Rabbit Dental Care
Or taking care of Thumper’s chompers, because a rabbit’s teeth can cause some of its biggest health challenges. Checking your rabbit’s teeth may not initially be top of your to-do list, but maintaining their dental health is a key factor to their happiness and health, so perhaps it should be.
A rabbit chomping on a carrot with its big teeth in a “what’s up doc” manner is the iconic image we’re all familiar with, but their most famous of features is often one that is neglected.
Grinders and cutters
If we look at a rabbits teeth you find molars at the back whose function is to grind down hay. The teeth at the front of the mouth are called “peg teeth” and are used for cutting fibrous foods. Curiously, rabbits do not have canine teeth (think of a vampires fangs) so there is a gap in between the molars and incisors, which is a rabbit exclusive dental formation.
Malocclusion and overgrown teeth
When a rabbit’s teeth do not meet correctly it can cause what’s known malocclusion – you may have heard your own dentist use a similar term while sitting in the chair. It is common for certain rounded face breeds (such as lops or dwarf breeds) and it simply means they do not have enough room for their teeth. Any rabbit that has this condition will require ongoing dental treatment throughout their lives – and no, braces are not an option!
Rabbit’s teeth grow continuously throughout their life so it is important to check that their teeth are meeting and wearing down correctly. This erosion is a vital process and keeps the teeth at the correct length. If the molars or incisors aren’t wearing down with the daily grinding of food as they eat, then certain teeth can start to ‘jut’ out into the side of the mouth which makes every mouthful chewed a very painful one. This will naturally affect your rabbit’s appetite and could be fatal if not diagnosed promptly.
As with human teeth, it isn’t all about what’s happening on the surface, but also what’s happening below the gums as an overgrown tooth left untreated could result in abscesses.
Rabbit dental check list:
- Feed them a daily diet of hay, grass and greens – what they would predominantly eat in the wild. The ‘long grain’ found in hay naturally wears down the teeth and is also very good for their gut
- Feel for any bumps along their jaws. If you feel something new, pop them to your vets for a check-up as this could indicate overgrown roots
- For most mammals smelly breath is an indicator of oral health problems, but not for rabbits. For them the only sign to look out for is loss of weight or appetite
- Are they drooling? Or have noticeably wet paws from padding their mouths? These are classic symptoms of rabbit dental problems
- Check their eyes! Probably the last thing you’d consider, yet if their eyes are looking a bit ‘gunky’ it could mean that a rogue tooth is pushing up into its eye socket. Ouch!
Rabbits are surprisingly fragile creatures, so while the kids may try their very best to keep them healthy, always double-check their efforts just to be 100% certain
It’s advised to check your rabbits teeth on a weekly basis, however a good examination carried out by your vet is vital, as getting a good look at the back molars would prove very difficult without anaesthetic.
As a warning, when rabbits teeth get out of control the incisors can over-shoot the mouth, stopping the poor creature from feeding. These will need to be ground back to their correct length. So check on Jessica (struggling for a third fictional rabbit!) teeth regularly for both their comfort and your peace of mind.
This post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.
If in doubt contact your veterinary practice
And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!