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  • Dr. Frans Pretorius BVSc

Does your bunny have dental problems?

Rabbits are herbivores. Their teeth do not have roots, and so grow continually. Any rabbit that is not eating or eating the wrong type of food will develop dental problems. Rabbits may need their incisors (2 front teeth) burred if they are overgrown. Or their cheek teeth (the raspy premolars and molars at the back of the mouth) burred/rasped down if they are not wearing down by themselves. It is important to have these problems treated by a vet as they cause the rabbit pain and suffering, and can become life threatening.

Signs of dental problems:

Rabbits are prey animals, so they will typically mask any problems for as long as possible. It is important for us to pick up little changes that might indicate that there is a problem with their teeth. These can include:

  • Picking at their food instead of eating well

  • Choosing softer food instead of harder foods

  • Dropping food from their mouth whilst trying to chew

  • Drooling or excessive salivation

  • Wet chin and feet

  • Matting of hair on the face or feet

  • Changes in the consistency of the stools – usually diarrhea

  • Producing less stools than normal

  • Weight loss

  • Bad breath

  • Grooming less

  • Changes in hair coat, usually a dull coat or patchy hair loss

  • Stools accumulating at the back end

You know the problem is very serious when you start to see the following signs:

  • Eye discharge (usually means the cheek teeth are elongated and blocking the tear ducts)

  • Nasal discharge

  • Grinding teeth indicates pain very often

  • Lethargy

  • Not drinking water

  • Swelling on the face (usually indicates an abscess from diseased teeth)

  • Broken teeth (incisors)

To be able to treat rabbit dental problems, sedation or a full general anesthetic is needed. This allows the vet to treat the rabbit with minimal stress and examine and treat all the teeth in the mouth. Very often elongated incisor teeth mean there are underlying issues with the cheek teeth as well. Specialized dental equipment is used, including high-speed burrs to shorten and shape the teeth. Clipping of overgrown teeth is contraindicated, as this causes more problems such as tooth fractures and abscesses, and does not allow the teeth to conform to their normal shape, as well as causing unnecessary pain and stress for the rabbit.

Things to do at home to help reduce the risk of dental disease:

Up to this day, we are still unclear as to what causes dental disease in rabbits apart from congenital problems. But diet is one of the main factors that influence a rabbit’s teeth and problems associated with it. Pets with teeth that erupt continuously must eat the right type of food to limit dental problems.

Rabbits need good quality fiber to make sure their teeth wear down adequately, preventing malocclusion, food impaction, spurs and spikes from forming on the cheek teeth, and teeth becoming loose.

Unlimited access to good quality long stem hay is thus vital and should form the bulk of the rabbit’s diet. Processed pellets can be fed in limited quantities, to encourage the rabbit to eat hay, and should be primarily grass-hay based. Leafy green vegetables are important, as they contain vitamins, but should be fed in moderation as well.

Other safe chews that can be used include apple branches and willow baskets.

We now stock Burgess Rabbit food and a variety of other Rabbit products.

So, if your bunny is showing any of the signs mentioned above, please take him/ her to the vet for a checkup so they don’t have to suffer with mouth pain in silence.

Contact us on 012 664 5763 to make a special booking for your bunny with our bunny vet Dr. Arpana Bhagwan

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