What are Tooth Root Abscess?
As dental abscesses can progress rapidly resulting in a need for extensive tooth extraction, if you suspect your pet may be suffering from this condition it is vital you contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Tooth root abscess in rabbits can occur following the introduction of bacteria in the tissue surrounding a tooth that leads to abscess. This can be caused by a variety of reasons including trauma to the mouth, inadequate diet, or underlying diseases. For many rabbits, the most common symptom is anorexia, which can lead to drastic weight loss.
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Symptoms of Tooth Root Abscess in Rabbits
Anorexia is the most common symptom displayed by rabbits suffering from tooth root abscesses due to pain that reduces appetite and prevents them from eating normally. Other symptoms may include:
- Epiphora due to nasolacrimal duct obstruction or compression
- Visible malocclusion of the incisors
- Wet fur around the mouth and throat
- Thick purulent discharge may be seen from the nasolacrimal duct
- Respiratory irritation
- Swelling of the oral tissue or jaw
Causes of Tooth Root Abscess in Rabbits
As rabbits teeth grow continuously, they require a proper diet to provide the fiber needed to grind down their teeth. In the wild, rabbits eat dry grasses that require sustained mastication prior to being swallowed. This process is vital for dental health as it grinds the crowns, allowing the root to push new crowns up. In pet rabbits who are fed on diets predominantly containing easily crushed pellets and inadequate amounts of fiber, overgrowth occurs due to insufficient crown wear. This causes the crown to stop moving and instead the root begins to grow into bone. This can introduce bacteria into the tissue and lead to the formation of an abscess. Bacteria most commonly found to cause abscesses are
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Pasteurella multocida
Other factors that may lead to dental root abscess:
- Introduction of foreign material
- Trauma to the teeth
- Diseases that cause compromise of the immune system
Diagnosis of Tooth Root Abscess in Rabbits
Your veterinarian will perform a full clinical examination of your rabbit. Your veterinarian will gently palpate along your pet’s jaw for signs of abscess such as swelling, lumps or bumps. She will examine your his teeth for signs of overgrowth, malocclusion, or trauma. Although the incisor teeth can be easily visualised to check for tooth root abscesses, your pet may require a general anesthetic for the cheek teeth to be assessed. Skull radiographs or computed tomography scans may also be performed under anesthetic.
Treatment of Tooth Root Abscess in Rabbits
Rabbit abscesses require much more invasive treatment than most pets. This is due to numerous factors; in rabbits the pus is thick and difficult to remove, meaning often traces of bacteria are left behind if flushing only is performed. Rabbit abscesses are also known to form finger-like projections in the surrounding tissue, causing further abscesses to form. Due to these factors, if your pet is suffering from a tooth root abscess, any affected teeth, as well as affected tissue, should be removed under general anesthetic to increase the chance of full recovery without reoccurrence. Your veterinarian will carefully remove the affected teeth. Following this the abscess will be dissected, followed by curetting of the bone. Saline irrigation will then be used to flush the site and decrease risk of further contamination from the abscess. Your veterinarian will likely send a sample of the exudate to perform a culture and sensitivity test to identify the causative bacteria and most effective antibiotic treatment.
Your rabbit will require long-term systemic antibiotic therapy. Ideally, your veterinarian would await the results of the bacterial cultures prior to commencing antibiotic treatment, however, as the prognosis for rabbits is drastically improved by offering immediate systemic antibiotic treatment your veterinarian will most likely give a broad spectrum treatment such as enrofloxacin while waiting for results. When culture results become available your veterinarian may choose to change antibiotic treatment. Your veterinarian will likely give either NSAIDS or opiates for analgesia.
It is vital that your pet is encouraged to eat during his illness. Anorexia in rabbits can become dangerous in as little as 24 hours, and can lead to potentially fatal conditions such as gastric stasis, hepatic lipidosis, and intestinal ileus.
Appetite stimulants such as parsley, carrot tops and kale may be recommended, along with any of your rabbit’s favorite foods, hay and fresh vegetables and pellets. If your pet refuses food your veterinarian may recommend syringe feeding, ideal foods for this are pellets moistened with water, pureed vegetables, or banana.
Recovery of Tooth Root Abscess in Rabbits
The prognosis following an abscess in a rabbit may be guarded due to the risk of recurrence. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe a long term systemic antibiotic treatment following surgery with revisit appointments to monitor recovery.
Following the surgery, it is important that you provide your pet with a soft, warm recovery area. To support your pet’s recovery and immune system provide your pet with a clean, warm environment and excellent nutrition. As abscesses are commonly known to return, regularly check your rabbit for the development of masses and contact your veterinarian if your pet’s eating habits change.