Hay contains calcium which is essential for your rabbit’s dental health. To metabolise the calcium your rabbit needs Vitamin D. This will often be available by exposure to sunlight but is also in the grey pellets in your rabbit mix – the part most rabbits choose to leave behind if they can! Without these nutritional factors your rabbit’s dental health will suffer. Once dental damage has occurred it is very hard to correct, so adequate early nutrition is essential.
Dental disease is commonly seen as overgrown teeth – this may apply to the front incisors, the back molars, or both. However there can be more severe consequences, from oral ulcers to tooth root abscesses.
This condition can also affect the health of your rabbit’s eyes. Oral problems often contribute to problems with the tear duct apparatus. These are tubes that run into the eye, supplying tears and removing overflow. If they become blocked the rabbit may have dry eyes – resulting in repeated eye infections, and tear overflow – causing skin sores. Flushing the tear ducts, usually under general anaesthetic can sometimes help this condition, but it is often an irreversible problem.
The key to solving both these problems is good nutrition. Feed a diet based on hay, with small amounts of rabbit mix and greens, and never refill your rabbit’s bowl until the rabbit has eaten everything in it. Also try to avoid giving fruit, bread or crackers, or high sugar treats as your rabbit will fill up on these rather than the things that are good for him or her.
Sometimes dental problems are congenital and rabbits who have malocclusion (poorly fitting jaws) at an early age should not be bred from.