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Companion Animal Practice
Dental disease in pet rabbits
  1. Frances Harcourt-Brown

    Frances Harcourt-Brown qualified from Liverpool in 1973 and is in general practice in Harrogate where rabbits form over 80 per cent of her caseload. She is the only RCVSrecognised specialist in rabbit medicine and surgery. She is a past-recipient of both the BSAVA's Melton and Dunkin awards and has twice received the BVA's William Hunting Award. She holds an FRCVS for studies on metabolic bone disease as a possible cause of dental disease in pet rabbits.

1. Normal dentition, pathogenesis and aetiology


DENTAL disease is common in pet rabbits and treatment is an everyday procedure in many practices, yet many practitioners are unsure about how to approach these cases because the results of dental procedures can be disappointing. Maloccluded teeth can regrow within weeks of shortening and eating difficulties can persist, or even get worse, after dental intervention. Repeated anaesthetics are often required and owners become disillusioned. The long oral cavity and narrow gape of rabbits hamper dental examination and intervention, and rabbits are perceived as high anaesthetic risks with a danger of spinal injury if the animal struggles. Skull radiographs are difficult to interpret without knowledge of normal anatomy or the pathological changes that are taking place. As a result, some clinicians recommend euthanasia for rabbits with dental disease because it is a simple solution to a difficult problem. This decision could be averted with a better understanding of normal dentition and the progression of dental disease in these animals, and many owners nowadays are prepared to make a substantial commitment, in terms of both time and money, to their pet. This article, the first of three discussing dental disease in pet rabbits, describes normal dentition, and the pathogenesis and aetiology of the condition in this species. Parts 2 and 3, to be published in the October and November/December issues of In Practice, will consider diagnosis and treatment, and jaw abscesses, respectively.

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