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Ask the Vet: Rabbit won't eat hard food

By Craig Reilly

We have two Miniature Lop rabbits. Fluffy won't eat any hard food, and the vet says she has spurs on her teeth that are hurting her. Her mouth is all wet round the lips unlike her sister, who is much fatter than her. What can we do?

Frank, Belfast

Oh dear, poor Fluffy! We all know how sore even a small mouth ulcer can be, so I feel very sorry for these poor rabbits whose teeth rub and cut their cheeks and tongue. How sore must that be?

All bunny owners need to check their pets' teeth regularly. The clue that there is a problem is often visible in the incisors (the four big teeth at the front). These teeth should align perfectly and be straight across. You can see so-called 'scissor mouth' develop where the teeth meet, but wear at an angle, or where the teeth simply grow abnormally. In severe cases the teeth don't even meet and then overgrow and stick into the upper and lower jaws. These are very painful.

The vet will often use a scope to look at the cheek teeth, or have to anaesthetise the rabbit to facilitate a proper assessment.

Rabbit teeth never stop growing. That means that they will always be a problem even if the vet burs off the offending spurs, as usually they will reform again. Thus, one treatment is not sufficient, unless the problem is confined to the incisors, when simply extracting them can be a permanent solution.

Most patients will require anaesthetics every number of weeks to deal with recurring spurs. This is not ideal, of course, but the only alternative might be to part with the poor wee one. The cause varies from rabbit to rabbit. Genetics play a big part, and breeders need be responsible and only breed from unaffected parents. Diet also plays a big role. Rabbits need long fibre, like hay or grass, every day to keep the teeth well worn down and to regulate their bowel function. It is not enough to provide a commercial rabbit mix alone.

Talk your problem over very carefully with your vet, and he/she will guide you as to the best way forward. If your vet isn't very experienced with rabbits, ask to get an experienced rabbit vet to take a look.

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Craig is a partner in Cedarmount Veterinary Clinic, Bangor (cedarmountvets.co.uk). Send your pet queries to tele.vet@hotmail.com. Craig can only respond to questions through this column, and these answers cannot substitute for treatment decisions based on a full history and clinical examination by your vet

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