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RWAF response to VetCompass dental disease study

RWAF Response to Dental disease in companion rabbits under UK primary veterinary care: Frequency and risk factors.

Study population 161,979 rabbits in VetCompass 2019 and a random sample of 2219 confirmed dental cases were studied in great detail.

The dominant message from this new VetCompass study is that it overwhelmingly confirms dental disease as a major health and welfare issue in pet rabbits in the UK. We have some concerns with the way some parties are interpreting the new VetCompass study with regard to conformational factors such as brachycephaly. In summary, these concerns are:

  • The results rely on the breed and conformation of the rabbit being correctly entered at reception
  • Although this study does not provide a link between brachycephalism and dental disease, it does not disprove it either
  • The results do not take into account ear disease and blocked tear ducts
  • The authors of the study explain that looking at the pet rabbit population, practically ALL those rabbits are more brachycephalic than their wild ancestors
  • Rex rabbits, who are arguably the least brachycephalic, are shown as having the lowest risk of dental disease. They are most likely to have their breed accurately recorded
  • Detailed examinations of teeth were not part of this study; we can not be sure that the true picture does not show a greater level of dental disease in the more brachycephalic rabbits
  • Dental disease is a complex and multi-factorial disease, with diet being recognised as one of the most important factors
  • The take-home message is that the correct diet is of the utmost importance in ensuring dental health
  • Educating owners on the correct diet is essential for all stakeholders

More research into this is needed.

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