Objective: Dental disease is common in rabbits, with a reported prevalence of 12-38%. Hypovitaminosis D has been suggested as a possible causal factor. This case-control study aimed at determining whether companion rabbits with access to natural sunlight, and thus UVB, had a lower risk of developing dental disease.
Methods: A web-based questionnaire was sent to owners to gather data regarding dental health and husbandry of their companion rabbits. Three dependent variables were examined: presence of any dental disease, current or previous incisors malocclusion, and presence of cheek teeth malocclusion. The variable of interest was the frequency of access to an outdoor enclosure as reported by the owner. A causal diagram was used to select potential confounding variables. Variables were checked for collinearity and data was analysed through logistic regressions.
Results: The owners of 527 rabbits fully answered the survey. The presence of dental disease, incisor and cheek teeth malocclusions were not significantly associated with the frequency of access to an outdoor enclosure (all P-values>0.05). There was a statistically significant association between the presence of dental disease or cheek teeth malocclusion and age (P-values<0.001). The weight was not significantly associated with the presence of dental disease or incisors malocclusion (P-value>0.05).
Conclusion: These results suggest that exposure to natural sunlight, as currently performed in rabbits under French latitudes, does not decrease the odds of dental disease. Further studies are warranted to document the role of vitamin D in dental disease and, if indicated, to determine adapted schedules of UVB exposure.