Rabbit’s vary in their number of thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. From 12T/7L in 44%, 13T/6L in 33%, and 13T/7L in 23% of rabbits. Their very well developed and powerful hind limbs are a testament to their muscle mass, which is 50% of their total body weight. In fact, the force of their kicking can lead to spinal fracture (usually L6/L7) if they are not held appropriately.
Rabbits are hindgut fermenters adapted to a diet rich in high fibre foods. The caecal fermentative end products are comprised of soft faeces (‘caecotrophs’ or ‘night’ faeces) that are normally re-ingested by the rabbit directly from the anus. The by-products of microbial fermentation (the volatile fatty acids – acetic, butyric, formic and propionic acids) are actively absorbed by the caecum and colon. These volatile fatty acids (VFAs) serve as an energy source for the rabbit. Some VFAs are passed with the caecotrophs and hence may be absorbed in the small intestine upon being re-ingestated.
This is an important phenomenon to consider with rabbits. Any process which disrupts this delicate cycle (eg; antibiotics) can lead to an unfavourable caecal environment. This can potentially lead to a die-off of beneficial caecal microflora, and/or enhance the environment for overgrowth of potentially harmful opportunistic microbes such as Clostridia sp. and E.coli. This can lead to diarrhoea and enterotoxaemia. In rabbits, an overgrowth ofClostridium perfringens for example, may lead to the production and release of iota toxin thus creating local and systemic damage. Clinically this intestinal upset can produce a moribund patient with diarrhoea, inappaetance, hypothermia, dehydration and eventual death.
Cheek teeth clinical crown reshaping and spur removal is not an uncommon dental procedure in pet rabbits. To access this area, the rabbit patient must be suitably anaesthetised. To enhance visualisation of the oral cavity, cheek dilators and mouth gags can be utilised. Cheek teeth clinical crown adjustment can then be carried out utilising high or low speed abrasive burrs on a straight nose cone. Soft tissue protection is important. Severe soft tissue damage and even fatal haemorrhage can occur with damage to the tongue or pharynx.
If you’d like to learn more, join us 27-29th of April in Wagga Wagga for the Rabbit Surgery and Dentistry Workshop. Specialists Dr David Vella, Dr Narelle Walter, and Dr Michelle Bingley, will show you techniques in nutrition, handling, dentistry and surgery. Book NOW for to secure your place in this popular workshop, or click to read the brochure. Be quick! The workshop is already half full!
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