The rabbits are Lagomorpha. They have an oral cavity with a small opening, with constantly growing teeth(hypselodontia). There are 28 of them: 4 incisors, 6 small molars and 6 molars in the upper jaw and 2 incisors, 4 small molars and 6 molars in the lower jaw. They do not have a canine tooth! Their incisors are used to cut the plants, while the molars (located on the inner cheek) are used to crush and grind the fibrous plants. In rabbits, the lower and upper molars do not touch each other when they are at rest. The chewing movements are lateral for the small molars and molar teeth and anterior-posterior for the incisors.
The origin of poor tooth occlusion:
- Congenital: as in the dwarf breeds, which are selected for their small figure, their rounded head. They have a shortened dentition where co-optation may be deficient. Animal reproduction presenting these congenital anomalies should therefore be prohibited.
- Traumatic: due to a fall or due to chewing the cage bars.
- Nutritional: because the wear of the rabbit's teeth occurs due to the movements involved in chewing the food. In nature, the chewing of the plant fibres takes place in a permanent way and the wearing is increased by the silicic acid contained in the fresh plants. Unfortunately, the administration of industrial food to our domestic rabbits is not sufficient to wear down the teeth, because the grains induce a quick satiety state. As the animal is no longer hungry, it is no longer encouraged to continue chewing in a permanent manner.
- Metabolic: due to demineralisation of the cephalic skeleton.
- Weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, anorexia.
- Digestive signs
- Skin signs
- Eye signs
- Examination of the oral cavity in an awake rabbit will only see +/-25% of the lesions. Therefore, to do a complete examination of the oral cavity, endoscopy and general anaesthesia are needed.
- The skull radiograph allows to assess the dental pathology, to clearly highlight the growth of the roots, an abnormal growth of the molar crowns or a bone lysis (demineralisation).
- Bacterial culture and antibiogram should be performed in case of inflammation associated with dental pathology.
- Eye examination is necessary in case of eye signs such as watery eyes or goggle eyes (eye that has tendency to come out of the orbit).
Two solutions exist:
- Shortening the length of the incisors (cutting) and/or the (front) molars (grinding).
- Removal of the incisors and/or the (front) molars: this is the treatment of choice for congenital occlusion of the incisors.
It is important to be aware that the problem can recur very frequently, usually after 6 to 10 weeks.
In the case of an abscess, the treatment is done with a surgical procedure under anaesthesia. It must be discussed with the owner of the animal and an assessment in function of the prognosis is necessary. In addition, a relapse may occur. In the most severe cases, euthanasia may unfortunately be indicated. Furthermore, antibiotic administration based on the antibiogram is necessary. Medical treatment of the abscess only is often illusory.
The post-operative treatments :
The rabbit will find it difficult to feed itself for a week. The owner would therefore have to help the animal by giving it a liquid diet, administered by injection if necessary.
Antibiotic therapy could be instructed. The choice of antibiotics is based on the cultures and the results of the antibiogram.