Dental disease is one of the most common problems seen in pet rabbits. A rabbit’s teeth grow continuously throughout their life. A normal shape to the jaw and a suitable diet are very important to the normal wearing of the teeth.

The part of the tooth that is visible to us is called the crown, and the part hidden beneath the gums is called the root. The root is only visible with the aid of an x-ray. Overgrowth may occur in either the root or the crown of the tooth.

Causes of Dental Disease

Genetics and diet are the most common causes of dental disease in the pet rabbit. Trauma or infection may less commonly cause this problem.

Signs of Dental Disease(not all signs will be present in every rabbit with dental disease)

  • Anorexia (loss of appetite)

  • Avoiding certain types of food

  • Dropping food out of the mouth

  • Excessive tear production

  • Nasal discharge

  • Salivating excessively

  • Teeth Grinding

  • Bulging of the eye

Diagnosing Dental Disease:

Physical Examination -  At the Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic, we will examine the mouth as a part of your rabbit’s annual exam. The earlier we can detect dental disease, the greater the chances for success of treatment. The examination is usually performed without anesthesia. In cases where the pet is difficult to handle or where dental disease is difficult to see due to its position, it will be necessary to use sedation for the mouth examination. A complete physical examination is vital to determine any other disease problems that might be present.

Radiographs (X-Rays) - Radiographs of the skull can determine the extent of the disease and will guide our treatment approach. Several views of the head need to be taken in order to see all the teeth. It is necessary and also much less stressful to the rabbit to use anesthesia for this diagnostic procedure.

Blood Tests - Bloodwork will enable us to evaluate the health of internal organs, such as the liver and kidneys, and can also indicate other problems such as infection. This test can help assess anesthetic risk, if sedation or anesthesia is needed.

Treatment of Dental Disease

Grinding/Trimming Overgrown Teeth - Overgrown incisors (front teeth) are shortened with a dental burr. In this way teeth can be trimmed without fear of breakage. It is generally performed painlessly and quickly while your pet is awake. If the rabbit is nervous or difficult to handle, they may have to be sedated for this procedure. Overgrown molars (cheek teeth) are more difficult to trim in the conscious pet. Anesthesia is usually necessary to assess and treat these teeth. In early cases, this treatment may be curative. In chronic or more severe disease, the procedure will need to be repeated.

Extracting Teeth - Extraction of abnormal teeth may be an option. In these cases diet modifications may have to be made.

Treating Abscesses - Dental disease must be considered anytime a rabbit develops an abscess on the face or jaw and x-rays are needed to assess the problem. There are many options now available for the treatment of dental abscesses including complete surgical excision, antibiotic bead impregnation, and various injections into the wall of the abscess.

Diet - Diet plays an important role in wearing down the teeth. A healthy diet, which is high in fibre, is necessary in the treatment of dental disease to minimize further damage and to attempt to prevent reoccurrence. Please refer to our diet handout for more detail.  

Prevention of Dental Disease

Diet - Please refer to our diet handout for recommendations. In addition offer other items for chewing such as fresh tree branches (from trees that are NOT sprayed with chemicals), untreated wood pieces and unvarnished, unpainted wicker baskets.

Veterinary Examinations - Yearly physical examinations are recommended for all pet rabbits. A dental exam is a part of a thorough physical examination.