Doing some dental work on a rabbit recently gave our vet Catherine some food for thought. Catherine recently saw a lovely little rabbit. She is lucky to be in a very good home, fed a healthy diet and is well socialised – both with her owner and also with other rabbit companions. Not that long ago, this would sadly have been quite uncommon as many rabbits live their lives in small hutches without adequate space to run around in and enable them to display normal behaviours. Still now they are often fed inappropriate diets and many never see a vet, even for routine healthcare. Luckily people are becoming better informed and we are seeing more and more well cared-for rabbits, who are treated as members of the family.
This little rabbit came in after going off her food and an oral examination in the consultation revealed small spikes on her back teeth. This is a common problem in rabbits and can be exacerbated by conformational issues (such as short faces - brachycephalics) and poor diets. Rabbits need to be fed a high-fibre diet as their teeth continually grow throughout their lives; therefore, they need to be constantly ground down to remain at an appropriate length. If this process does not happen appropriately, they can develop painful spikes at the edges of the affected teeth, which dig into the cheeks or tongue and cause mouth ulcers. The only way to get rid of the spikes is to burr them down under general anaesthesia, which is where we come in. Despite how uncomfortable this condition sounds, it can be tricky for owners to be aware of as not all rabbits have obvious signs relating to mouth pain until the condition has progressed quite far. Signs to watch out for include not eating, producing less faeces and increased salivation.
Regular health checks with a vet are so important to potentially catch health problems at an early stage. This enables a treatment plan to be put in place and can prevent your pet from having to suffer in silence any longer. Rabbits aren’t always very good at complaining! Our vets always perform a full health check at the time of the annual vaccinations but some bunnies need more regular check-ups, especially if they already have a history of dental disease. If for any reason your pet isn’t having the recommended vaccinations, it is still important to go for at least one annual health check. Our Pet Health Club rabbit members actually get 4 health checks every year, which helps a lot.
Is your rabbit due a check-up? Just call us to book in – we’d love to see them!