Posts Tagged ‘Happy Endings’

When bunny teeth go bad.

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

There are many problems with other pets that bunny owners never have to deal with. For instance, a bunny will never eat cat poo and then try to lick your face. A bunny will never get stuck in the neighbor’s tree, forcing you into the embarrassing, if humorous, position of calling the fire department to get it down. A bunny will never slither away into the ventilation system of your apartment building, only to be found months later after swallowing an entire rat whole and getting stuck in a gas pipe.

But there are many issues bunny owners face that other pet owners have never heard of and will probably never understand. This is the first in a series of entries about bunny-specific medical and behavioral issues that we come across at SaveABunny. The stories don’t always end happily, but awareness is generally the best prevention, so we’re going to share what we know. Hopefully we’ll help potential bunny owners understand the responsibilities of caring for a rabbit, and help out some troubled, confused, or curious bunny owners at the same time.

We currently have a bunny named Brazil who has a malocclusion. We saved her from the euthanization list at an overcrowded South Bay shelter. Euthanization is the usual fate of bunnies with severe malocclusion – the surgery is expensive, and without it bunnies can suffer for years or even starve to death. We’re not OK with that.

Also, did I mention Brazil is a ridiculously adorable little lop-eared girl?

As you can see, she’s otherwise completely adoptable in all respects. She just has bad teeth. So we had to save her, even though we might not have the funds to pay her vet bills. At least with us, she would have the precious time she needed to find a generous sponsor.

When a bunny gets a malocclusion, it means that for whatever reason, the teeth have become misaligned or malformed, causing discomfort and pain for the bunny. Here’s a quote from Veterinarian Margaret A. Wissman:

“The causes of malocclusion are usually multifactorial, and can include infectious, genetic and traumatic causes. The chewing action of the rabbit is both vertical and horizontal which provides a grinding type of action that keeps the occlusal (the opposing surfaces of the teeth that meet normally) surfaces evenly worn. If the mandible (lower jaw) is too short or too narrow, this will result in the misalignment of the teeth. Once teeth are misaligned, they will no longer grind down correctly.”

(Read the full article here.)

Since a rabbit’s teeth grow faster than your fingernails, it’s pretty important that they get ground down properly. (This is why rabbits are always chewing on everything in sight.) In bad cases of malocclusion, the teeth essentially grow out into tusks and prohibit the rabbit from being able to eat anything at all. They can get infected, disformed, and cause all kinds of other problems for the bunny’s delicate mouth tissue. Usually, a rabbit with misaligned teeth will do OK as long they get them trimmed regularly – but it does cause them a lot of stress. Imagine if you had to go to the dentist every few weeks for the rest of your life!

Often, as in Brazil’s case, the teeth have to be removed completely. Since the roots go far back in the bunny’s jaw, the surgery is a bit more complicated than it would be for animals like dogs, cats, or people.

As far as preventing malocclusion, the best answer I’ve found is keeping plenty of fiber in your bunny’s diet and having lots of good things to chew on. Sometimes it’s hereditary, and there’s not much you can do.

It’s easy to check for malocclusion – just regularly look at your bunny’s teeth and make sure they seem normal. If you’re not sure, ask your veterinarian.

Because malocclusion is often hereditary, baby rabbits who have it are usually euthanized to keep the condition out of the gene pool. (Definitely not our recommendation.) This is another really, really good reason to always spay or neuter your rabbits.

Little Brazil was lucky enough to find a sponsor, by the way – one of our awesome volunteers generously donated $500 for her surgery. She still needs a home – but at least she has the chance to find one now.

If you have any input on malocclusion, whether it’s something I forgot in this blog, or something I got wrong, or a story of your own, please share in the comments section! We love to keep the conversation going and learn new things.

If you think your bunny is suffering from malocclusion, take him or her to a veterinarian.

If you want to see more cute pictures of Brazil and maybe, just maybe, foster or adopt her, check out her page on the SaveABunny site.

A reminder for all sad, mistreated bunnies who somehow have internet access: There’s Hope Out There!

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

We do lots of rescues at SaveABunny – big ones, small ones, really, really sad ones, and just kind of sad ones – but earlier this year we had a rescue that was both big and really, really sad. If you’ve been following us (or you watch View From The Bay every afternoon) you might remember back in February when we rescued 29 bunnies that had been severely neglected. Here’s the clip if you didn’t catch it back then:

Sadly three of those bunnies were lost to us because of their injuries. That’s what moved the rescue from “Really Sad” status to “Really, Really Sad” status. But the progress we’ve had rehabilitating the 26 bunnies that we saved has been really exciting, and I want to share one example with you to spread hope for hopeless bunnies everywhere. Meet Lionel Barrymore:

Granted, he still looks a little worse-for-ware with that big bare patch on his side, but to get some perspective, this is what he looked like when we first brought him in:

Sorry you had to see that. I’ll add some space here you can scroll past it…

Anyway, Lionel has gone through some tough times. But the amazing part of his story that gives us all hope is that, even after the neglect and trauma that he went through, he is now a healthy, happy, and very sweet little bunny rabbit. (Who, by the way, would be a fabulous addition to any home.) It’s proof that every bunny, even when things seem hopeless, is worth saving.

Check out Lionel’s page on the SaveABunny site.

Read more about the large-scale rescue back in February, and see more video footage of the rabbits.