An Insight Into Dental Disease In Rabbits

Skull molar elongation- by Vetlexicon:

The cause of dental disease in rabbits is generally multifactorial, and can include poor diet, inadequate dental wear, infection, trauma and genetic/breed predisposition. Signs are numerous, with the most common being weight loss, anorexia, tooth overgrowth, facial abscess, epiphora, dacryocystitis, and exophthalmos. Diagnosis of dental disease should include a comprehensive oral examination, radiographyand ideally computed tomography. Treatment and prognosis depend on the cause and severity of the case.

Primary malocclusion associated with breed (brachycephalic breeds in particular) or congenital abnormalities will be present in juveniles, but development of disease may take months to years. Acquired dental disease (ADD) can take months or years to develop depending on causation. Aged animals, being male, and having a low bodyweight have been identified as the most significant demographic risk factors for rabbits developing dental disease.

Disease is often caused by traumatic injuries, e.g. fractures of the jaw or teeth. Decreased or abnormal tooth wear/attrition relative to eruption are also factors. Infection and osteomyelitis can also lead to dental disease. Predisposing factors are generally multifactorial and include lack of or altered dental wear, andpoor diet, with inadequate long indigestible fiber (major factor in the initiation of malocclusion). Reduced and/or abnormal wear of the cheek-teeth occlusal surfaces, leads to the formation of spurs, and primary or secondary malocclusion can lead to reduced and/or abnormal wear of incisor teeth. Older animals and brachycephalic breeds are overrepresented.


Diagnostic investigation should start with a full clinical history and physical examination. Has the client reported lethargy, inappetence, quidding or poor coat quality? Physical examination is essential, especially of the head, including facial asymmetry, incisors, smooth jaw line, presence of abscess, presence of facial dermatitis, dacryocystitis, reduced lateral gliding jaw movement. An intraoral examination of the check teeth should follow, noting elongation, abnormal curvature, spurs, food impaction, lingual and buccal ulceration, periodontitis, purulent discharge, movement of teeth in their socket. Radiographic examinationto evaluate elongation of the crowns and of the roots, increased curvature and lysis of the bone should be undertaken. Contrast radiography (nasolacrimal duct) will identify dacryocystitis or abscesses. Computed tomography (CT), intraoral endoscopy and culture and sensitivity, in case of abscess/osteomyelitis may also be useful.


Initial symptomatic treatment should involve analgesia, fluid therapy, supportive treatment, gastric protectants, gut motility stimulants, assisted feeding where necessary, and antibiotic treatment in cases of infection. If dental treatment is required, this should be undertaken under general anesthesia. Procedures such as coronal reduction and restoration of normal clinical crown height, teeth extraction, and surgical treatment of abscesses may be required. Following treatment weight, appetite and fecal output should be monitored. Examination and treatment should be repeated in 4-8 weeks, sooner if the rabbit re-presents with clinical signs. If a poor diet is to blame, the owner should be advised of a change of diet from a coarse mix or pellets to hay and grass. Routine dental treatment is imperative.

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