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Rabbit Dental Disease


Rabbits have evolved to feed on a relatively low energy but high fibre diet, and as a consequence their teeth grow constantly.


Dental disease is common in domesticated rabbits (but rare in farmed, commercial and wild rabbits), commonly as a result of :

         congenital jaw abnormalities,

         selective breeding for certain traits (e.g. a shortened muzzle),

         an insufficiently fibrous and abrasive diet that would otherwise counter constant tooth growth

         a diet low in calcium in young, growing rabbits that can cause osteoporosis of the jaw and loosening of the teeth


Symptoms of dental disease often include:

         Selective feeding of softer food, poor appetite or even anorexia


         Poorly formed stools or less frequent defecation

         Poor grooming habits

         Slobbers - drooling from the mouth over the chin, neck or front paws, and the saliva may be blood tinged if the tongue or cheek is cut by dental spurs

         Facial abscesses or jaw bone infection

         Secondary gut upsets such as bloat or gut stasis due to insufficient dietary fibre

         Weeping or white purulent discharge from the eyes

         Predisposition to fur mite infestation (secondary to impaired grooming) or fly-stike (secondary to soft stools or reduced caecotroph ingestion)

         NB Rabbits do rarely vocalise when uncomfortable, and in all likelihood dental pain is just as uncomfortable for rabbits as it is in humans


Realistically dental disease of rabbits can only be managed and may involve:

         Regular burring of affected teeth, often every 4-6 weeks

         Extraction of incisor teeth. Extraction of cheek teeth is difficult and generally not performed due to limited access, the fact that opposing teeth on the continue to grow unchecked, and because dental disease typically affects multiple teeth

         Skull xrays can demonstrate the severity of the dental disease, the presence of jaw bone infections