Welfare ‘crisis’ warning issued over rabbit dental disease

7th March 2024
Industry News

Researchers have warned of “a major welfare crisis” among UK pet rabbits after new analysis found more than one in seven are living with dental disease.

Newly published RVC analysis found 15.36% of all rabbits were formally diagnosed in 2019, with older, lighter weight and male animals found to be at greater risk.

The report, published in Vet Record, suggests a greater prevalence than previously thought, although the researchers fear it could be much higher still.

‘Welfare crisis’

Co-author Dan O’Neill said: “This new research highlights a major welfare crisis in pet rabbits caused by dental disease.

“Owners have a legal duty to protect their animals from unnecessary suffering. This can begin with ensuring all rabbits get an appropriate diet of mainly hay and grass.

“The biggest single risk factor for pet rabbits developing dental disease appears to be captivity.”

The findings are based on a random sample of 2,219 confirmed cases drawn from VetCompass data, which were then compared to 117,890 rabbits without a diagnosis.

The paper said more than half of affected rabbits were newly diagnosed in 2019, with cheek teeth disease found to be more common than in incisors.

Higher risk

Rabbits aged older than five years were also found to be 7.58 times more likely to develop disease compared to their counterparts that were younger than a year, while animals that weighed less than 1.49kg were at significantly greater risk than those more than 2kg.

Male rabbits were also found to have a 1.23 times higher risk of disease than females.

Lead author Maria Jackson said: “Despite being the third most popular pet in the UK, I feel rabbits have been largely overlooked in companion animal research.

“Our study shows over 230,000 pet rabbits in the UK may be suffering with dental disease at this moment in time.

“Routine dental checks and feeding a diet predominantly of good-quality hay is clearly important for all our rabbits – not just those with lopped ears or a short face.”


Credit to:  Welfare ‘crisis’ warning issued over rabbit dental disease (Vet Times)

Vet Times. (2023).  Welfare ‘crisis’ warning issued over rabbit dental disease [online]

Available at:  https://www.vettimes.co.uk/news/welfare-crisis-warning-issued-over-rabbit-dental-disease/