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Rabbit Dentistry

Rabbit
Dental disease is one of the most common health problems encountered in pet rabbits. Dental problems arise in rabbits due to inappropriate diet and lack of exposure to sunlight. There is likely to be a genetic predisposition in dwarf rabbits as these breeds suffer dental disease more commonly than other rabbits.

Pic: Rabbits with dental disease will often choose to eat soft food instead of grass or hay.



Rabbit
Assessing Dental Disease in Rabbits

Dental disease is initially suspected when a rabbit is displaying appropriate signs. These include reduced appetite, changes in food preferences and increased salivation. An examination can help confirm the suspicion of dental disease. Abnormalities such as facial swellings, overgrown incisors or horizontal ridges on the incisors can be detected at this point.

However, the oral cavity of the rabbit is very narrow and rabbits are unable to open their mouths wide. This makes examination of the cheek teeth very difficult in a conscious rabbit. A full dental examination therefore requires a general anaesthetic. This allows the mouth to be fully opened and the large cheeks to be moved to aside to allow visualisation of the cheek teeth.


Pic: Normal incisors (top) and incisor malocclusion (bottom). (Photos courtesy of Frances Harcourt-Brown www.harcourt-brown.com.uk).



Rabbit
Examination under General Anaesthetic

The cheek teeth are examined for overgrowth, changes in orientation and malocclusion. The mouth is checked for any ulcers or cuts from abnormal teeth.

Spurs on the cheek teeth can be removed at this point using a dental burr. Examination under GA allows the section of the tooth that projects into the oral cavity to be examined. However, unlike cats and dogs, the majority of the crown of the rabbit’s tooth is actually embedded in the bones of the jaw. This section of the tooth also needs to be examined to allow full assessment of dental disease. This requires dental radiographs. These can be taken whilst the rabbit is under anaesthetic and will allow us to assess the full extent of dental disease


Pic: Spurs on the cheek teeth causing trauma to the mouth (photos courtesy of Frances Harcourt-Brown www.harcourt-brown.co.uk).



Rabbit
Dental Radiographs in Rabbits

Left are two radiographs of the skull taken from two different rabbits during dental examination at Milton Keynes Veterinary Group. These radiographs show the long section of the crowns of the teeth embedded in the bones of the skull. This part of the crown is called the ‘reserve crown’ and is not visible during examination of the mouth. Rabbit 1 (top) does not have any evidence of dental disease. Rabbit 2 (bottom), however, has advanced dental disease. Many teeth are missing or have stopped growing. There are associated long term changes in the skull. These radiographs helped us to rule out dental disease in the rabbit 1, and to decide how to manage the dental disease in the rabbit 2.


Pic: Rabbit 1 (top) – normal dentition.
Pic: Rabbit 2 (bottom) – advanced dental disease.


Treatment Options

Rabbits with dental disease will usually require repeat dental procedures under general anaesthetic. During these procedures, the crowns of the affected teeth are shortened to prevent trauma to the mouth and allow the rabbit to eat as normal. Many rabbits will also benefit from dietary modification to increase their calcium and fibre intake. Sometimes, we will recommend procedures such as removal of incisors or cheek teeth. Some cheek teeth can have their growth arrested by ‘pulpectomy.’ These procedures can prevent or reduce the frequency of recurrent dental procedures. These procedures are recommended if appropriate to the particular case.


Other Health Problems associated with Dental Disease

Rabbits with dental disease will often develop other problems as a result of their ongoing dental disease. These include:

  • Infection in the nasolacrimal duct (called Dacrocystitis)
  • Facial dermatitis
  • Facial abscesses
  • Gastric stasis
  • Flystrike




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Is your rabbit fully vaccinated?

We recommend vaccinating your rabbit against Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (Strains 1 and 2). To cover against all these your rabbit will need two vaccines.  Both diseases are highly contagious between the rabbit population however easily prevented.

Myxomatosis is a virus carried by biting insects and mosquitos and can be passed on without direct contact. The symptoms include puffy eyelids, conjunctivitis within the first 7 days and swelling will extend around the eyes, ears and genital regions after 7 days.In severe cases the rabbit may die from the virus.
Rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease (RVHD) is a highly infectious disease that can affect domestic and wild rabbits. RVHD 1, the classic RVHD, has been present in rabbits for decades and vaccinated again. A new strain of RVHD (RVHD2) was first noted in France in 2010. In the last 12 months, it has become an increasing concern regarding this new strain of RVHD in the UK with confirmed cases.
This new strain is less aggressive than RVHD 1 and symptoms may appear from 3 to 9 days post exposure. Symptoms can include high temperature, lethargy, sudden bleeding from areas (nose/mouth), reduced appetite and possible seizures. Even though this strain is less aggressive if not treated can cause death in severe cases.
Myxomatosis and RVHD 1 are prevented by the administration of a combined vaccination. It takes 3 weeks post vaccination for the rabbit to build immunity to the viruses. This vaccination will provide the rabbit with 1 year immunity to the viruses.
RVHD 2 is prevented by the administration of a separate vaccination. There must be a 2 week gap between the two vaccinations and will provide immunity to the RVHD 2 strain for 1 year.
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Beware of FLYSTRIKE!

During the summer months, pet rabbits may be affected by maggot infestation.  Different terms are used for this but fly strike is the most common.

Healthy rabbits are generally not affected by fly strike. There are three main problems that lead to the condition. First, a wound to which the flies are attracted and on which they lay their eggs is an obvious site where maggots can cause damage. More commonly, a rabbit that cannot take and eat its soft faeces caecotrophs (either due to arthritis or obesity) will quickly have matted and soiled fur around its anus. This, from the fly’s point of view, is an ideal opportunity to lay eggs. When the maggots hatch they spread from the area (commonly up the abdomen) and may cause a tremendous amount of damage as they eat through the tissues while the rabbit is still living. Thirdly, damp bedding is an ideal environment for egg-laying and maggot growth and development; these may then migrate onto the rabbit. This is a fatal condition if not treated.
The key factors in preventing fly strike are to ensure that bedding is clean and dry, and that daily cleaning of toilet areas is carried out; the whole accommodation should be completely emptied and disinfected 1-2 times weekly. Checks of your rabbit should be carried out twice daily, if you find any wounds or ulcerated areas of skin then please seek veterinary attention. A rabbit owner should also make sure that their rabbit is able to keep it bottom clean, if the rabbit keeps soiling itself, then there is usually a health reason as to why e.g. obesity or arthritis. If a rabbit is unable to keep itself clean, then please seek veterinary advice.
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Rabbit Awareness Week

This year Rabbit Awareness Week is happening between 19th-24th June.

During this week, we are running FREE Rabbit Health Checks with our Veterinary Nurses, Louise Martin and Cara Palacio, at our Walnut Tree Hospital. The clinics will be available during the week at selected times. Our nurses will discuss general husbandry, diet, weight, vaccinations and dental disease and answer any questions you may have. To book an appointment, please speak to reception or call on 01908 397777. For more information on Rabbit Awareness Week, please visit www.rabbitawarenessweek.co.uk.
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IS YOUR RABBIT’S MYXOMATOSIS VACCINATION DUE BETWEEN NOW AND JUNE?

25% DISCOUNT ON RABBIT MYXOMATOSIS VACCINES*

The manufacturer of our rabbit vaccines is currently experiencing a temporary shortage in supply. However, we have managed to source a multi-dose vaccine. This multi-dose vaccine needs to be used within 4 hours of opening and therefore we need to group rabbits requiring vaccines together.
We are holding a rabbit vaccination clinic at our Walnut Tree Hospital on: • Saturday 17th June – morning appointments
Due to the inconvenience this may cause, we are offering a 25% DISCOUNT* on Myxomatosis vaccinations until supplies return to normal.
We are anticipating normal stock to resume from the start of July.
Please call 01908 397777 to book an appointment.
*Discount cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer and can only be used on a Rabbit Vaccine Clinic date.
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