Rabbit Dental Care

Unlike domestic dogs and cats, a rabbit’s teeth never stop growing and can grow nearly 2mm a week. Wild rabbits adapt for this growth by chewing daily on coarse grass and other vegetation that helps to wear down the crowns of their teeth, however, pet rabbits are not typically offered access to the same type of vegetation and often consume dry pellets as the bulk of their diet.

Domestic rabbits also receive less sunlight compared to wild rabbits. Sunlight helps with vitamin D production, which enables the absorption of calcium from food for the proper development of the jaw and teeth. A lack of vitamin D can lead to teeth not growing and maturing correctly, leading to malocclusions and dental problems. It can be more common for short-faced rabbits to encounter dental concerns.

As a rabbit owner, it is important to keep an eye out for dental disease, as well as learn ways to keep your rabbit’s teeth healthy throughout its life.

Dental disease in rabbits

The best way to diagnose dental disease in rabbits is to have your vet perform a thorough oral examination and take x-rays to see the tooth roots below the gum line. Through this procedure, your vet can discover a condition called malocclusion. When a rabbit’s jaw is not aligned correctly due to malocclusion, their incisors become long, making it difficult for your rabbit to chew. Rabbit’s teeth can be examined with them awake, but if there are problems, the only way to thoroughly examine the back molars is under anaesthetic.

As the tooth crowns grow longer inside the mouth, the top and bottom teeth hit as the rabbit chews, putting pressure on tooth roots below the gum line and creating gaps between the teeth and gums. Bacteria can become trapped in these gaps, leading to the infection of teeth roots and the formation of jaw abscesses. It is also quite common for the incorrect movement of the jaw to cause sharp spikes on the teeth which can lacerate the tongue and cheeks.

Other signs that rabbit owners should look out for are:

  • salivation and a wet chin,
  • decreased appetite,
  • overgrowth of front teeth from lack of wear,
  • discharge from the eyes due to compression of the tear ducts from overgrown tooth roots.

How to care for your rabbit’s teeth

Your rabbit’s teeth should be checked regularly by your vet. Rabbit owners should also consider the following:

  • Pet rabbits should have free access to hay or grass, making up 90% of their diet. The rest should be made up of pellets (not muesli) and fresh greens
  • Provide your rabbit with access to direct sunlight
  • Ask your vet about tooth trimming services.

We recommend that you inspect your rabbits’ front teeth often. They should be creamy white, smooth (except for a vertical line down the centre of the top ones), and end in a neat chisel-shaped bite. The back teeth are best inspected by your vet. By paying close attention to your rabbit’s oral health, you will have a healthy and happy bunny.

For more information on caring for your rabbit, please visit https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-care-advice/

Advice on grooming your cat or dog at home

Grooming is an important part of pet welfare and wellbeing and should be carried out regularly.

Spending time grooming your dog or cat can benefit your own mental health and improve your relationship with them. It is a good idea to start getting your pets used to grooming from an early age.  It’s also a good opportunity to look for any abnormalities or changes in their physical condition, like lumps, bumps, or skin lesions that may need to be checked out by a professional. Early detection of changes can be vital for your pet’s health, and your vet will be able to advise if you do find anything that concerns you.

Brushing

Most pets love being brushed, and it is a good opportunity for bonding and training. Brushing is especially important for long-haired dogs, though short-haired dogs also benefit from and enjoy it too. Brushing helps to get rid of loose hairs and dead skin, remove any tangles and promote circulation. It also helps bring out natural oils which are then distributed, giving their coat a healthy sheen. Cats generally groom themselves, however, long-haired cats and older cats may benefit from a helping human hand. Always use a vet recommended brush suitable for your pet’s fur.

Bathing

Bath your dog as often as is necessary, using good quality shampoo. Some dogs may love being bathed, for others, it will always be challenging. There is no need to regularly bathe your cat; only if it’s necessary to remove dirt or residue. Many cats find being bathed extremely stressful, so try to keep them calm with lots of stroking and soft words. Ensure there’s sufficient space for your pet to move around, but not to run away, with a non-slip surface (e.g use a bathmat in the bath). Smaller dogs and cats can be bathed in a sink. Water should be warm (but not too hot) and you should use a specially formulated dog or cat shampoo.

Dry your pet with a fluffy towel or leave them to air dry. We do not recommend using a hairdryer on wet cats or dogs unless they are particularly accustomed to it, in which case use a low heat setting and avoid eyes and ears.

Cleaning teeth

Teeth and gum health is important for pets and needs to be considered as part of a regular grooming routine. If this is something you haven’t done before, it may take time for your pet to feel comfortable with the process. Our recent tooth brushing guide for small animals may be useful to you.

Checking ears

Cats and dogs can be prone to ear infections, which can cause pain and discomfort. Because they can’t vocalise issues it’s worth checking regularly for any sign of problems. Look out for any changes that have occurred between regular ear checks such as redness, swelling, offensive odour, or excessive wax. If you have any concerns, we’ll be happy to help.

As always,  we’re on hand to offer advice and support, as well as to examine your pet if something seems wrong. Please contact us if you need our assistance.

Hawick Vets COVID-19 Update

Following the recent ‘stay at home’ and lockdown orders issued on 4th January 2021, we are continuing to offer as full a range of services as possible for our patients, whilst adhering to COVID-19 safety guidelines.

As a practice, we have adopted a contactless approach to appointments. We will continue to provide the same high-quality services with the same friendly, caring people, just delivered in a way that protects our clients and teams from local outbreaks of COVID-19.

We are working in smaller teams to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and therefore lead times for appointments may be a little longer than usual. Please bear with us at this time – we will do our best to make your appointment as smooth as possible.

Guidance for attending your appointment:

To keep everyone safe, please help us by:

·        Maintaining social distancing

·        Wearing a face covering where possible. If this is not possible, please contact us before your appointment so that we can discuss how best to support you and your pet

·        Sanitising your hands before and after your pet’s appointment

·        Using contactless payment methods wherever possible

·        Maintaining a safe distance from the practice entrance until you are contacted by a member of our team. If you are on foot, please ensure you are wearing suitable outdoor clothing to remain warm in cold weather spells. If you arrive by car, please remain inside the vehicle awaiting further instruction

When attending an appointment with your pet:

·        Be aware that our teams will be in full PPE at all times

·        Please phone us from outside the Practice to inform us you have arrived

·        A member of our team will alert you to when they are ready to collect your pet and how best to do this safely and without contact (i.e asking you to stand away, whilst your pet is retrieved from the car)

·        The vet will contact you by phone should they need to discuss anything with you during the consultation

·        Once the consultation has been completed, a member of our team will return your pet to you in a safe, contactless way, talk you through the appointment and arrange for payment to be made.

We have made these changes as the health and wellbeing of our patients, clients, and staff is our number one priority.

Thank you for your continued understanding during this time. We remain committed to delivering the best care for your pet and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.