Pet dog insurance vets bills and more

If you ask some dog owners why they have pet dog insurance, the most common response may be ‘to provide financial cover’ in the event that the dog falls ill or is in an accident and needs medical treatment.

Vets fees can be extremely expensive and if your pet has to have surgery for example or needs ongoing treatment, then looking at costs, which could run into three or four figures, may cause financial worry.

So, even though it may not provide cover for things such as regular vaccinations, neutering and the like, pet dog insurance may provide an invaluable financial support.

While vets fees may obviously be an important consideration for your pet insurance, they are really only a part of the whole story.

There are quite a few other ways where having pet cover may help you avoid significant expenditure or loss.

To consider just a few situations:

  • with just a couple of days to go before your holiday, you pet is taken ill and needs emergency and life-saving treatment. In this situation, in addition to the cost of the treatment, you may also be facing the prospect of cancelling your holiday at short notice;
  • your pet dog disappears, so you advertise and offer a reward for its safe recovery;
  • you or a close family member, have to go into hospital and there is no one around to care for your pet;
  • your dog causes injury to a third party or damage to their property.

You may find that there is pet insurance that can provide financial assistance in any of the above situations (and others).

Cheapest pet insurance

If you have more that one pet, you may understandably be on the lookout for the cheapest pet insurance.

You may find that the price may be linked to the level of cover offered, so while one policy may be cheaper than another it may not offer the cover that you are looking for to provide complete peace of mind (in other words, what is cheap pet insurance for one person may not be for another).

However, if you opt for cover where you receive a discount for insuring your other pets as well, you may find that this might reduce your pet dog insurance premium costs.

RUBY’S STORY – the story of a rescue rat

Many people who offer a home to a rescue rat are experienced rat owners – and for good reason too. Sadly, many of the rats that come into a Rat Rescue will be mentally and emotionally scarred by their past, meaning that some may be exceptionally timid or very aggressive. However, as this story demonstrates – written in her own words by rat lover Kerry May – with lots of love and patience your new rat can learn to trust you and you can have a wonderful friendship.

On the 27th December 2002 a friend phoned to tell me that there was an advert in the paper for a white female rat called Ruby free to a good home. I wasn’t really looking for another rat as I already had 2 but I kept thinking about her so I phoned the number in the advert. A man told me that his daughter bred gerbils and hamsters and thought about giving “rats a go” but she had got bored!

When I got round there a woman told me that she had found a home for the male some time ago and that Ruby had been in the shed for about a year. I was asked to wait while the woman got her for me. Ruby was very clean and obviously well fed but when I got her home she cowered in the carry case and was really scared of me.

I set up a cage with 3 beds and spread loads of bedding about and quickly took her from the carry case and put her in her new home. Once she had settled down a bit she began collecting every strand of bedding and putting it into the bed she had chosen, along with a towel that I had left in the cage.

Ruby spent all of the next day looking at what was going on, so in the evening I decided to let her out for the first time. I took her cage into the hall, closed all the doors and sat on the floor. She came quite gingerly and wouldn’t let me near her, I had to keep absolutely still otherwise she ran back to her house.

The next day when I let her out and she was down the other end of the hall, I sat in front of the cage and put my legs either side of the door so that she would have to climb over a leg to get back in. I do this with all my new rats to get them used to touching me on their own terms, as it puts no pressure on them, but she climbed up the side of the cage and down the front and went headfirst into the cage, all to avoid me!

The day after though she seemed quite happy to climb over my legs to get in and even ignored me when I got up to sort her house out. The day after I was pleased when she climbed up my arm, the pleasure was short-lived though, because as soon as she jumped off me she bit my hand then legged it back to her house.

Each time I put my hand near her she bit me hard enough to draw blood which was becoming very unpleasant to say the least.

It soon became obvious that she loved her food and even though she was wary of me she would come straight out of her bed when she smelt something nice. So to get her used to me I prepared sweetcorn for her dinner then sat in front of the cage with the lid up. I put both hands in and held a piece of sweetcorn with one hand and as she came out of her bed I would attempt to touch her with the other.

If I managed to even brush against her fur slightly without getting bitten, I rewarded her with the sweetcorn, if I didn’t manage to touch her before she ran off or bit me she didn’t get the food. I would do this we 4 or 5 pieces then leave her to eat in peace. I did this for 2 weeks and although she stopped running away she still jumped when I touched her.

When she was outside her cage I would try to touch her at every opportunity, sometimes I got bitten but mostly she just scooted off. One day she was obviously very fed up with me and really lunged for me. I got a print on the back of my hand of top teeth and bottom teeth an inch apart!

Over the next few weeks she became very happy to climb over me while out of the cage, once though without thinking I put my hand on her has she walked past me and she pinged about 2 feet in the air, poor Ruby, but it was hilarious.

One day, 6 weeks after her arrival I touched her and was able to leave my hand on her for several seconds and she wasn’t bothered. I even managed to put both my hands round her body as if to pick her up but I was so worried about scaring her that I let go, but she kept coming back for more Yay! We were getting there.

Some time later I was laying in the hall while she had a run when I put my hand on her, she scooted off but came back again, so I put my hand on her again, this time harder. We spent ages with her running off then coming back for me to touch her. This was the start of her really starting to trust me.

Several times I tried to introduce her to my other rats but she was quite savage and attacked them ripping out fur and drawing blood and I decided quite quickly that it wasn’t worth upsetting everyone and that she would have to live alone.

One year on, Ruby trusted me implicitly and loved a cuddle. She would sit on my lap for ages while I rubbed under her ears. She would still bite me if she felt inclined but it was usually when she was playing rather than with aggression. No less painful though

It was around June 2003 when she started to lose the hair on her legs. The hair gradually disappeared until she was completely bald apart from the odd tuft on her head and bum. The vet treated her for mites but it made no difference the hair was gone for good. (Editors note: If your female rat starts to lose her fur and it is not mites or a food allergy, it could well be a hormonal imbalance).

I then noticed a small lump between her legs, the vet said it was a tumour, which because of its position it could not be operated on. A lump then appeared on her chest. Poor Ruby she was bald and lumpy and not a pretty sight at all.

The lump between her legs grew and grew and I did not imagine that she would still be around at Christmas, but she was. She continued to be a happy person, enjoying her food and attempting to attack the others when she passed their cage.

During March I began to think about what I was going to do. Although she still launched herself at the side of the cage every morning when I went in the living room I knew it couldn’t go on forever. She was such a special little thing that I did not want her to be in pain or for me to find her one morning collapsed and suffering.

I made the decision that I would take her to the vet before it got to that stage. When she began bunny hopping due to the size of the lump between her legs I made the decision to phone the vet the next day. But that morning she launched herself up at the side of the cage as usual that I just couldn’t do it when she seemed so happy.

I eventually made the decision and on 29th March 2004 we had a cuddle, I gave her a chocolate biscuit and took her to the vet.

The vet was lovely. The tank had a nice towel in it and Ruby went in quite happily and wasn’t scared at all and she just went to sleep, bless her precious heart.

Author : Kerry May

The coming of the fancy rat

Have you ever wondered how rat keeping came about? Rat lover Kerry May tells us how these wonderful furries became part of our life…

It seems it all happened in the Victorian times, a time when the human population was growing and so was that of the rats. In the name of so-called ‘entertainment’ publicans would have’ rat pits’ and dogs were encouraged to go into rat pits and kill as many as possible in a set amount of time.

To get their live bait in the first place (ie the poor wild rats) Publicans employed Rat Catchers for this purpose, who would catch wild rats and sell the ones they caught to the publican.

While out catching rats the rat catchers would come across unusual coloured rats, which would be kept as a collection. Jimmy Shaw, who ran one of London’s most famous rat pits, had found a white rat and also black and white rats in various locations.

Jack Black, who was Queen Victoria’s official Rat and Mole catcher, would breed the odd coloured rats he found and would sell them around London. They became popular pets especially among young women who would keep them in squirrel cages.

Beatrix Potter wrote a story in 1908 dedicated to her pet rat Sammy. It was around this time that rats started to be shown and breeders started to develop their colours and patterns. But interest faded and it was not until the 1970s that rat keeping became popular again.

Author : Kerry May

Top 9 ways to sit on your butt and still help charity!

Lots of us think about helping out charities but how many of us get round to doing it as we think it is a lot of time or effort or that our contribution doesn’t even touch the sides. Maybe you want to help but don’t know where to start. Well here are a few ideas to get you going….

1. Cash

The old favourite – Get your Cheque book out and donate some money. A small amount of money goes a long way for a smaller charity.

2. Services

Could you offer your services to a charity for free? Marketing, print, publicity services maybe? Could you help with their book keeping or fundraising efforts?

3. Old office equipment or Old PC’s or even office Space

What will you do with that battered old PC now you have that new sexy laptop? You could clean it off and donate it to a local charity. Maybe you have a spare desk or office space that a charity could use once a week to keep up to date with their marketing efforts. Just ring ’em and they will even collect!

4. Old or Damaged Stock / Garage Sale Junk

Do you have lots of out of season stock or maybe slightly damaged goods that you can’t sell. Why not donate them to a local group so that they can sell them at a boot fair or maybe as a way of promoting your business if you have one, why not run it for them. Maybe have a loft or garage clear out and donate the goods to a local charity. If they have a local charity shop ring them up and they will collect from you.

5. Donation per Sale

Why not offer a percentage of any sales or donation per sale of your products as a donation to a local or national charity. This will get you exposure if you promote it and might make some extra sales plus give the charity some media exposure and donations.

6. Organise a Fundraiser

Why not have a summer staff BBQ or Christmas party and raise funds for a local charity? Run a special event in the community like a wine tasting event or an open day. Why not see what other events they are running and sponsor or support them. Just get your mates round for a Football on TV and Pizza night and get everyone to pay a ticket price which goes to your nominated charity.

7. Recycling

Do you have old mobile phones, printer cartridges, foreign coins or used postage stamps. You will be amazed at what you can donate to a local group so they can raise much needed funds. Plus it helps declutter the office! Check out http://www.recyclingappeal.com

8. Payroll Giving

Why not promote and offer staff a Payroll giving service whereby staff can regularly setup direct charity payments direct from their pay packets each month. Check out http://www.payrollgiving.co.uk

9. Web based Services

If the group you decide to work with is small and local – Do you have facility to build and host them a website to help promote them? Do you send out a newsletter to your customers or just in your notes to your friends why not highlight your chosen charity and ask them to help out. if you have a company newsletter, this could be a great easy way to highlight a different charity each month.

As you can see there are lots of low impact, but high reward ideas here that you can implement.

Oh by the way, I run a small animal registered charity so if you love small animals then drop by www.cavyrescue.co.uk and see what we do. We are always on lookout for donations and corporate sponsors.

Go on, do something good today…

Top tips on keeping your pets warm this winter

Winter has suddenly arrived with a cold shock. Make sure your outdoor rabbits and guineas are kept warm and cosy with these following tips:

  • Make sure the hutch is in a sheltered position (eg against a fence or wall) and protected as much as possible from the wind
  • Use PLENTY of hay to keep them cosy and warm
  • Pin bubble wrap or a thin sheet of plastic across the wire bit of the cage (leaving a space for the water bottle). It’s a cheap way to offer extra insulation and give them their own double glazing
  • Cover hutches up at nightime with blankets/tarpaulin even old carpet
  • Check water bottles haven’t frozen up
  • Once a week, add to guinea pig water bottles a quarter of a soluble Vitamin C tablet – this will help keep their immunity up
  • If you have a shed, or a garage you DO NOT use (as exposure to fumes can kill), consider setting you hutch up in there until Spring. It’ll be warmer for your pet and warmer for you when you feed and clean them out!

“My bunnies are moved into a small shed during the winter ( ie a childs playhouse type shed) – this itself isn’t enough to keep them warm enough during the harshest of weathers – so I installed a greenhouse heater 18 mths ago This doesn’t actually produce a large amount of heat to over heat them but its enough to stop their water from freezing a make life more comfortable for them”
From Jackie Gargan

“There’s a microwaveable heat pad that looks just like a frisbie, it’s called Snuggle Safe…………..the downside is, it cost Ј19.99 from 0800 0684033. But my rabbit has one on his Christmas list. I have no financial attachment to this product but found it through Google search engine and thought it a good idea, I will let you know if it’s appreciated.”
From Michael Rouse

“If you can’t find decent tarpaulin, we use an old jewson bag that we had shingle delivered in, it fits perfectly over the hutch and can be holsted up during the day!!”
From Jenny Jones

“I have 2 rabbits and they also have snuggle safe heat pads on their xmas lists. This would cost me around Ј50 but I have found one on ebay for Ј13. Thay share that for now until I can get another one. I also suggest scrunched up newspaper on firework nights and in the winter. They can hide in this if they are scared and it also keep them warm. I put bubble wrap all round the hutch in the winter.”
From Rhiannon Barber

“I have made a roof for my rabbit’s run this winter. I have used thickish black plastic to cover over the top of the run for extra insulation.”
From Stuart Stenning White

Strokes

Strokes are less common in guinea pigs than heart attacks and it is very easy to distinguish the two. The symptoms are total collapse with the head and sometimes the body contorted from waist up at forty five degrees. There is nystagmus of the eyes, that is, they slowly slip towards one corner of the eye then rapidly jerk back to the central postion, repeatedly. At the slightest touch the animal will freak out and the heart beat is very rapid.

These symptoms are, of course the very opposite to those of a heart attack victim and consequently the treatment is different.

Put the animal in a box with lots of hay and leave it in the dark for about two to three hours and leave it to stabilise in peace and quite. If it has a repeat stroke, the chances are that it will die. However, in more cases than not, providing the animal gets the chance to stabilise in it’s own time, the prognosis is fairly good.

As it is so important to leave the animal in peace, you must monitor it very quietly, so put it in a place where it can be observed without out having to move the box it is in. Once the animal will allow you to touch it and handle it without traumatising it, in my experience this usually takes two to three hours, you must think about rehydrating it, subcutaneously at the dose rate of twenty to thirty ml per session.

If the owner cannot do this it has to be taken to a veterinary surgeon, or preferably one should be called out, for the less the animal is disturbed, the better.

In the cases I have dealt with, after two rehydrations which were about six hours apart, I managed to get the animals to take fluid orally. Never attempt to rehydrate orally until you are certain that the animal can swallow with ease.

The nystagmus sometimes clears by the time the animal is ready for the first rehydration, but more often than not it continues at a gradually reduced rate and for a day or so is replaced by the hunted look that heart attack victims suffer from.

It can take for up to two weeks for the head and body to level up but most animals who suffer strokes are left with a slight tilt to the head, which is more noticeable when they are picked up. Sometimes it is necessary to give the same kind of water therapy as for the heart attack cases, see Swimming therapy

The good news is that stoke victims usually make a complete recovery. There is less incidence of second strokes as there is of repeats of heart attacks.

Finding a holiday home for your pet

If you have small pets, you need to consider who will look after them while you are away. While there are many catteries and boarding kennels, holiday homes for guinea pigs, rabbits and rats etc are less widely promoted.

Here we suggest how to ensure your pet has a good holiday while you are away on yours!

If you are going away for longer than one night, no matter how much food or water you put in your animal’s cage, it is too long to leave them unchecked.
Finding small pet boarding in your area should not be too difficult – check the advertisement board at your vets; local pet shops; the Yellow Pages and, ask friends and neighbours.

Once you have a shortlist, you can then check out the premises yourself and make a reasoned decision based on:

  • Facilities – where will your pet be housed? If your guinea pigs live indoors for example, you will need to find an establishment that will keep your piggies indoors too
  • Visit it first to see the condition of existing animals – are they all well cared for and healthy looking? Are their food bowls and water bottles clean?
  • Always go on your first impressions – everything, including the grounds as well as the small animal boarding, should look clean and tidy
  • Check out what sort of bedding will be used – if it is not the same as what your pet is used to, either provide your own bedding or request that your pet’s cage/hutch is lined with the same product that you use
  • There should be no smell and little noise and the staff should make you feel welcome
  • Find out how knowledgeable the staff are on small animal healthcare – do you trust them to look after your pet? Ask them what vet they would use should there be a medical emergency
  • Will your pet get a chance to run around?

If possible, see how other resident small pets are handled. For instance, if the properietor will not handle your pet rat for two weeks if he or she is scared of it, then it is not the right place to board your rat!!

Things to remember when booking your small pet boarding:

  • Book as early as you can – particularly during peak periods – because a good establishment will quickly be filled. If you don’t have firm dates, you can still pencil in a booking. You can finalise the dates as soon as you have flight details
  • A good proprietor will ask for lots of information about your pet – its name, age, sex and breed; any special markings; etc. If your pet is on medication or has special dietary requirements, make sure you advise them at the time of booking, as there may be an additional charge.
  • They will also need to know your pet’s medical history, and the name and number of your regular vet as it may be necessary for them to contact your own practitioner in an emergency.
  • You will need to leave a contact name and telephone number of a friend or relative who will be able to make decisions in your absence
  • If your pet is elderly or ailing, it is wise to discuss what you would like the proprietor to do in the unhappy event of your pet dying while you are away
  • For rabbits, make sure all his/her vaccinations are up-to-date. A good establishment will not accept a rabbit where the owner cannot supply proof of vaccination.

What to pack for your pet

  • Vaccination record (if applicable)
  • A favourite toy or toys (or gnaw stick!)
  • Medication, where necessary, and any special formulation food
  • Bedding if necessary

On Arrival

Double check all the information the establishment has on your pet – eg medication, vets details etc – and reaffirm the date of your return and estimated time of collection.

You may be asked to leave a (refundable) cash deposit. This is common practice for small animal boarding as, sadly, many owners do not collect their pets once they come back from their holiday.

Should your return be delayed, do inform the establishment as soon as possible.

Finding a Good Small Animal Vet

Many of us have a vet who is excellent with a cat or dog, but when it comes to your other smaller, less ‘common’ pets such as a rat or a guinea, you could feel that your vet isn’t as full on with your furry friend as he or she can be.

You cannot blame your vet – they cannot know everything about every species – or they may have a real aversion to your beloved pet! (A ratty loving friend took her rat to her normal vet and he was scared stiff!)

So, how do you go about finding a vet who is good with small animals?

Of course, the best time to research vets is before your pet gets ill – or even before you get your pet. Never try and ‘wing it’, hoping that your furry will never fall ill. If you get to the stage where your pet is ill and you consult an inexperienced or unhelpful vet, then sadly it could be fatal for your pet.

First of all, check out your local/usual vet. Ask if any of the vets there have a special interest in your species of animal and, if so, ask for an initial chat and take your pet along. That way you can see how the vet reacts to your pet – does he or she pick up your rat and kiss him on the head or does the vet keep their instance and only handle your rat if forced to?

How do the veterinary staff react to your pet too? Do they play with him or are they standoffish? You need to feel confident that should your pet need to be treated at the practice that you’d feel happy leaving him there.

Ask the vet the following questions:

  • How often do you see rats/guinea pigs etc at your practice?
  • How would you administer baytril – an antibiotic – to a rat/GP etc? (the answer should be orally in their food or direct into their mouth. If the vet says ‘in their water bottle’ try elsewhere)
  • How often do you operate on small furries and what anaesthetic do you use? (should be isofluorane gas)
  • What operations have you done on small furries recently? (likely to include lump removal, castration, lancing of abscesses, possibly spay or caesarean)
  • What is the success rate for these procedures?
  • What colour should a healthy rats’ teeth be? (orange)

If you are comfortable with the vet, see how receptive they are to new ideas. Luckily for us all of our vets are willing to do research or look at information we’ve found on the internet when something unusual crops up with one of our rats.

If you are unlucky to come across the small minority of vets that have ego problems – ie they dismiss your ideas and suggestions as they know best – then it would be best not to use them unless you are willing to stand up to them.

If you still don’t have any luck finding a vet you feel happy with, then you can also ask around for a small-animal friendly vet. Use online forums as these are always a good place to start – many have a ‘Recommended Vets’ section – or contact a breeder or a rescue near to you and see who they use.

Keep plugging at finding a vet – eventually you’ll find one you like and trust. And hopefully, one you won’t have to use very often.

Rabbit Dental Issues

Rabbits are more frequently being seen at veterinary surgeries. One of the most common currently presenting conditions is dental overgrowth. This short article describes the peculiarities of rabbits’ teeth, the reasons why they are predisposed to such dental problems, their early diagnosis and prevention.

A rabbit is not a rodent

Rabbits (lagomorphs) and rodents are the smaller creatures that fall into the order of mammalia alongside carnivores and felines. In very early classification rabbits were originally known as rodents. Indeed they both possessed incisor teeth for gnawing (rodentia is derived from the Latin verb rodere, which means to gnaw), and lacked canine teeth. However, it became apparent that there was some dissimilarity in the dental formula in certain animals. This provided the basis for creating a new order Lagomorpha. Lagomorphs are distinguishable from rodents in that they have 2 pairs of upper incisors (the second pair being small and peg shaped) whilst rodents have only 1 pair. Further more rabbits have extra pre-molars, probably to assist in grinding grass and vegetation, and their mandible (lower jaw) is narrower than the maxilla (upper jaw), the reverse being the case in rodents.

Rabbit Dental Formula and Structure

Between the incisors and pre-molar and molar teeth (collectively referred to as ‘cheek teeth’) there is a large gap (diastema), into which the buccal folds protrude, hindering visualisation of the cheek teeth. All of a rabbit’s teeth are open-rooted (aradicular) and grow continuously, the shapes of the teeth varying (heterodont) with their function. Each tooth has a central core of pulp, surrounded by dentine and enclosed in a layer of enamel. The distribution of enamel around the tooth is uneven.

Enamel is formed, along with the first layers of dentine, in the apical region. Tooth growth here allows for continuous replacement of the tooth as it erupts and is worn away in the mouth. This is different from humans where enamel only covers the crown and root growth stops once the tooth has erupted. In the rabbit’s main incisor teeth the enamel is thicker and the dentine harder at the front surface than behind. Preferential wear from the action of the incisors leads to their chisel-like appearance.

By the same token differential wear of enamel, dentine and cementum at the exposed cheek tooth surfaces results in formation of the normal ridged, highly efficient grinding occlusal surfaces.

Mastication, malocclusion and dental overgrowth

At rest the lower incisors locate between the front upper incisors and peg teeth, and there is a slight gap between the upper and lower molars. As the rabbit starts to eat its jaw opens slightly, grasping and then slicing the food between its upper and lower incisors in a scissor-like action. The tongue moves the food back towards the cheek teeth on one side. A slight retraction and sideways movement of the lower jaw brings the occlusal surfaces of the cheek teeth into contact on that side, the incisors being separated by this action, and the food is ground by a rapid side to side chewing motion. When upper and lower teeth are correctly aligned they are said to be in normal ‘occlusion’. Conversely, ‘malocclusion’ describes the condition where the teeth or jaws fail to align properly. The causes of malocclusion may be:

  • Traumatic – physical breakage, dislocation or loss of one or more teeth, or jaw separation of the mandibular symphysis
  • Atraumatic – congenitally absent or mal-positioned teeth, hereditary jaw deformity (some dwarf and lop-eared breeds), tooth overgrowth, dietary influences, disease, infection, toxicity or abnormal chewing habits

The teeth continue to grow (being open-rooted) whether or not there is normal wear. If the rate of eruption exceeds wear, the crown gradually elongates. A slight increase in occlusal pressure can tip and rotate the crowns. It may also arrest eruption, forcing the roots to grow backwards into the surrounding tissues (root elongation). Malocclusion of the incisors can prevent closure of the mouth resulting in a secondary malocclusion of the molars. The reverse situation can also occur, whereby overgrowth of the molars prevent the mouth from closing fully causing the incisors to overgrow. Overgrown incisors spiral and twist outwards, and tend to traumatise the opposing lips. Elongation of the maxillary incisor root backwards can lead to obstruction of the lacrimal duct preventing normal tear drainage so that the rabbit appears to be crying. If inflammation or infection is present a creamy discharge may be seen in the eye or nose. The maxillary cheek teeth naturally curve outwards, and the mandibular inwards. As the crown overgrows normal wear is compromised and tooth curvature is enhanced, creating spikes. Spikes on the maxillary cheek teeth traumatise the cheeks, and those on the mandibular teeth lacerate the tongue. Displacement of the growing apices of the cheek tooth roots result in palpable swellings on the ventral surface of the mandibular bone, and protrusion of the maxillary roots into the nasal chamber or behind the eye.

Signs and Symptoms of Dental Disorders and Disease

Rabbits presenting at surgery can show a variety of signs, ranging in severity, and depending on the extent of progression of the overgrowth or disease. In the initial stages: weight loss, unkempt and matted or dirty coat, caecotrophs adhering around the anus and perineal fold, smaller, fewer or even an absence of faeces. In addition the rabbit appears depressed, isolated, possibly in pain (tooth grinding) and aggressive, and it’s appetite is reduced or is anorectic. Alternatively it’s appetite may be normal but the rabbit appears to be having difficulty in or is unable to eat and drink (dysphagia i.e. wants to eat but can’t, as opposed to anorexia) which exacerbates the problem. On closer examination, there may be asymmetry, deformity, prognathism, swelling (periapical), or wounds and facial abscesses on the head. The eyes may appear to bulge or there may be watery lacrimation or discharge, and bleeding or rhinitis and discharge from the nose. Excess salivation, halitosis, stomatitis, gingivitis, ulceration of lip, cheek, tongue, palate, and visibly long, broken or displaced, discoloured teeth are all indicative of a dental disorder. A physical examination of the rabbit is necessary, although the rabbit may be reluctant to be handled, and be touched especially around the face, if it is in pain. The buccal folds make visualisation of the cheek teeth almost impossible, but a good look is essential to aid diagnosis, and the rabbit may require sedation or anaesthesia.

Factors contributing to dental disorders

Contrary to current belief diet is not the sole factor responsible for dental overgrowth. There are a number of other factors that contribute to the development of dental overgrowth and or disease including genetics, trauma, disease and poisons. There is a genetic predisposition for dental overgrowth – more common in dwarfs (brachycephalism) and lop-eared breeds. When incisor malocclusion is detectable at an early age it is most likely to be a genetic or developmental problem. In a mature rabbit not previously showing signs as a youngster it is likely to be secondary to cheek tooth overgrowth or injury (fractures / dislocations of teeth, mandibular symphysis). Disease, whether due to bacterial infection or even hormone imbalances can also adversely affect the development of dentine and enamel, as too can toxic compounds.

Rabbits have evolved with continuously growing open-rooted teeth as a result of the fibrous nature of their diet. Low energy density, high fibre diets lengthen the eating (grinding) period and assist the wearing process (due to the abrasive nature of fibres, silicates and minerals within the plants) and prevent overgrowth. As well as the physical nature of the diet, the chemical nature is important too. Foods rich in sugars and starch can cause dental caries leading to cavities on the surface of the tooth and weakening of the tooth structure. Calcium deficiency is often mistakenly blamed for dental disorders (poor mineralisation, horizontal ribbing). In rabbits, calcium absorption is not well regulated and appears to be proportional to dietary calcium levels. Thus calcium absorption is highly efficient, and true calcium deficiency is extremely rare. Vitamins A and D, Phosphorus and Magnesium are also required for tooth and bone formation, and so the general nutritional status of the animal should be viewed as more important than calcium status alone.

Preventative Measures

It is easy to understand how rapidly dental problems develop, when tooth growth rates are in the order of 2 to 3mm per week. Although dental techniques have advanced significantly in the last few years, cures are still not common so it is essential to think in terms of prevention. Although nutrition is not the sole factor responsible for pre-disposing an animal to dental overgrowth, it can certainly play a vital part in promoting recovery post operatively and preventing or reducing the likelihood of recurrence. With the latter in mind it is essential that a complete and balanced diet is fed, one which is a low energy, high fibre diet (coarse fibres such as alfalfa, hay, dried grass). Rabbits should have access to grass and the occasional fresh vegetable should be provided. Sugary foods and treats should be avoided, and dental exercise should be provided in the form of safe materials to chew on e.g. twigs of non-toxic trees, toilet-roll innards. Recommend that owners record the rabbit’s weight weekly, although dramatic changes may be apparent to the owner it is not unusual for gradual weight loss to go unnoticed. Weighing not only provides an opportunity to determine the weight but also to examine the rabbit’s front incisors but also to cast a critical eye over the rest of the body for other signs of illness. Encourage owners to bring the rabbit to the vets at the first sign of trouble, and stress the importance of regular and thorough dental checks. If you suspect that a rabbit may have a genetic problem, discourage the owner from breeding that animal, and recommend neutering to be on the safe side.

Summary

Rabbits possess an unusual dentition, and when problems arise, the rabbit can suffer an enormous amount of discomfort and pain. Small dental abnormalities often go undetected in the early stages, and quickly develop into major problems (due to their continuously growing nature). It is essential to promote awareness of dental issues in rabbits and provide advice on the best approach to preventing such problems from arising in the first place.

Bibliography

Crossley, D.A (1995). Clinical aspects of lagomorph anatomy: the rabbit (oryctolagus cuniculus). J. Vet. Dent. 12: 137-140.
Crossley, D. A. (1996). Rabbit Dentistry. Proceedings of the Midwest Exotic Pet Seminars, Chicago, March 1997.
Harcourt-Brown, F.M. (1997). Diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of dental disease in pet rabbits. In Practice 19: 407-421.
Harcourt-Brown, F.M. (1998). Pet rabbits: Some common clinical problems. Waltham Focus 8: 6-13.
Michaeli, Y., Hirschfeld, Z. and Weinreb, M.M. (1980). The cheek teeth of the rabbit: morphology, histology and development. Acta Anat. 106: 223-239.
Turner, T. (1996). The Incidence of Dental Problems in Pet Rabbits. BVDA Journal Issue 4, Winter 1996. pp 4-5.
Wiggs, B. and Lobprise, H. (1995). Dental Anatomy and Physiology of Pet Rodents and Lagomorphs. In: BSAVA Manual of Small Animal Dentistry. Eds. Crossley and Penman. pp 68-73. BSAVA Cheltenham, UK.
Wiggs, B. and Lobprise, H. (1995). Oral Diagnosis in Pet Rodents and Lagomorphs In: BSAVA Manual of Small Animal Dentistry. Eds. Crossley and Penman. pp 74-83. BSAVA Cheltenham, UK.
Wiggs, B. and Lobprise, H. (1995). Prevention and Treatment of Dental Problems in Rodents and Lagomorphs In: BSAVA Manual of Small Animal Dentistry. Eds. Crossley and Penman. pp 84-91. BSAVA Cheltenham, UK.

Author : Supreme Pet Foods

Dental Disorders in Rabbits

Rabbits have open-rooted continuously growing teeth. In the healthy rabbit at rest, the lower incisors locate between the upper front incisors and the peg teeth, and there is a slight gap between upper and lower molars. The rabbit grasps its food between the upper and lower incisors.

The action of extending its lower jaw in relation to the upper, and then retracting it slices the food. As the food is passed back towards the molar teeth, and the lower jaw is already aligned to allow the occlusal surfaces of upper and lower molars to meet and grind the food (a side to side chewing motion of ~200 cycles / min). Both the incisors and molars are kept in trim, by the surfaces meeting in an appropriate eating action.

Dental Disorders

Rabbits can suffer from a variety of dental disorders e.g. dental caries, but the most frequently presenting tooth disorder appears to be dental overgrowth, which is often accompanied by a whole catalogue of other problems. There are several factors that contribute to dental overgrowth:

  1. Genetic – predisposition in smaller dwarf and lop-eared breed
  2. Traumatic – any breakage or dislodging of any tooth, will result in overgrowth of opposing teeth, if they are unable to come into contact, and wear is reduced.
  3. Dietary habit – rabbits are herbivores, and should have a low energy, high fibre diet. Fibrous material encourages appropriate jaw action, and the fibre and plant silicates aid abrasion and dental wear, which helps to prevent dental overgrowth.
  4. Physical – continuously growing, open-rooted, rate of growth.

It is easy to understand how rapidly dental problems develop, when tooth growth rates are in the order of 2 to 3mm per week.

Other factors affecting dental health

  1. Diet:Correct levels and balance of vitamins and minerals – tooth integrity, colour, ridging Sugars and Starch – dental caries leading to cavities on the surface
  2. Dysphagia – difficulty in eating or inappropriate eating action
  3. Disease – Infection / hormonal imbalance
  4. Toxic Compounds

Early indicators of Disorder / Disease

  1. Loss of condition – weight loss, unkempt, matted or dirty coat
  2. Behavioural changes – depression, isolation, tooth grinding (pain), reluctance to be touched especially around the face
  3. Appetite – reduced or anorectic
  4. Faeces – change in size, quantity, absence of or caecotrophs adhering to fur around anus
  5. Head – asymmetry, deformity, swelling, wounds, facial abscesses
  6. Eyes and Nose – bulging eyes, watery lacrimation, discharge, nose bleeds, rhinitis
  7. Mouth – excess salivation, halitosis, stomatitis, gingivitis, ulceration of lip, cheek, tongue, palate
  8. Teeth – visibly long, broken or displaced, discoloured

Preventative Measures

Although dental techniques have advanced significantly in the last few years, cures are still not common so it is essential to think in terms of prevention:

1. Feed a complete and balanced diet:

Low energy, high fibre diet

Correct level and balance of Vitamins A and D, Calcium, Phosphorus and Magnesium

Coarse fibres e.g. alfalfa, hay, dried grass

Avoid sugary foods and treats

Access to grass and the occasional fresh vegetable

2. Provide safe dental exercise e.g. twigs of non-toxic trees

3. Record weight weekly

4. Get owners to examine the front incisors weekly

5. Regular and thorough dental checks

6. Neuter rabbits with suspected genetic problems

Author : Supreme Pet Foods