When the answer to “What’s up, Doc?” is that your pet rabbit’s not eating normally, is dropping food, or is drooling, the problem defiitely requires a visit to the veterinarian — and may require some dental care, as was the case with this reader’s pet:
Q: My rabbit isn’t eating as much as normal, and he seems to be drooling a lot. I notice him picking up food and then dropping it. What can I do to improve his appetite and ability to eat?
A: Get your bunny to the veterinarian, stat! Dental disease is one of the most common problems we veterinarians see in rabbits (and large rodents such as chinchillas and guinea pigs).
The teeth of these animals grow continuously throughout their life, and the “cheek teeth” can become overgrown if they aren’t trimmed regularly. Overgrown teeth don’t line up properly or can grow up and out of the mouth. You can imagine how that would make it difficult for the animal to chew. Other possible dental problems are a broken tooth and infected tooth roots or gums.
These types of problems can occur if the rabbit isn’t eating a proper diet or if he spends a lot of time chewing on cage wires or other inappropriate materials. A tooth can break during a fight with another rabbit or as the result of a fall. Teeth can become infected if the rabbit has trouble chewing his food and it ends up stuck in his gums.
Depending on the problem, your rabbit may need antibiotics, trimming of the teeth under anesthesia or surgical extraction of the tooth. The best way to prevent dental problems in rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas is to make sure they have plenty of timothy hay to gnaw on. It should make up approximately 75 percent of their diet.
Signs of dental problems in pocket pets to be aware of include excessive drooling (known as “slobbers”) or a wet chin, lower incisors growing out of the mouth, upper incisors growing into the mouth, a preference for soft food and difficulty closing the mouth.
Read more, including about health problems of certain “extreme” dog and cat breeds, in this week’s Pet Connection!