Excessive salivation, also known as ptyalism, doesn't sound like a serious issue, but rabbits experiencing this condition tend to be in constant pain, as it's usually caused by dental disease. Rabbits can be genetically predisposed to certain dental diseases, and not having enough hay or grass to chew on can also increase their risk of developing painful dental conditions. Overgrown teeth, root canal infections, gum abscesses, split teeth and gingivitis can all cause excessive salivation. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for excessive salivation in rabbits.
In addition to salivating more often, your rabbit may stop eating and drinking and experience weight loss. The fur around their mouth may begin to fall out due to the skin becoming irritated from being constantly wet. Some dental causes of excessive salivation, such as overgrown teeth, can leave your rabbit with uneven facial symmetry, and they may grind their teeth. You may also notice a growth in your rabbit's mouth, and if your rabbit is in pain, they may present as being lethargic and resist being handled.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Your vet or animal specialist will examine your rabbit's mouth and seek to determine the underlying cause of the increased salivation. A swab of your rabbit's saliva will be analysed to check for the presence of bacteria, and if your rabbit has an oral mass, a biopsy will be performed. Diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray or MRI, may be required to check for the presence of abscesses or damage to tooth roots.
Your vet will formulate a treatment plan based on the identified cause, and if your rabbit has been refusing to eat or drink, they will be given intravenous fluids to treat dehydration. Antibiotics will be required if your rabbit has an infection, and these may be given orally or injected into the site of the infection. An abscess will require root canal treatment to drain the pus from the root cavity, and overgrown teeth will need to be trimmed.
If overgrown teeth have damaged your rabbit's soft gum tissue, they may require anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling. It's sometimes necessary to remove one or more of your rabbit's teeth if they are badly damaged or if they have severe gum disease, but tooth extraction will bring immediate relief from the pain they've been experiencing.
If you notice your rabbit salivating more than usual, or if you have any concerns about their dental health, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.