Tooth Problems Of Rabbits and Small Pets

rabbits and rodents

At Castle Vets we see many rabbits and rodents with a variety of different 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 pets are unable to grind their teeth down through feeding and chewing.

Symptoms of a dental problem

  • Decreased appetite, your pet may stop eating completely or only manage very small amounts at a time.
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at or rubbing their face on things
  • 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

If your pet is showing any of these symptoms, please book an appointment with your vet straight away.

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Daily Health Check For Rabbits

rabbit

Rabbits are becoming more popular as pets in the UK and we now have many devoted bunny owners visiting the practice each week. These small furries make wonderful pets in the right hands and come in many different sizes and colours, so there is something for everyone. Rabbits are social, intelligent and inquisitive creatures who need loving, devoted and patient owners who are prepared to spend plenty of time with them, provide plenty of space and lots of opportunities to play. Although rabbits are not generally expensive to buy, they are not cheap to look after properly and because they can live for 8–12 years they are definitely a long-term commitment.

At Castle Vets, we recommend rabbits have a health check with the vet at least twice a year to ensure they remain healthy and that parasite control particularly for E Cuniculi, and vaccinations against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease are up to date. Daily health checks can be done very easily at home and are a great way to check that your rabbit is in tip top condition.

Nose

The nose should be clean and dry with no discharge. Any snuffling, discharge or crustiness may indicate a respiratory infection.

Mouth

Check that the upper and lower front teeth (incisors) meet properly in the middle and that they are not overgrown as this may prevent your rabbit from eating properly and could cause infections if the teeth are rubbing other areas of the mouth. Make sure there is no excess salivation or dribbling which may indicate that there is a problem with your rabbit’s teeth or gums.

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Teeth should be nicely aligned and the nose area should be clean and dry

 

Eyes

The eyes should be clean, clear and bright. Any discharge could indicate an infection such as conjunctivitis or a blocked tear duct.

Ears

The ears should be clean and dry with no waxy or mucky discharge or crusting. Rabbit ears are very sensitive so if you think they need cleaning, it is a good idea to check with a veterinary nurse about what product to use and how to go about it. Never use cotton buds in rabbit ears.

Skin

The skin should look clean and healthy. Stroking your rabbit will help you feel for any lumps, bumps or wounds on the skin; if you find anything out of the ordinary make a note of exactly where it is before contacting your vet as small lumps can be difficult to find again! Flaky or dry skin could also indicate poor diet or a parasite problem,

Coat

Should look and feel clean and healthy. Most rabbits groom themselves really well so if you notice that your rabbit is not looking after him or herself this may indicate a health problem. Any mats that you find in the coat should be carefully groomed out because they will only become worse and very uncomfortable for your rabbit if they are left. Any signs of excessive moulting/shedding or any bald patches may indicate a parasite or health problem.

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Gently feel for any abnormalities with the coat or skin

 

Feet

Rabbit feet should be clean and dry. Sore patches, urine staining or faecal matter on them may indicate a health problem (or that you need to clean out your rabbit’s toilet area more often!).

Nails

Make sure that your rabbit’s nails are not too long – nail clipping can be done at home if you have someone to help hold your rabbit for you. Your veterinary nurse can show you what to use and how to do it properly.

Bottom & Tail

Rabbits normally pass faecal pellets as well as the softer caecotrophs which they eat. Rabbits with consistently dirty bottoms may be suffering from an illness that causes loose faeces or diarrhoea, or they may be overweight and cannot groom themselves properly. Your rabbit’s bottom and tail  area should be clean and dry with no mats or faecal matter stuck around it which could attract flies to lay their eggs on the rabbit leading to fly-strike. Dirty bottoms can be cleaned using cotton wool soaked in warm water and then thoroughly towel drying the area afterwards (do not use a hair dryer on your rabbit).

bunny feet

Feet and bottom area should be clean

 

Movement

Look for any signs that your rabbit might be lame (limping) when moving about his or her hutch or exercise area, or that your rabbit is reluctant to exercise.

Breathing

Rabbits breathe a lot faster than we humans do. Check for any signs that your rabbit may be having difficulty, such as wheezing noises or panting which may indicate a respiratory problem or infection.

Eating and Drinking

Make sure your rabbit is eating and drinking well every day.  It is important to remember that hay should make up at least 80% of your rabbit’s daily food intake; there are many varieties of hay available, so it should be easy to find one that your rabbit really enjoys.

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If you notice anything out of the ordinary, or you think that your rabbit may be unwell, please contact your veterinary practice for advice or to make an appointment as soon as possible.

Rabbit owners can join the Castle Vets Pet Health Club which includes annual vaccinations, year-round parasite control, free nail clipping and microchipping, as well as discounts on many of our services. We also recommend that you purchase pet insurance for your rabbit in case he or she becomes unwell.

If you would like more advice on rabbit care or information about out pet health club please contact us on 0118 9574488 or visit our website 

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Rabbit & Rodent Dental Problems

rabbits and rodents

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.
  • Drooling
  • 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
Dental problems in small animals

Dental problems in small animals

Common types of dental problems

  1. 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.
  2. Pre molar and molar teeth can grow painful spurs that rub against the tongue and cheek of the animal causing ulceration and laceration.
  3. 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.
  4. Dental Caries and tooth decay  is usually caused by a diet of high energy and sweet foods (as in humans).
Dental abscesses in rabbits

Dental abscesses in rabbits

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.
Spurs form on teeth and can cause a lot of pain when the dig into the mouth and tongue

Spurs form on teeth and can cause a lot of pain when the dig into the mouth and tongue

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)

If you suspect that your pet has a dental problem we recommend that you see your vet as soon as possible.

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