Bunnies are cute and loveable, and they can also be great pets! BUT, there is more to a rabbit than what meets the eye. Did you know that one of the most common medical issues with rabbits is dental disease? If severe enough, your pet may stop eating entirely. It is very important to have their mouths examined on a regular basis, both at home and by your rabbit’s veterinarian.
Dental disease in your pet rabbit can be caused by various factors, the most common being genetics and diet. If not properly treated, dental disease can actually lead to death. Prevention is the best method of achieving good health and a long life for your pet.
Recognizing the signs of dental disease is the first step to solving any issues your rabbit may have. Signs of dental disease can vary and include:
Lack of appetite or becoming a picky eater: Sometimes this is due to pain, and sometimes it is because the teeth are not aligned properly and the rabbit cannot chew or grasp food.
Grinding noises: Sometimes rabbits with dental disease may grind their teeth; this may signify a problem.
Salivating: This can happen because of pain or because the rabbit cannot close his or her mouth properly due to over grown teeth.
Discharge from eyes and nose: If the root of an upper tooth is particularly overgrown, it can partially or completely block off a tear duct causing tears to be released over the face instead of through the duct.
Nasal discharge may be caused by overgrown roots as well. This can cause irritation to the sinuses and results in a discharge flowing from the rabbit’s nose.
Bulging eyes: If an abscess forms in the upper area of the mouth, it can sometimes cause enough pressure to push the eye outwards.
Dropping food from the mouth: If the rabbit begins to drop food while eating or picking items up, then the rabbit may not be able to chew properly. He or she may also have difficulty grasping the food with the teeth if they have overgrown or become out of alignment.
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your pet, bring him or her to the vet immediately. Once at the vet clinic, the doctor or technician will usually start by taking a thorough history. This is then followed by the vet performing a complete physical exam and occasionally doing some lab work or taking x-rays of your rabbit.
HISTORY: Taking a pet’s history is a very important method in helping your vet find out information about your rabbit’s past/present, as well as eating habits and any changes you may have noticed leading up to the presenting issue.
EXAM: Once the history has been taken, the doctor will usually conduct a thorough exam of your pet. The mouth will also be examined as thoroughly as possible, unless the rabbit becomes overly stressed. If your bunny is stressed or becomes difficult to handle and the mouth cannot be seen properly, the vet may recommend sedation. Once the physical exam is completed, the vet will have a better idea of which specialised diagnostic tools he or she may need to utilize.
LABWORK: Sometimes lab work is needed and a small amount of blood is tested for any abnormalities. The vet may want to test the blood in order to rule out any other concurrent disease that the bunny may have. Sometimes other disease processes can also be the root cause of the dental disease.
XRAYS: Another tool used to help the vet get a good look at any dental issues, is by taking x-rays. The x-rays will show the veterinarian the rabbit’s skull and help to determine the severity of the dental disease and condition of the tooth roots. Anesthesia or sedation is normally used, as it will be much less stressful on the patient. As well, the x-ray images will be more accurate for diagnosing the dental issues at hand.
Treating Dental Disease in Rabbits:
Treatment depends on how long the problem went undiagnosed, but the vet will usually start by trimming the rabbit’s teeth. The front teeth can normally be done while the bunny is awake, but the hind teeth need to be trimmed under anesthesia. In mild cases the trimming will help greatly, but in more severe cases they may need to be trimmed several times.
Dietary modification also plays a huge role in treatment. Not only does a good diet keep the problem from worsening or reoccurring, but it can many times prevent it right from the start! Therefore it is important to make sure that your pet rabbit is always given items to chew on, such as fresh tree branches or other hard/safe items.
On the other hand, if the dental disease is severe, then there is a possibility that the abnormal teeth may need to be removed. Rabbits are capable of surviving without some of their teeth and it may prevent them from having multiple trimmings or other problems.
Furthermore if there are any abscesses present in the mouth area, these will need to be treated as well. Abscesses are pockets of infection that can be extremely painful for your pet. The good thing is that abscesses are normally just treated with a round of antibiotics.
The best way to avoid this situation altogether is through prevention and early detection!
– Visit the veterinarian on a regular basis- They should be examining your rabbit’s mouth at least once a year.
– Keep a close eye on your rabbit’s behaviour and eating habits.
-Check your rabbit’s mouth on a regular basis- The only easily visible teeth are the front teeth, but get to know what they look like and bring your pet to the vet if there are any changes.
-Feed your rabbit a proper diet- Dental issues caused solely by the rabbit’s diet can be prevented by making sure they are eating well. Unlimited grass hay and fresh veggies/fruits need to be given on a regular basis, as well as items to be chewed on. A proper diet can ensure teeth are worn evenly all throughout the mouth.
If you happen to be the proud owner of a rabbit, please remember that dental disease is not an uncommon ailment. With proper steps taken to prevent dental issues from emerging, your rabbit can live a long and happy life. If you do notice any behavioural changes or changes in eating habits, please report this to your vet as soon as possible. Please ask the Lansdowne animal hospital for more useful tips on how to care for your pet rabbit in the best way possible!