We all need to take care of our teeth, but that is especially true in the case of pet rabbits. Vets report that majority of all pet rabbits they treat are diagnosed with dental health problems, which can cause pain and distress, and can even prove fatal.
The most common complaint reported by vets is overgrown molars and enamel spurs that grow from teeth. These can irritate and tear the delicate soft tissue in the mouth, causing agonising injuries.
These spurs generally develop because rabbits aren't eating enough forage and hay, as they would in the wild. These naturally-abrasive, fibre-rich foods are important because they wear down the teeth. And because rabbits' teeth grow continuously by an astonishing 2mm every week, or 10-12cm every year, a lack of fibre in the diet means that problems can quickly develop.
Left untreated, uneven or insufficiently worn molars can lead to secondary complaints such as dental abscesses, which can cause your pet to stop eating because of pain and discomfort. This can ultimately lead to death through severe malnutrition. Blocked tear ducts are another common side effect of dental problems. Because the duct passes close to the end of the incisor teeth, any problems with the teeth can cause the duct to block. This can lead to infections in the tear duct.
Another common dental health problem is malocclusion, when front incisor teeth fail to meet properly and/or become overgrown. This condition can also make it difficult and painful for your rabbit to eat, again leading to malnutrition.
Early treatment by a vet can resolve most dental complaints, but the key to preventing them in the first place is through feeding a healthy diet that is rich in fibre.
Rabbits fed on a muesli-style mix will often pick out the bits they like and leave the rest, missing out on vital nutrients. This is commonly known as 'selective feeding', and is intrinsically linked to poor dental health. It is vital therefore to feed an extruded nugget-style food such as Burgess Excel. The Excel Feeding Plan, developed by expert rabbit nutritionists at Burgess Pet Care, provides everything your pet needs for good dental health.
Excel Forage and Excel Herbage should form the bulk of your rabbit's diet. These premium quality hays are especially good for teeth because they contain long fibres that encourage natural chewing behaviour. They should be fed alongside Rabbit Excel, occasional healthy treats and plenty of fresh greens and water.
Even if dental disease has already been diagnosed, the Excel Feeding Plan, the number one vet-recommended rabbit food range, can aid the chances of recovery and stop problems deteriorating further.
If your rabbit shows any signs of dental problems, take them to the vet immediately. Symptoms include:
- quiet and subdued behaviour
- loss of appetite
- irregular feeding
- weight loss
- bad breath
- lack of grooming
- Wet Chin
- Runny Eyes
Also look out for heavy dribbling, which is a classic sign of malocclusion, and weepy eyes, which could be a symptom of a blocked tear duct caused by dental problems.