This week is Rabbit Awareness Week, RAW.
RAW is organised by a coalition of experts, organisations and welfare charities who have come together with a mission to improve rabbit welfare. I am particularly thrilled that this year RAW are focussing on a message that I have been banging on about since I was a young vet. This is that 85-90% of what a rabbit eats each day should be grass or hay.
For me, this message began to seem important when I noticed that I was performing dentistry under anaesthetic for way too many rabbits way too often. I started recording the cases, and researching more about the problem. I discovered there was another passionate vet called Frances Harcourt Brown who was a year or two ahead of me. Bearing in mind that vets back then were getting no training at Vet School on the care of rabbits at all, those of us who wanted to help sick rabbits needed to learn it all after qualifying.
Frances is one of my heroes. As part of her research she simply lay down on the ground to observe rabbits chewing. She realised that only the sideways chewing action they use when grinding grass also grinds their teeth. When they eat pellets from a bag however (already this does not sound very natural, does it?) they chew up and down, giving no benefit to their teeth.
This up and down chewing creates an overgrowth of crowns, which painfully forces the mouth open, and creates sharp spikes that cut into the cheeks of the pet, stopping them eating any more.
I have crusaded in my patch for pet rabbits to be fed almost exclusively on grass for decades, holding talks, writing articles, and filming videos. It is very exciting to have RAW doing the same now!
It takes some of my clients by surprise to learn that the crowns of their rabbit’s teeth are constantly renewed, if you would like more information on caring for your rabbit, go to http://www.themewesvets.co.uk/new-pet-advice/new-rabbit/