Dental Disease and Diet in Rabbits
Rabbits are different from humans in that their teeth erupt and then grow continuously throughout life and need to wear down during feeding to prevent dental problems. This is why diet is important as rabbits need to grind fibrous foods to keep their molars from getting sharp points which could lead to ulceration of the tongue and cheeks and abscess formation. The fibrous component in the diet is also very important for the health of the gastrointestinal system. Another important component of the rabbit diet is calcium which should neither be too little leading to soft bones and tooth movement, nor too much leading to urinary problems so the correct diet to feed your rabbit should be:
– ad- lib fibrous food such as grass and good quality hay (poor quality hay is a poor source of calcium)
– 1-2 tablespoons of pelleted food such as excel (muesli diets lead to selective feeding of the wrong components)
– weeds, wild plants and herbs (rabbits love dandelions!)
– vegetables such as cabbage, spinach and broccoli (avoid apples), carrot tops are better than actual carrots
Rabbits should also be encouraged to exercise outside each day to encourage gut motility and prevent vitamin D deficiency and do not give supplements unless prescribed. It is far more important to feed a balanced diet.
Signs of dental disease to look for are weight loss, drooling or sticky front paws, eating less or change in feeding preferences, sticky eyes, reduced grooming and a dirty bottom. If you see any of these symptoms in your rabbit veterinary advice should be sought.