Rabbits are not a complete subject taught in veterinary colleges. Small Animal care refers to cats and dogs, a rabbit on the otherhand is an exotic. Human doctors graduate as general practitioners and must go on to learn specialties such as orthopedics, pediatrics, heart surgery, etc. Ideally veterinarians should learn about any species they plan to see but this is not necessarly the case. Though many veterinarians are most familiar with cats and dogs, they will still see a rabbit.
However, a rabbit has a different anatomy, digestive tract, organs, teeth, and diseases from cats and dogs and some medicine commonly used for cats and dogs can kill a rabbit. Obviously, it’s important for your veterinarian to be aware of what medications are safe to use. Anesthesia is another concern and it must be induced correctly and knowledgeable correct post operative care is imperative.
To obtain a correct diagnosis, treatment plan, and medicine it is extremely important, often the difference between life and death, to ONLY use a veterinarian proven to have the knowledge and experience to treat a rabbit. After all, you wouldn’t go to your foot doctor for brain surgery even though both are doctors! Needless to say, finding a rabbit savvy vet is very important for any bunny owner and it is wise to find one before an emergency arises. The national House Rabbit Society has a comphrensive article on their website with advice on how to choose the best veterinarian for your rabbit. Their article can be found here.
Rabbits also need regular checkups to catch things before they progress too far. They don’t get yearly vaccinations like cats and dogs but they do need annual check-ups and twice a year is even better; especially for lop eared bunnies with ears more sensitive to ear infections.
However, anytime a rabbit stops eating or shows signs of distress, illness, or pain it is imperative to get your bunny in to see your rabbit savvy veterinarian immediately!
One medical issue that is often seen in rabbits involves problems with their teeth. Teeth can become overgrown, cracked or be misshapen. All can lead to very serious problems if not treated quickly. Unfortunately, sometimes these problems can be overlooked.
If your bunny is not eating, dropping their food, salivating or showing signs of distress, it is possible they are experiencing pain caused by a dental problem. A thorough exam of their mouth by a qualified vet is in order! They should be checking for any malformed teeth which can rub or cut the tongue or cheeks of the rabbit. Cracked teeth also cause pain and will keep a rabbit from eating. Overgrown teeth are easier to diagnose but are no less of a problem. Oversized teeth will make it difficult if not impossible for the rabbit to eat and in severe cases, grow into the surrounding tissues causing terrible pain.
As you can see by the photo above, even when a bunny yawns you cannot see his back molars making it very important for a rabbit knowledgeable vet with the right equipment to check them regularly.
This spike on the upper arcade of teeth is very sharp and gouging into the cheek every time the bunny tries to chew. This will eventually discourage the bunny from eating which is a very dangerous situation and must be treated immediately.