Continuing our blog on the care and attention our rabbit friends need…
The teeth of a rabbit grow constantly as their natural diet of mainly grass is high in tough minerals that wear teeth down. Pet rabbits are often seen with dental problems because their diet is not high enough in grass hay. Soft pellet and muesli type foods require very little chewing and contain higher calories which means the rabbit doesn’t need to eat as much and which also means they are not wearing down their teeth.
Dental disease usually affects the teeth at the back of the rabbit’s mouth first. These teeth are the ‘chewing’ teeth and unfortunately cannot be seen easily for inspection.
However, there are other signs that can be watched out for which can indicate tooth problems:
- Wet fur/saliva around mouth/chin/neck
- Yawning or awkward movements of the mouth
- Weight loss/eating less
- Pain on touching the mouth/cheek
- Lethargy/being ‘off-colour’
- Overgrown front teeth
Normal teeth are on the top and overgrown teeth are on the bottom
Dental problems can affect the digestive system and therefore the rabbit as a whole. If not enough food is being eaten the intestines remain empty and stop moving properly. This slowing down of the digestive system can be painful and eventually fatal.
Overgrown teeth can grow into the rabbit’s mouth and cause significant pain and suffering.
Dental problems usually need to be treated under general anaesthetic so that the over-grown teeth can be rasped back to normal shape and length without causing pain and stress to the rabbit. Unfortunately once a rabbit has overgrown and maloccluded (teeth that do not meet each other and grow in the wrong direction) teeth they cannot usually be permanently corrected by rasping and the rabbit will require regular treatment as frequently as every 6 – 8 weeks for the rest of his or her life.
Avoid dental problems by feeding a correct diet – it is as simple as that.
You will avoid a lot of discomfort for your rabbit, and also for your wallet!
Handling & Grooming
Rabbits need time to get used to their surrounding, so do not try to pick yours up too often for the first few days, instead talk softly and hand feed a few treats and see if he or she will let you gently stroke them.
It takes two hands to pick up your rabbit properly – their bottom should be supported by one hand at all times and your other hand should support their chest. When used to being held, rabbits are happy to accept it, but can get jumpy if they do not feel secure, so keep them close to your body and especially for the first few times, not too far off the floor in case they try to jump.
Never pick a rabbit up by the ears or the scruff of the neck—it is extremely stressful.
Grooming your rabbit can help in gaining trust from your rabbit as well as providing a perfect opportunity to inspect him or her all over. Grooming, especially the long-haired varieties, help to remove loose and matted hair.(Part 4 to follow: Housing & Bedding and Vaccinations & Parasite care)