Dental dysplasia: pseudo-odontoma (elodontoma) in rabbits




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Warning: this page may contain pictures that may be distressing for some persons.

The growth of benign masses such as pseudo-odontoma is rarely observed in rabbits. It is a dysplastic disease in which odontogenic tissue - dental pulp, mesenchymal cells, enamel, dentin, and cementum - is constantly deposited around the root of maxillary incisors or cheek teeth. The dysplasia is generally bilateral. 


The development of pseudo-odontoma is not well understood. It may be aging, but is more likely related to an inflammatory process at the root level of rabbit teeth, or to osteoporosis. When the roots of incisors are affected, it may relate to traumatic damage caused by chewing on e.g., bars of a cage. Further causes in rodent animals include viral agents or a diet deficient in nutrients or vitamins. Indeed, the disease was observed in rats fed a diet deficient in vitamin A.

Clinical signs and diagnosis

Early stages of the disease are asymptomatic, without changes of the outer aspect of affected teeth. It can, therefore, only be recognize on X-rays of the skull. In a later stage, eruption of the teeth is impaired and modifications occur in the dental pulp canal.

Chewing may become difficult. Further clinical signs are anorexia, difficult swallowing, gastro-intestinal problems and affected reluctance to exercise due to dyspnea.

Changes of the maxillary incisor and cheek teeth roots and deformation of the maxillary bone can lead to compression of the nasolachrymal duct, and will result in overflow of tears (epiphora). Secondary upper respiratory difficulties are uncommon, unless the space-occupying mass encroaches on the nasal cavity and airways. The worsening obstruction of air passage is symptomized by shortness of breath, and inspiratory paroxysmal respiration (“reverse sneezing”).

Radiography and CT scan help confirm the diagnosis.

Dr. Gil Stanzione

Dorso-ventral and left lateral radiographs of a rabbit with a white maxillary opaque mass, possibly pseudo-odontoma (red arrows) pressing on the nasal cavity and airways. Note: the nasolachrymal ducts on the lateral view (green arrow).


Correction of the problem is difficult. In an early stage, extraction of the affected tooth/teeth may be attempted.

Since hypovitaminosis A has been linked to pseudo-odontoma in rats, a diet correction may be attempted in early stages of the disease, by feeding fresh food that is rich in vitamin A. Overdoses must be avoided; it may increase the problem.

Pseudo-odontoma is an expansile disease that will invade surrounding tissues, therefore, prognosis is guarded.


Thank you to Tal Saarony (USA) and to Dr. Gil Stanzione (Dakota Veterinary Clinic, White Plains, NY, US) for the permission to use these pictures.

Further information

Boussarie D, Rival F. Atlas de dentisterie du lapin de compagnie. Vetnac Editions. France ; 2010.

Boehmer E. Zahnheilkunde bei Kaninchen und Nargern. Lehrbuch und atlas. Stuttgart, GE: Schattauer; 2011.

Capello V. Case Report: Use of HEALx Soother Plus in Postoperative Treatment of a Dental-related Abscess in a Pet Rabbit.

Capello V, Gracis M, Lennox A. Rabbit and Rodent Dentistry Handbook. Lake Worth - FL, USA: Zoological Education Network; 2005.

Harcourt-Brown F. Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann; 2001.

Meredith A, Flecknell P. BSAVA Manual of Rabbit Medicine and Surgery. Cheltenham, UK: British Small Animal Veterinary Association; 2006.