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Outcome for client-owned domestic rabbits undergoing limb amputation: 34 cases (2000–2009)

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  • 1 Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, St Matthew's University, Grand Cayman Island, British West Indies.
  • | 3 Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.
  • | 4 Carolina Veterinary Specialists, 12117 Statesville Rd, Huntersville, NC 28078.
  • | 5 Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996.
  • | 6 For Pet's Sake, The Avian and Exotic Animal Hospital of Atlanta, 3761 N Druid Hills Rd, Atlanta, GA 30033.
  • | 7 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.

Abstract

Objective—To describe morbidity, function, outcome, and owner satisfaction associated with limb amputation in domestic rabbits.

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—34 client-owned domestic rabbits.

Procedures—Medical records of domestic rabbits undergoing limb amputation for any cause between 2000 and 2009 were reviewed. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to estimate survival rate and median survival time, and variables were analyzed for relationship to risk of morbidity resulting in euthanasia and to outcome (survival vs nonsurvival [death or euthanasia]). Owners were interviewed to determine satisfaction with outcome of the procedure.

Results—28 rabbits underwent pelvic limb amputation, and 6 underwent thoracic limb amputation. At the last follow-up, 18 rabbits were dead, 9 were alive, and 7 were lost to follow-up. Median overall survival time was 720 days (range, 4 to 3,250 days). Acute and delayed or chronic complications were observed in 22 of 34 and 19 of 32 rabbits, respectively, most commonly difficulty ambulating, hygiene issues, and pododermatitis (cutaneous ulcers at the hock). Six rabbits were euthanized because of complications at a median of 104 days (range, 4 to 399 days) after surgery. Risk of morbidity resulting in euthanasia increased with heavier body weight and concurrent disease affecting ambulation at the time of amputation. Weight, age, and pododermatitis at the time of amputation were significantly negatively associated with survival time. Thirty-one (91%) owners were satisfied with the outcome.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Although limb amputation was tolerated by most rabbits and most owners were satisfied, complications resulted in death in 6 of 34 (18%) rabbits, and 19 of 32 (59%) developed chronic complications. Amputation in heavy rabbits or those with concurrent pododermatitis, musculoskeletal disease, or neurologic disease should be considered carefully. Because of the small sample size and retrospective nature of this study, results should be interpreted as exploratory and hypothesis generating.

Abstract

Objective—To describe morbidity, function, outcome, and owner satisfaction associated with limb amputation in domestic rabbits.

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—34 client-owned domestic rabbits.

Procedures—Medical records of domestic rabbits undergoing limb amputation for any cause between 2000 and 2009 were reviewed. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to estimate survival rate and median survival time, and variables were analyzed for relationship to risk of morbidity resulting in euthanasia and to outcome (survival vs nonsurvival [death or euthanasia]). Owners were interviewed to determine satisfaction with outcome of the procedure.

Results—28 rabbits underwent pelvic limb amputation, and 6 underwent thoracic limb amputation. At the last follow-up, 18 rabbits were dead, 9 were alive, and 7 were lost to follow-up. Median overall survival time was 720 days (range, 4 to 3,250 days). Acute and delayed or chronic complications were observed in 22 of 34 and 19 of 32 rabbits, respectively, most commonly difficulty ambulating, hygiene issues, and pododermatitis (cutaneous ulcers at the hock). Six rabbits were euthanized because of complications at a median of 104 days (range, 4 to 399 days) after surgery. Risk of morbidity resulting in euthanasia increased with heavier body weight and concurrent disease affecting ambulation at the time of amputation. Weight, age, and pododermatitis at the time of amputation were significantly negatively associated with survival time. Thirty-one (91%) owners were satisfied with the outcome.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Although limb amputation was tolerated by most rabbits and most owners were satisfied, complications resulted in death in 6 of 34 (18%) rabbits, and 19 of 32 (59%) developed chronic complications. Amputation in heavy rabbits or those with concurrent pododermatitis, musculoskeletal disease, or neurologic disease should be considered carefully. Because of the small sample size and retrospective nature of this study, results should be interpreted as exploratory and hypothesis generating.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Barron's present address is Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, 39883 Sanibel-Captiva Rd, Sanibel Island, FL 33957. Dr. Aldridge's present address is Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849.

Supported by the UGA CaRES (Cancer Research, Education, and Service) for Pets Fund.

Presented in abstract form at Association of Avian Veterinarians 33rd Annual Conference and Expo, Louisville, August 2012.

The authors thank Drs. Tarah L. Hadley, Isabelle Langlois, Gregory A. Rich, Nico J. Schoemaker, and Melissa A. Kling for contributing case information; Dr. Avery Bennett for questionnaire review; and Dr. Deborah A. Keyes for assistance with statistical analysis.

Address correspondence to Dr. Northrup (northrup@uga.edu).