Lionhead, Netherland Dwarf and Holland Lop rabbits are some of the most popular breeds of rabbits today. The same 'features' that make them so appealing though, can cause some serious problems. One of these features is their flat faces, known as brachycephalism. Brachycephalic rabbits have much shorter heads than their wild counterparts.
One of the main challenges that brachycephalic breeds face is dental problems. Because they are always growing, a rabbit's top and bottom teeth need to be able to wear against each other. When their heads are shorter and their faces flatter than they should be though, the lower jaw is longer than the top jaw and the teeth don't line up right. This is known as dental malocclusion and means that the teeth don't get worn down as they should, and continue growing. When a rabbit's teeth become overgrown they cause a great deal of pain, and can cut into the mouth, eventually causing abscesses. Rabbits with dental issues will need their teeth burred down regularly, usually under general anesthetic. In severe cases, sometimes the only fair thing to do is to have the rabbit put to sleep.
Not all brachycephalic bunnies have lop ears, but as they are both very popular looks, they often go hand in hand. Because their ears are larger than those of an up-eared rabbit and folded over, these rabbits are predisposed to ear infections. The majority of lop-eared rabbits suffer from chronic ear pain.
Other Health Issues
Brachycephalic bunnies can also suffer from chronic tear duct issues and their narrowed airways can worsen any respiratory problems they have.
Putting An End To Brachycephalism
As long as flat-faced rabbits are popular, they're going to keep being bred and these rabbits are going to keep suffering. Just as with cats and dogs, the breeding of rabbits needs to put their health and welfare first. To find out more about brachycephalism check out Vets Against Brachycephalism or the RSPCA.