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How to prevent dental disease in rabbits

February 7, 2020

How to Prevent Dental disease in your Rabbit

Why do domesticated rabbits get dental disease?

    ·Insufficient roughage, in the form of grass or hay, leading to decreased wear of the teeth

    ·Muesli-type diets are mostly made up of cereals, dried peas and beans, with some manufacturers adding locust beans and alfalfa. These diets are low in fibre so provide little dental wear and are high in carbohydrates and low in natural calcium and vitamin D.

    ·The manufacturers attempt to balance the calcium: phosphorus ratio by adding calcium powder or pellets to the food, which the rabbit appear to find unpalatable and therefore avoid.

    ·This leads to poor bone density and teeth that land up growing with incorrect orientation

How do you recognise dental disease in your rabbit?

    ·Horizontal ridging of the front incisor teeth – rub your fingernail up and down the incisor teeth (without being bitten!)

    ·A persistent eye infection may be suggestive of a dental problem

    ·Excessive salivation

    ·An irregular lower jawline may suggest that the bone is soft, and the teeth roots are growing deeper than they should

    ·Decreased appetite

    ·If you’re not sure whether your rabbit is suffering from dental disease, make an appointment with one of our vets

What can you do to prevent dental disease in your rabbit?

    ·Young rabbits can be fed on green leafy vegetables and garden plants from a young age.

    ·Ensure your rabbit receives adequate sunlight as this is necessary for the formation of vitamin D, which allows calcium metabolism.

    ·Feed pelleted food rather than a muesli-type food

    ·Pelleted food should be less than 5% of the total diet, with the remainder being made up of small amounts of fruit and root vegetables, a wide variety of leafy green plants and vegetables, the majority of the diet being made up of a constant supply of hay and a small proportion of the diet made up from twigs, branches and leaves, especially from fruit trees.

    ·Pelleted foods should only be fed once daily, and the small bowl should be removed with a short time after giving your rabbit access to it. It should not be left in the hutch through the day.

    ·Vegetables that are suitable for your rabbit include broccoli florets, stems and leaves, brussel sprouts’ peelings, stems and leaves, cabbage, cauliflower leaves, celery, chicory, Chinese cabbage, fennel, kale, leeks, Romaine lettuce, spinach, spring greens and watercress.

    ·Herbs such as basil, chervil, coriander, mint, parsley and rocket are suitable.

    ·By-products from your vegetable garden that can be fed to your rabbit include carrot tops, leaves and branches from fruit trees, pea plants, strawberry, blackberry and raspberry leaves, sunflower leaves, sweetcorn plants and tops from celeriac, beetroot, artichokes and other root vegetables.

    ·Wild plants that are suitable for rabbits include bramble, burnet, calendula, chickweed, cleavers, clover, coltsfoot, comfrey, common mallow, cornflower, cow parsnip, dandelion, echinacea, dock, grass, goat’s rue, ground elder, groundsel, hawthorn, knapweed, lemon balm, mulberry, plantain, shepherd’s purse, sow thistle, vetches, wild chervil and yarrow.

How can we help you with rabbits suffering from dental disease?

    ·We can examine the molar (back) teeth with the aid of a speculum to see if they are overgrown

    ·We can check whether the tear duct is open by means of a simple fluorescein eye test

    ·We can confirm whether there is painful dental disease present

    ·We can help you understand and implement an ongoing dental treatment plan to minimise pain and suffering in your rabbit.

If you are concerned that your rabbit may be suffering from dental disease, please make an appointment with one of our rabbit-friendly vets.

Jürgen Theinert MRCVS

Edgewood Veterinary Group