Why rabbit teeth can lead to a sore tummy - meet Max!

Max who is a 6 year old rabbit was brought in to see us at Pascoe Vale Veterinary Hospital because his very observant owner had noticed that he was passing fewer faeces than usual and he had stopped eating his hay.

Rabbits are what we call hind gut fermenters, which means that like horses, the digestion takes place in the end of the gut by millions of bacteria that digest and break down the hay and grass to then be absorbed into the body. In these species any change in faeces is very important. In rabbits a reduced appetite and reduced number of faeces is a sign of ileus - which is where the gut starts to have reduced activity and is usual a result of pain somewhere in the body.

Max was initially treated symptomatically; he was placed on a drip and given pain relief and medication to help stimulate gut movement. He responded very well to this treatment initially however once the treatment was stopped his signs relapsed his appetite reduced again. When we had first seen Max we had looked into his mouth to check his teeth and had not seen any signs of problems however it is very difficult to examine the mouth of a rabbit without a general anaesthetic. So we decided Max needed a general anaesthetic to get a better look at his mouth.

We found that he had large spurs that had grown on the outside of his top teeth that were cutting his cheeks. Once the problem was identified it was easily fixed by performing a dental and rasping down the sharp spurs. Max recovered very well and is back at home eating all his food again.

We know that dental disease is very common in cats and dogs and now we can see that it can happen in rabbits also. As rabbits have continuously growing teeth that get worn down when rabbits grind down their hay this problem is likely to happen again in Max so he will need to have his teeth rasped now at lest once a year.