Rabbits are susceptible to dental abscesses that form around the root of a tooth. These abscesses occur when bacteria enters the tooth pulp through the gums and cause pus to build up around the tooth pulp. Abscesses can be caused by dental decay, but tooth elongation is a more common cause. Rabbits' teeth are always growing, and if their diet doesn't provide sufficient opportunity to gnaw and keep their teeth filed down, their teeth can puncture their gum tissue, which gives bacteria the opportunity to access the roots of their teeth. If your rabbit's teeth are growing too long despite providing them with an appropriate diet with plenty of tough, fibrous foods and limiting soft pellet feed, you can trim their teeth yourself or your vet can do it. Here's an overview of the symptoms and treatment approach for dental abscesses in rabbits:
Dental abscesses are painful and cause inflammation around the affected teeth. Rabbits in pain often hide, seem lethargic and adopt a hunched posture. Your rabbit may develop loose teeth and lose weight due to eating less in an attempt to minimise their pain. When they do eat, they may show a preference for soft foods. Pressure from an abscess can also cause irritation of the nasal passages, and infection can spread to the sinus cavities.
The vet will take a culture from your rabbit's mouth to establish the type of bacteria causing the abscess. The abscess will be drained using a needle inserted into the gum tissue, and small abscesses can be managed on an outpatient basis with anti-inflammatory medication and antibiotics. When infection is severe and has spread to the surrounding tissue, or when bacteria have caused significant tooth decay, the affected teeth will have to be extracted. A general anaesthetic is administered for tooth extraction, and the procedure can take some time due to rabbits' tooth roots growing in a curve. The vet will examine your rabbit's teeth and gums at regular intervals after treatment to ensure there's no recurrence of infection or signs of decay in the surrounding teeth. They can also give you advice on the types of food that can help keep your rabbit's teeth short and how to provide a well-balanced, low-carbohydrate diet that protects against tooth decay.
If your rabbit has symptoms of a dental abscess, or if you're concerned about the length of their teeth, schedule an appointment at a vet clinic as soon as possible.