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Dental Disease

Dental disease is an umbrella term for any problem relating to the teeth.

The back teeth, known as the molars, are used for grinding down hay the upper molars slightly overlap the lower molars.

The front teeth, known as incisors the ones we can usually see,  are used for snipping off pieces of grass, hay and any other plants and / or food before passing it backwards to the molars to be chewed. Rabbits teeth grow constantly which can cause some of the issues below.

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Molar spurs

You can see a sore on this rabbits cheek caused by the sharp spur on the molar.

Rabbit with Malocclusion.

This shows over grown teeth due to them not meeting correctly, thus not being able to grind down when eating.

Malocclusion - a rabbits teeth need to meet properly, when they don’t this is known as malocclusion. This can be hereditary, caused by trauma or poor diet. The action of eating grass/hay wears down their ever growing teeth. Rabbits that have malocclusion are not able to wear their teeth down during this action meaning they will possibly need regular dental treatments throughout their lives. This is definitely something to consider as many insurance companies will not cover dental disease and as such can get expensive. A recent study showed that out of 160,000 rabbits 2000 were suffering from dental issues. That makes it a considerable problem in the UK's pet rabbits.

Either the incisors, the molars or both can be affected. Its more obvious if the incisors are affected as this is easy to see. Left untreated the teeth may protrude from the mouth or cause sores/ulcers in the mouth.

We believe the best way to treat this is to have them removed, rabbits can cope exceptionally well without incisors and adapt well. They may just need their fresh food chopping up. This eliminates risks from multiple anaesthetics and the need for regular vet visits which can cause stress and lead to other stress related issues. If the rabbit also has issues with molar spurs (the tooth grows into a sharp point) removing the front teeth could actually 'right' the molars as the food is concentrated to the back teeth. 

Sadly ongoing issues with the molars will require the regular trips to the vet as the spurs will rub on the tongue or cheek causing painful ulcers which prevents them eating.

Rabbits with round and flat faces (lops and dwarf breeds in particular) are more prone to this condition as they don’t have enough room for their teeth which may cause crowding and malocclusion. The face shape of wild rabbits is best suited to the number of teeth they have; therefore rabbits that look as much like a wild rabbit as possible will be less likely to have dental problems.

Common symptoms are:

A desire to eat but the rabbit leaves the food eventually after trying to pick it up

Drooling

Weeping eyes

Weight loss

Teeth clicking (which suggests pain)

Swelling on the face or jaw suggesting an abscess is present

By adopting your rabbits from a reliable rescue they will be able to tell you whether the rabbits have this condition. Its rare for incisors to develop an issue later in life unless they have a facial injury or put onto a bad diet. However molars are less predictable and these need to be kept an eye on for the above symptoms. 

If your rabbits are showing any of the above symptoms please don't delay as rabbits can go downhill very quickly; get them to your nearest rabbit 'savvy' vet as soon as possible. 

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