Don't forget, February is National Pet Dental Health Month. And while we might immediately think of our dogs and cats, it's important to keep the dental health of our other pets in mind. For example, rabbits!
If you have a rabbit, you know that bunnies love to chew. Your rabbit uses its teeth for a lot more than just eating – they aid in grooming, marking territory and expressing a variety of emotions. As a responsible rabbit owner, it's up to you to ensure your bunny’s teeth stay in good working order.
Your rabbit's teeth grow continuously throughout its life. The front teeth (incisors) can grow up to five inches per year. Should these teeth fail to wear down properly, they can become crooked and/or overgrown. This condition, known as malocclusion, can lead to difficulty in chewing and swallowing. Malocclusion is most often treated with regular trimming of the teeth by a veterinarian. In some cases, extraction of the misaligned teeth may be a viable alternative to trimming.
Abscesses of the cheek teeth are also sometimes seen in rabbits. They may be caused by impacted food or fractured teeth. Treatment varies depending on severity, and options include tooth extraction, antibiotics, surgical scraping of the abscess, and injections into the wall of the abscess. Other dental problems in rabbits include broken teeth, overgrown cheek teeth, and infection of the tooth root.
Diet can play a major role in the development of dental disease. Rabbits that are fed a strictly pelleted diet don't get enough chewing time, and it's the very act of chewing that helps keep their teeth in good condition. Injury to the teeth or face can result in malocclusion, as can poor nutrition and various other diseases in the body. Older bunnies may also develop problems as a result of the aging process.
Although some signs of dental disease are hard for pet owners to detect, the following are indicators that your rabbit may be suffering from a dental problem:
- Drooling and/or wet, matted fur around the chest, chin and mouth
- Excessive production of tears
- Tooth grinding
- Changes in eating habits
- Bad breath
While some dental disease in rabbits is strictly genetic, many problems may be avoided with a proper diet. A pellet-only diet can spell trouble, so it's crucial to ensure your rabbit is eating unlimited hay daily. You'll also need to provide your pet with appropriate items for chewing, such as branches or twigs from non-toxic trees that have not been treated with any chemicals.
Check your rabbit's teeth on a regular basis and look for breaks, chips and any changes in color and shape. For a thorough check-up of the entire mouth, take your bunny to the vet at least once a year.
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