Stan the rabbit’s malaligned teeth
Stan is a four year old Lionhead x rabbit who his owner, Mrs Taylor, has cared for since September 2016 when his previous owner sadly died.
Mrs Taylor has a lot of experience of caring for rabbits and currently has more than ten at her home.
Since a young age, Stan has had dental problems. Part of this is due to his breed and part may also be due to being fed an unsuitable diet when he was younger.
Rabbit’s molars (back teeth) grow constantly (like other herbivores e.g. cows and sheep) and are kept short by the constant grinding action when eating hay and other long fibre. When rabbits are fed an unsuitable diet such as multi-coloured muesli containing flaked peas, maize etc. this grinding action does not take place. The rabbit’s teeth grow too long and misalign. When this happens, spurs form on the edges of the teeth which either dig into the rabbit’s tongue, or into the cheek.
Signs of malalignment include:
- Dribbling from the mouth, owners often notice a wet chin.
- Reduced appetite.
- Weight loss.
- Reduced number of faeces being produced in the hutch.
Mrs Taylor as an experienced rabbit owner is very aware of what to look for, and as soon as Stan shows any signs of going off his food, he is brought into the surgery for a dental.
The dental is carried out under anaesthetic and the spurs are filed down using a special dental instrument.
Stan often needs to stay in the surgery for 24 hours for supportive care feeding before he can go home. Rabbits eat for approximately 20 hours per day and if they are unable to eat for any reason, this can affect the motility of their intestines – a condition called ileus. Supportive feeding and medications are often needed to get the intestines moving again.
To date, Stan has had 11 dentals and will continue to need to have further treatment throughout his life as unfortunately, once a rabbits teeth have become malaligned, it is rare for them to grow normally again.