Rabbit’s teeth are open rooted, meaning that they continuously erupt and grow throughout your rabbit's life.
The usual rate is about 2mm per week but this can change when dental disease is present. The rabbit’s teeth wear against each other and against high fibre, abrasive food to maintain normal occlusion. For the wear to be even and prevent sharp spikes and spurs developing on the teeth it is important that the teeth are perfectly aligned. Unfortunately with domestication, certain breeds of rabbits are more predisposed to dental disease, especially the miniature breeds and lion-heads.
Common manifestations of dental disease include:
The incisors can overgrow or become misshapen. This can prevent your rabbit from eating, drinking and grooming properly. The incisors may grow into nearby tissue and cause pain and infections.
If there is uneven wear of the cheek teeth, sharp spurs and spikes may develop. These can cause ulceration on the tongue and cheeks and make it extremely painful for the rabbit to eat.
The teeth roots can move and lead to painful abscess formation. In some cases it can also block the tear ducts which in turn can lead to sticky eyes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the signs of dental disease in rabbits?
- Weight loss
- Salivation (drooling)
- Eating less or a change in dietary preference
- Sticky eyes
- Reduced grooming and having a dirty bottom
Rabbits are “prey animals” which means that they are good at hiding illness from potential predators and their owners! We recommend regular examinations for early detection should it occur.
How is dental disease in rabbits investigated and treated?
Incisors can be trimmed back to the correct length by using a burr in a dental drill. This can often be performed in a conscious rabbit and is usually needed on a regular basis as the teeth continue to grow.
An anaesthetic is required to allow a full inspection and treatment of the cheek teeth. Treatment involves burring the effected teeth to appropriate shapes and lengths. Regular further treatment is usually required as the teeth continue to grow, so this requires serious commitment to manage for the rest of the rabbit's life.
How can I prevent dental disease in my rabbit?
Feeding your rabbit appropriately is the most important thing you can do to reduce the chances of dental disease from happening.
Rabbits need a high fibre, abrasive diet in order to support adequate dental wear and gut function. If fed a diet low in abrasive particles that is consumed rapidly, their teeth will quickly become overgrown.
A rabbits diet should consist of at least 70% grass/good quality hay, which should always be available. A variety of fresh greens and vegetables (about 28% of the diet) should be fed daily. A small amount (only about 2% of the diet) of good quality commercial pelleted food should be fed to prevent selective feeding and ensure provision of the necessary vitamins, minerals and proteins.