Dental health is one of the most talked about topics when it comes to rabbit health. The primary reason being a large proportion of domestic rabbits suffer from dental health problems, the main, although not always the only cause of dental health issues in rabbits arises from their diet.
Rabbits teeth are perfectly designed for optimum wear, in some cases if the teeth are in any way misaligned possibly through trauma or an abnormality at birth then dental malocclusion and tooth elongation can occur.
Rabbit’s teeth continuously grow; because of this they require a diet high in naturally abrasive and high fibre foods. Grass, hay and other natural plants contain these essential elements. These natural materials are made up of in part silicate phytoliths, lignin and cellulose; the abrasive nature of these components help to wear down the teeth.
Common dental problems that can occur in rabbits include: overgrown incisors/ molars and spurs.
Spurs grow in sharp points on the molars; the spurs irritate the inside of the rabbit’s mouth or tongue which can tear and irritate the skin. This is very painful and if left untreated could result in severe ulcers and avoidance of food . Spurs can be treated under anaesthetic by using a burr to remove the sharp points.
For more information on dental spurs follow this link.
Elongated incisors occur when the front teeth grow too long. This can cause an obstruction of the tear ducts, as these are located above the incisors. Symptoms can include water/ liquid running from the eyes as the tear ducts to the nose becomes blocked.
For more information on elongated incisors follow this link.
Elongated molars or elongated roots causes the root to penetrate through the bone, ultimately resulting in the structure of the bone changing. This can cause multiple health problems including; abscesses, ocular pain where the root has penetrated into the orbit of the eye or blockage of the tear ducts.
For more information on elongated molars follow this link.
Additional complications with dental health problems causes extreme pain for the rabbit. It makes eating not only sometimes extremely difficult but also extremely painful.
When a rabbit stops eating food if it is not treated it will be fatal, if you notice that your rabbit has stopped eating contact you vet immediately. Rabbits that stop eating will die very quickly.
The best way to combat dental health issues is to concentrate on feeding your rabbit the right diet now. Plenty of fresh, good quality hay and grass will help keep your rabbits teeth worn down the natural way.
If you suspect any dental health problems take your rabbit to a rabbit savvy vet immediately.
Resources used for this article: Second Edition Textbook of Rabbit Medicine revised and updated by Molly Varga/ Rabbit Medicine and Surgery for Veterinary Nurses by Mary A. Fraser and Simon J. Girling.