If you have kept rabbits, you probably already know that
their teeth must be carefully watched and maintained in
order to keep them healthy.
A rabbit's teeth have no enamel, and because of constant
wear from their high fiber diet, grow continuously
throughout its life. If the mouth and teeth are healthy, the
top and bottom teeth wear against each other as the rabbit
chews and so keep each other properly trimmed. The large
incisors (front teeth) are used to bite off bits of grass or
other foods, and the molars or cheek teeth then grind the
food into bits small and soft enough to swallow.
The most common dental disorder seen in pet rabbits is a bad
"bite" or misalignment of the incisors, called malocclusion.
Failure to catch a malocclusion problem can lead to
overgrowth of the teeth and eating problems for the rabbit.
This is especially true of the front incisors, which can
grow up and out of the mouth, forming "tusks" that prevent
the rabbit from biting its food or even closing its mouth
fully, or curling back into the rabbit's mouth and causing
injury and infection even to the point of penetrating the
rabbit's brain and killing it.
If a rabbit's teeth don't meet properly it may also have
mouth pain and stop eating. Failure to eat is serious and
possibly fatal in rabbits, as their unique digestive systems
may shut down altogether and the rabbit may die.
There is no easy fix for this problem. Some owners have a
veterinarian or someone else who is experienced with rabbits
trim the teeth every few weeks. Some veterinarians are
willing to trim the teeth regularly, but the procedure is
stressful for the rabbit and costly for the owner.
A rabbit's teeth can be clipped, filed or ground down, but
the last two choices take longer and so are even more
stressful for the rabbit. However, there is a potential
health problem from clipping the teeth rather than filing or
grinding. Tiny fractures in the teeth can travel down the
tooth to below the gum line and allow bacteria to infect the
rabbit's mouth and possibly eventually its entire body.
Some experienced rabbit keepers who want to keep their
rabbits with malocclusion elect to have a veterinarian who
is experienced with rabbits remove the maloccluded teeth
completely. With this procedure care must be taken that the
entire roots of the teeth are removed so that they can't
begin to re-grow.
The rabbit probably will need pain medication for a few days
after this surgery (Especially so that it will continue to
eat.), but once its mouth has healed all you will need to do
is to make sure that fresh foods are cut into rabbit bite
sized pieces. The rabbit probably can still eat its hay and
pellets just as before.
As a previously healthy rabbit begins to age, it may develop
osteoporosis (bone loss) and its teeth may become loose in
their sockets and cause problems with the rabbit's jaw. In
some cases the molar roots have even grown into the rabbit's
eye sockets causing runny eyes from tear duct damage or
leading to an abscess in the rabbit's eye.
Don't breed rabbits with mallocclusion, the problem is often
Even if you can't see any problem with your rabbit's teeth
and they were fine the last time the vet checked them, if
your rabbit begins to have persistent runny eyes, drools,
acts hungry but doesn't eat, or changes what foods it is
willing to eat, have your veterinarian check its teeth.