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Oral Examination of the Rabbit


One of the more challenging aspects of a rabbit physical examination is the oral examination. Understandably for an obligate nasal breather, rabbits resent being restrained around the face and can resist handling for this procedure if it is not skillfully done. Then actually seeing anything in their narrow oral cavity is difficult, particularly if all you have at your disposal is an otoscope. As a result, the whole procedure can feel somewhat futile. This is problematic, because convincing a client to go to the next step of general anaesthesia for oral examination can be difficult if there are not obvious clinical signs of dental disease – which means early, more easily correctable problems could be missed at a routine checkup.

Enter the human nasal speculum. Although originally developed for use in human medicine, no doubt most often in the pursuit of little round objects lodged in the noses of small children, this instrument is also extremely helpful in visualizing the oral cavities of rabbits and rodents. Dr David Vella demonstrates the use of the speculum in this video, and I admit I was completely oblivious to the existence of this handy tool until shown. “General anaesthesia is still required for a detailed oral examination”, David tells me, “but when combined with thorough examination and palpation of the head, the speculum helps gives a more complete picture of oral health at the routine examination”.

“What’s more”, he says as an aside, “the small animal team come running to borrow it whenever a female dog needs a urinary catheter, as it is apparently terrific for helping visualise the external urethral orifice”.


About the Presenter

Dr David Vella is a Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in Exotic Companion Mammals. He was the first Australian veterinarian to achieve these prestigious credentials, and one of the first veterinarians worldwide to sit the DABVP examinations in this specialty. Aside from his extensive clinical experience in treating exotic pets, David also has a wonderful bedside manner – being exactly the sort of calm and gentle personality that suits dealing with these little creatures (as well as inexperienced general practitioners who contact him for help with their cases).

David is the Director of Sydney Exotics and Rabbits Vets (SERV) in Sydney’s North Shore, which specializes in the treatment of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds. David and the extensively qualified team of vets at SERV welcome referrals.

Need to Know More?

Dr David Vella is tutoring the Rabbits and Rodents TimeOnline course via the University of Sydney’s Centre for Veterinary Education in August 2019.

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