Dental Disease in Rabbits and Rodents

Key Points

  • Dental problems in rabbits and rodents are often related to either trauma or lack of normal wear and tooth elongation.
  • Unfortunately foods fed to many pet herbivores do not match their natural diet, providing too little tooth wear to compensate for normal tooth growth.
  • Uneven cheek tooth wear tends to result in formation of sharp enamel points or “spikes”.
  • Clinical signs of dental disease may include anorexia, weight loss, swelling of the jaw, hypersalivation, and an inability to fully close the mouth.
  • Epiphora, mild exophthalmos, and ocular proptosis may be seen as tooth “roots” invade the orbit.
  • Use an illuminated speculum or preferably an endoscope to examine the oral cavity. Deep sedation or general anesthesia is recommended for complete evaluation.
  • Full assessment of the dentition requires high definition skull radiographs.
  • Early tooth elongation can often be corrected by simply changing to a more natural diet, eg. grass and hay.
  • Significantly elongated teeth often require trimming. Never clip teeth. Instead use a bur in a dental handpiece. This permits rapid and precise reshaping of the teeth.
  • Chewing efficiency is noticeably reduced for a few days after trimming, and careful monitoring is recommended. Some patients require nutritional support; however discontinue supplemental feeding as soon as possible. Otherwise there will be insufficient tooth wear and dental problems will rapidly return or worsen.

Dental problems in rabbits and rodents are often related to either trauma or lack of normal wear and tooth elongation. When herbivores like rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas receive concentrates, in the form of grain or pellets, with only limited access to hay and natural vegetation this diet provides too little tooth wear to compensate for the natural growth of the teeth . . .


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