Dusty the rabbit's dental dilemma

Humans, dogs and cats are not the only species that can get dental problems - so can rabbits! Dusty is a 3 year old rabbit who came to Pascoe Vale Veterinary Hospital because he had stopped eating, drinking for two days. He had even stopped eating bananas, which are his favourite food! Dusty's owner was very worried about this change in appetite and rushed him in to see the vet.

On examination, Dusty was found to be slightly dehydrated so he was immediately admitted to the hospital and placed on intravenous fluids. He was also syringe-fed some liquid food and given an injection to help keep his intestines moving - rabbits are very susceptible to a fatal condition called "ileus" where the gut becomes stationery and stops propelling food along.

After overnight hospitalisation, Dusty's dehydration had been corrected, but he had still passed no faeces, which was a concern. The hospital staff spent some time observing Dusty throughout the day and found that whilst he was interested in food, he was not keen to chew on it. This was an indication that he had a problem in his mouth, rather than in his gut. It is extremely difficult to get a thorough look at rabbits mouths' without a general anaesthetic, so (with the owners' consent) Dusty was anaesthetised and his mouth was examined.

Under the anaesthetic, the veterinarian was able to look closely at his teeth and tongue. It was found that Dusty had a large "spur" on one of his lower back teeth and this had cut his tongue. Spurs are sharp points that can form on the chewing teeth and these can cut and cause pain to the inside of the mouth.

The spur was burred down - this involves grinding down the teeth until the sharp edges are blunt again. Dusty was given an injection of pain relief and once he had woken up from his anaesthetic, he started eating a banana almost immediately afterwards! He was sent home the next day, his dental dilemma solved and is still doing well today.

Rabbits have very sensitive gastrointestinal systems and need to eat and defecate frequently to stay healthy. This is why it is important not to ignore a change in appetite in your rabbit. A rabbit that has stopped eating is a rabbit that needs to see the vet.

Rabbits are also very prone to dental problems. Rabbit teeth grow continuously through their life and they rely on large amounts of coarse dietary fibre to continuously wear these teeth down. If the teeth don't get worn down with hay, then they can overgrow and/or cause painful spurs. Rabbits do very well on a purely hay and fresh vegetable diet. Bunnies find rabbit pellets delicious, but pellets do nothing to wear the teeth down and some rabbits will eat pellets over hay and fresh veggies. This would be like us eating only junk food and never brushing our teeth! Rabbits should be on a diet of approximately 80% hay, the rest of their diet should be a variety of fresh veggies. If pellets are given then they should be given sparingly, not offered all the time.

It's good to know that Dusty's problems were solved by a simple dental procedure, but if you are worried at all about your rabbit then please feel free to give one of our friendly team members a call.