At Castle Vets in Reading, we often see rabbits and rodents with a variety of dental problems. The teeth of most animals (including humans) stop growing after the initial development period, but rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs and rodents have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives, which means dental problems will develop if these animals are unable to grind their teeth down through feeding and chewing.
Common reasons for dental problems
- Insufficient gnawing materials will restrict the animal’s ability to grind and wear their teeth down naturally.
- Poor nutrition during development can lead to dental and bone abnormalities.
- Poor nutrition after the growth period leads to dental abnormalities.
- Traumatic injury and/or broken teeth can lead to malocclusion (teeth not aligning properly).
- Cavities and periodontal disease caused by a poor diet and bacteria passed on from owners.
- Genetic abnormalities passed on from the parents (this is becoming much more common in rabbits because of poor breeding standards by irresponsible owners).
Signs that your pet may have a dental problem
- Decreased appetite, your pet may stop eating completely or only manage very small amounts at a time.
- Pawing at the mouth
- Swellings around the jaw area or under the eye
- Weight loss
- Runny eyes (one or both eyes may be involved)
- Discharge from the cheek or jaw area
- Overgrown teeth may be visible
Common types of dental problems
- Overgrown incisors will normally be visible outside the animals mouth, but sometimes can grow up through the roof of the mouth or out through the cheek.
- Pre molar and molar teeth can grow painful spurs that rub against the tongue and cheek of the animal causing ulceration and laceration.
- Abscesses (a pocket of infected pus) can form because of infection in the mouth. They are most often seen as swellings around the jaw line, cheek or under the eyes.
- Dental Caries and tooth decay is usually caused by a diet of high energy and sweet foods (as in humans).
Treatment of dental problems
- Maloccluded or Overgrown Incisor teeth – The vet is usually able to clip or file these teeth down without the need for sedation or an anaesthetic if the pet will tolerate it.
- Spurs on Pre-Molars or Molars – The vet may need to give your pet an anaesthetic in order to be able to file these teeth and make him or her more comfortable
- Dental abscesses – The treatment of these will depend on the location and severity of the problem. The abscesses of small animals do not drain well and often need to be surgically removed under an anaesthetic.
Long-term care of animals with dental problems
A rabbit or rodent diagnosed with dental problems will often require regular visits to the vet for treatment, but you can help a great deal by providing the correct nutrition. Feeding the right foods is vitally important and giving your pet a balanced diet will go a long way to helping with dental problems as it will enable them to grind their teeth down properly. Give hard foods (and hay where appropriate) and safe woods to chew on such as elm, ash, maple, birch, apple, orange, pear, peach. Most of these are available in pet shops. (do not give cedar, plum, redwood, cherry, and oleander)