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Arthritic Rabbit Gets Moving Again Thanks to Hydrotherapy

Arthritic Rabbit

Story at-a-glance -

  • A continental giant rabbit named Heidi is blazing a trail for bunnies who could benefit from hydrotherapy.
  • Heidi, who lives in England, is receiving hydrotherapy to relieve painful arthritis in her hips and knees. With a bright orange life vest and her ears tied back in a scrunchie, Heidi takes to the warm hydrotherapy pool like, well … like a duck!
  • The 3-foot long, 15-pound rabbit paddles around the pool for 7-minute sessions. Heidi’s hydrotherapy sessions have significantly improved her gait and posture, increased her confidence, and allowed her to move around much more freely.

By Dr. Becker

Veterinary hydrotherapy -- the use of movement in water to help manage painful conditions in animals -- is no longer just for dogs and horses.

'She Took to It Very Quickly'

A 4-year-old continental giant rabbit named Heidi in Hampshire, England, is using hydrotherapy to relieve arthritis pain in her hips and knees.

Before she goes in the water, the rabbit’s rehab therapist puts her into a bright orange life jacket, and since Heidi doesn’t like getting her huge, floppy ears wet, the therapist ties them back with a scrunchie so they don’t make contact with the water.

Then into the heated water Heidi goes, where she bunny-paddles around the 4 feet deep pool for 7-minute sessions.

"None of us thought she would tolerate one minute in the water, but in her first session she took to it very quickly," said Heidi’s owner, Amanda Williams. "As soon as she hit the water she just instinctively started paddling."

The rabbit, an impressive handful at over 3 feet and 15 pounds, is lifted from the water after each session and dried with a fluffy towel.

'It Has Worked Wonders for Her Confidence'

Heidi’s movement problems are caused by arthritis in her hips and knees and spondylosis in her neck. Right around Christmastime last year, she stopped moving altogether, so her mom took her to the vet. He suggested trying hydrotherapy – a first for a rabbit patient in his practice, and a first as well for the hydrotherapy pool in Milford on Sea, Hampshire.

No one thought Heidi would want to be in the water, but she fooled everyone. During her first session she began paddling as soon as she hit the water, and even leapt off the platform into the pool!

Fortunately, the hydrotherapy sessions are doing Heidi a world of good. According to her owner, the rabbit’s gait and posture are significantly improved and she is able to move around much more freely.

According to her rehab therapist, who is thrilled with the results, “Heidi is much more confident now and buzzing around the house and garden. It has worked wonders for her confidence.”

When not paddling around the pool, Heidi calls a converted garage at her mom’s place home. Her apartment is outfitted with couches, carpet, and air-conditioning, and she shares her digs with giant bunny roommates Greta and Herman.

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