Those of you who own those adorable bunnies may not realize how vital proper oral care is for them. Most people do not know how many teeth rabbits actually have. Besides the four large incisors, they have two tiny incisors, and six upper and five lower cheek teeth on each side. Rabbits have teeth that are very much like horses’ teeth. Their teeth are designed for constant wear because they are open-rooted, so the teeth grow nonstop their whole lives. Because of this, rabbits need a certain amount of fiber in their diets.
A rabbit who only eats pellets will not be able to achieve the constant wear on the teeth that nature intended for it to have. This can cause abnormal wear to the teeth and possibly sharp edges and points in the teeth, which could in turn cause cuts to the tissues in the oral cavity. It may cause malocclusion, which is what is caused when the teeth do not meet correctly. Malocclusion can cause problems like roots that become impacted, elongated, and inflamed, as well as possible bone infections or “jaw abscess”. Once rabbits have malocclusion, it is very unlikely that the teeth will ever return to normal, and it may require trips to the vet, tooth trims, and surgery.
As with humans, tooth problems in rabbits cannot be ignored. Rabbits are prey animals, meaning they are not designed to show signs any illnesses or problems, so a pet rabbit needs to be brought to a vet (experienced in rabbits) regularly to check its health. A complete exam may require the rabbit to be under anesthesia. Also, dogs, cats, and birds are not the only animals that can have bad breath–rabbits can have halitosis as well! If you notice that your rabbit has excessive salivation, tooth grinding, or bad breath, you should definitely take it in to the vet as soon as you can.
Aside from bringing your rabbit to the vet 1-2 times a year, you can also make sure it has an appropriate diet. Some things that you can offer your rabbit to provide a fibrous diet are hay, tree branches, leaves and twigs. It is also important that all of these are gathered from vegetation that is not treated with herbicides, pesticides, fertilizer, etc. Also, try to place the branches in water or put them in the freezer overnight to kill any insects.
- Orange/lemon trees: rabbits should be fed fresh or dried branches
- Apple trees: fresh or dried branches
- Willow: fresh or dried branches
- Maple/ash/pine trees: dried branches
- Rose canes: remove thorns first, and feed the branches fresh or dried
What are some tips for monitoring the dental health of my rabbit?
- Make sure your rabbit has a good appetite, eats its daily diet of pellets and veggies, and chews his hay often
- Monitor any changes in the rabbit’s eating habits
- In order to check for any abnormalities, feel the left and right sides of the rabbit’s head (meaning in front of the eyes, on the cheekbone below the eyes, under the lower jaw, etc.). If you notice any lump on one side that is not on the other side, take the rabbit to the vet ASAP.
- Lift up the rabbit’s upper lips to see if the incisors meet evenly– if not, go to the vet!
- Under the chin, look for any excessive salivating/wetness (not including moisture from eating veggies, drinking water, etc.)
- If you can smell rabbit bad breath, go to the vet!
- Eye/nasal discharge can signify that there are teeth problems