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.

Starting your puppy off right!

If you’ve recently got a new puppy, you may be wondering how to give them the best start to life. According to Dogs Trust, the first four months of a puppy’s life are crucial, as it is when they learn what to make of all they experience in the world.

Problems can arise when puppies do not receive training or are not familiarised with their environment early on. As dogs get older, they can become stressed about things that they did not encounter when they were young. As you can imagine, adjusting to all the changes caused by the COVID-19 control measures and transitioning to the new ‘normal’ can be confusing to a puppy.

When you start to train your puppy, we recommend using methods that rely on positive reinforcement and gentle teaching. Puppies have short attention spans, so training sessions should be brief but should occur routinely.

Teaching your puppy to be alone

Your puppy needs to feel stress-free and confident to be left alone. You can start training by putting your puppy behind child gates or playpens, then quietly walking out of the room. Return immediately and reward them with praise. Repeat the process, slowly increasing how long you are away each time. In the beginning, even a single minute might feel too long for your puppy, but over time, you should be able to build up to reasonably long periods.

Once your puppy starts to feel confident, you can get them used to you leaving the house. Start slowly by going outside and returning straight away. If your puppy stays relaxed, you can increase the time that you are out. This will leave them well-prepared when the time comes for you to transition away from working from home or when your social diary fills up.

Creating a routine

Some basic structure will help your puppy feel secure and know what is expected of him or her. The best way to do this is to create a basic schedule. Try and develop a routine of exercise, mealtimes, potty breaks and training sessions. No matter how tempting it is to play with your puppy all the time while you are at home, it is essential to give your puppy rest throughout the day.

By establishing the routine from the very start, you will be on your way to a well-adjusted dog. It is worth putting in the time right now so that undesirable behaviours will not develop in the long run.

Socialising with dogs

Puppies need to learn how to communicate with other dogs. This task became tricky due to COVID-19 limitations and social distancing. Many behavioural problems can arise when a dog has been inadequately socialised as a puppy. For this reason, it is best to aim for early controlled socialisation as much as possible. To keep them safe, we recommend that your puppy receives all the necessary vaccinations before they start interacting with other dogs.

Socialising with people

A major component of a dog’s life is meeting new people, whether when out on exercise or when visitors are able to come to your home.  Dogs Trust highlights that you can have great fun introducing them to how different people might appear, by:

  • Trying on different outfits around the home.
  • Getting into a big hat or a wig.
  • Introducing things like walking sticks or high-vis clothing if you have them.


Handling and grooming

It’s a great idea to help your puppy get used to being handled at a young age. Introduce a gentle grooming brush and spend a few minutes each day examining your puppy’s mouth, ears and paws. If unsure, ask one of our team members to show you how you can do this gently.

Play

Puppies learn a lot about social interactions through play. Short periods of energetic play are a good way for puppies to learn the basics such as ‘fetch’ and ‘hide and seek’. You could practise inside your home or garden in preparation for when you can venture further afield.

Cars

Although it’s important to get puppies used to going out in the car at an early age, it may not be possible to do this under the current circumstances. If you have a travel crate in the boot, now’s a good time to introduce them to it.  Sit the puppy in the crate in your car whilst stationary on your drive or outside your house, to get them used to being in the car. Gradually spend longer periods of time with your puppy in the car, giving plenty of praise and treats each time. Feeding meals in the car is a good way for your puppy to develop a positive association with your car.

Children

The actions of children can be scary to adult dogs that are not socialised with children during puppyhood. Children tend to get excited around puppies and may incite them to play and chase, therefore it’s important that they are taught how to behave around each other. We do not recommend leaving your new puppy unsupervised with any children until you are certain they can get along well.

The best way to build a good relationship between your dog and children is to use positive reinforcement. When your dog is behaving well around children, be sure to give them lots of praise and treats. Your dog will learn that good things happen whenever kids are around.

For additional tips, please visit www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/behaviour/puppy-socialisation-introduction