Dental Disease in Rabbits
Our veterinarians often see cases of Acquired Dental Disease (ADD) here in Grapevine. ADD is a common condition in rabbits caused by issues like genetics, vitamin deficiency, and the big one: diet! The most important thing to realize with ADD is that it’s a progressive process leading up to a permanent condition. Once it has developed, it’s irreversible. Therefore, a proper diet and early detection are essential in rabbit dental care.
A rabbit’s teeth are forever-erupting, so they need to be worn down constantly. Rabbits wear down their teeth by eating lots of highly fibrous foods like hay. Wooden blocks are not a solution. If they don’t get to chew enough due to being fed calorically dense foods such as excess pellets and dried fruit, they could be in danger of developing ADD. Without frequent chewing, molars will not wear down but instead grow higher in the mouth, causing a condition known as malocclusion. Malocclusion is the incorrect alignment of the upper and lower teeth.
Effects of Malocclusion
Dental spurs and dental abscesses are the two main results of malocclusion.
When molars grow too tall, the tops may grow outwards towards the tongue or the cheek and create a dental spur—a sharp point in the mouth. The spur may then cut into the soft tissues in the mouth and create painful ulcers. A veterinarian must trim these spurs every 2-6 months while the rabbit is under anesthesia to help them eat comfortably.
Abscesses occur when the overgrown top and bottom molars exert excessive force on one another whenever the rabbit bites down. This extra force pushes the roots of the bottom teeth downward and the top teeth upward toward the eyes (known as retrograde tooth elongation). This creates more space around the tooth root, allowing bacteria to enter and infect the root, which leads to an abscess. Dental abscesses range from mild to severe, requiring a varied approach for treatment. Because dental abscesses and spurs are so common and serious, it’s critical to keep your pet on a good diet and schedule routine screenings and exams to detect this process early or prevent it from taking place altogether.