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Calcium deficiency, diet and dental disease in pet rabbits
  1. F. M. Harcourt-Brown, BVSc, MRCVS1
  1. 1 30 Crab Lane, Bilton, Harrogate HGI 3BE

Abstract

Poor calcification of the teeth and the bones of the skull predisposes pet rabbits to dental disease. This study is a preliminary investigation into the dietary habits of pet rabbits. Owners were questioned about the feeding preferences of their pets. Manufacturers of rabbit foods were asked about the calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D content of their foods and how they had decided upon the formulation of their rations. Samples of rabbit food were analysed for calcium and phosphorus. Rabbits were found to be selective feeders. Rabbit food from pet shops consists of a mixed ration, of which the most commonly rejected ingredients were pellets and whole grain. The food manufacturers reported that calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D supplements are incorporated into the pellets. Food analyses demonstrated that rejection of the pellets and whole grain from the food can reduce a rabbit's calcium intake to below the minimum dietary requirement. The rabbit's unusual calcium metabolism is discussed. Calcium deficiency may cause osteomalacia but dietary excess may cause urolithiasis. Vitamin D deficiency may also exacerbate calcium deficiency. Recommendations are made for preventing calcium deficiency and dental disease in rabbits.

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