A common problem with rabbits is dental issues; often in their life they will require some dental work. In severe cases this can be every 6 to 8 weeks.
Rabbits have front incisors, used primarily to cut though food, and back cheek teeth which are use for grinding and chewing food.
Like horse teeth, rabbits teeth are open rooted and grow continuously throughout their lives to aid in the breakdown of their fibrous diet of grass, leaves and natural forage. Domesticated rabbits are often fed less fibrous foods and so are unable to grind their teeth down, which consequently become overgrown. If left untreated the teeth can become sharp and pointy and form spurs.
Once teeth have developed spurs the tongue and cheeks are often cut causing abscesses. If the teeth alignment becomes abnormal it can be almost impossible to reverse.
All of these problems are very painful for the animal and can cause infections, both of which will require medication and the rabbit will eventually become off colour and stop eating. To rectify rabbit dental problems, a general anesthetic is required followed be post-operative pain relief and antibiotics.
Signs of tooth related problems:
– Not eating enthusiastically
– Runny eyes or blocked tear ducts
– Weight loss
Prevention of tooth related problems:
– Yearly or Bi-Yearly checks
– Feed high fibre diet, e.g. Hay
– Offer fresh vegetables regularly
– Always check the animal is eating enthusiastically
– Check the mouth and face regularly for changes
Like dogs and cats, rabbits are susceptible to many diseases and some of these can be prevented by routine vaccinations.
Myxomatosis is a viral disease seen commonly in wild rabbits in the UK and unfortunately it can affect pet rabbits too. The disease is spread from infected to non-infected rabbits via flea bites. The virus causes swellings around the eyes, ears and genitals and feeding soon becomes difficult. In the vast majority of cases treatment is futile.
Viral haemorrhagic disease (V.H.D.) is another widespread viral disease that is present in the UK. The disease is spread via direct contact with infected rabbits or contaminated feeding or drinking bowls. Affected rabbits rapidly become ill and often sudden death is the first sign that is seen.
Both Myxomatosis and V.H.D. can be prevented by a single annual vaccination.