, and is ‘a hyperactive little bunny with a great personality’, according to James. He adds: ‘She is super-friendly around humans and loves exploring, digging and relaxing with Waffles.’ You can follow the antics of Waffles and Willow on their very own X page.
Don’t give up on your rabbit
After Willow’s experience of having a broken leg, James’s advice is this: ‘Don’t give up on your rabbit! Always consult a specialist vet and insist on getting the right information. Registering with a rabbit-savvy vet is essential when committing to rabbits.’
James also recommends having pet insurance as an essential item. ‘The costs involved with Willow’s accident were significant and pretty much the whole experience (except for the out-of-hours visit) was covered by the insurance, ' he says. ‘Insurance is the most important thing I did.’
Has your rabbit overcome a broken leg? Tell us on social media using the tag #PethoodStories and we might be able to share your story.