Dental Health In Rabbits
Jaxx arrived into our care in urgent need of a dental. This poor lad had developed terrible spurs on both sides, which were cutting into his tongue and cheeks. He was in a lot of pain and had obviously been suffering for a long time.
We believe that he is most likely a dwarf x mini lop, but we have very little information about him and no idea of his diet in his previous home. Mini and dwarf lops are far more prone to dental issues due to the selective breeding which has produced a shorter nose. Just like brachycephalic dog breeds, such as French Bull Dogs and Pugs, the consequences of selecting for a shorter nose has a detrimental effect on overall health. Mini and dwarf lops have the same number of teeth as any other rabbit breed, but they are crammed into a much smaller space. This can lead to all sorts of problems.
Poor diet is a huge issue for dental health in rabbits. Rabbits are designed to graze continually on grass. The front teeth are used to crop the grass, the tongue then pushes the grass towards the cheek teeth, where it is ground down, using a side to side movement. This constant side to side motion of the cheek teeth helps to keep them ground down evenly. Without this constant motion, cheek teeth develop painful spurs which cut into the tongue and cheeks, leading to ulcers and potential infection. Eating becomes incredibly painful and eventually rabbits simply stop eating altogether.
With brachycephalic rabbit breeds these problems occur far more frequently, even when they are provided with the correct diet. At present we are unable to determine how much of Jaxx's dental issues are a result of breed, or poor diet. But, we expect that it is likely to be a combination of both. There is a high probability of him needing further dental treatment during his lifetime.
As a prey species, rabbits hide signs of pain and illness incredibly well. But there are still signs which can be picked up immediately by experienced rabbit owners. Jaxx did arrive with weepy eyes, a telltale symptom of dental problems. But it was his behaviour in the first 24 hours that gave us the biggest clue. When rabbits arrive they do one of two things, explore or hide. Jaxx did neither, he stretched out and looked depressed. While he may look relaxed in the photo, this isn't normal behaviour on arrival. He was disinterested in his new environment, and he wasn't reacting in any way to our movement. Despite being stretched out, he looked tense rather than truly relaxed. The next obvious symptom was his lack of interest in eating hay, and his low body weight and condition. Eating had become so painful for him, he soon would have given up all together.
Although we booked him in for his dental on the next available appointment. It took a few weeks for the cuts in his mouth to heal. He remained on pain relief during this time and slowly but surely he got his mojo back. He is now tucking into his hay with gusto, his eyes have stopped weeping and we've even had a few binkies. No longer in pain, his true personality has come through. Jaxx is a darling boy, who loves everyone he meets. He loves to have a head smooth and is very confident and outgoing.
It's very important to provide rabbits with a suitable diet to help prevent dental issues. We have a great blog about feeding rabbits correctly, so please do check this out. It is also important that rabbits have regular dental health checks, to catch and treat any problems early. We always get a dental check when our rabbits get their boosters and any needed dental work carried out before it becomes a problem.
We also monitor the amount of hay the rabbits are consuming and the quality of their poos. You always want to see a pile of large, easy to crumble droppings everyday. If they start to get smaller and harder, this indicates a lack of fibre in the diet. This can be an early indication of dental spurs developing and needs to be checked by a vet.
Jaxx, sadly, isn't the first rabbit to arrive with us in urgent need of dental treatment and he won't be the last. So please please ensure that you are keeping tabs on your rabbits' dental health, with regular vet checks, good quality diet and careful monitoring of hay intake and daily inspection of droppings. By doing so you can help prevent your rabbits from ending up like poor Jaxx. Had he not been treated he would eventually have given up eating and died. He certainly arrived with us just in time!
Jaxx is now ready to start his search for his very own happy ending. He's such a dear soul and we have all become very attached to him. Any potential adopters will need to be prepared for the possible cost of future dental work, and ensure that he is receiving regular dental checks. But he will certainly reward his new family with plenty of love and nose bumps. He's such a darling with a cracking personality, you can't help but fall in love with him. If you are interested in offering Jaxx his forever home, please hop over to www.nibbles.org.uk/adopt to find out more about the type of home he's looking for.