The rabbit's teeth continuously grow at an approximate rate of 2-2.4mm per week. Therefore, this means that if they are not worn down during mastication, they will overgrow, leading to other dental and oral problems.
However, if you provide these pets with the right diet and ensure proper dental and oral care, there will be minimal chances of any dental problems unless your rabbit has congenital teeth malocclusion problem.
Remember dental and oral problems can hinder your pet’s ability to groom or eat properly as well as affects some of its natural behavior like chewing and socializing.
Possible rabbit dental problems
Before we look at some of the care tips for healthy teeth, we should mention the most common dental problems that your rabbit may have, and they include:
- Malocclusion – misaligned dental contact
- Overgrown teeth – incisor elongation as well as dental spurs
- Tooth abscesses
- Dental carrier and resorption
- Periodontal disease
- Jaw trauma
- Neoplasia or growths
To minimize the chances of this pet getting some of the above problems or disease, below are some of the important rabbit teeth care tips.
Provide grassy hay and the right diet
Rabbits are folivores, they depend on high-fiber, low energy foods, meaning they must chew a lot to get enough energy for survival. The chewing a lot helps wear down their teeth that are ever-growing by the action between teeth and fibrous diets.
Therefore, you need to ensure you provide unlimited amounts of grassy hays such as timothy. It should account for over 80% of their diet.
When it comes to grassy hay, you cannot go wrong with brands like Small Pet Select 2nd Cutting "Perfect Blend" Timothy Hay Pet Food, Oxbow Timothy Hay, Kaytee Timothy Hay, Vitakraft Timothy Hay Premium Sweet Grass Hay, among many others.
Also, consider including a wide range of leafy greens including basil, kales, spinach, broccoli, collard greens, carrot tops, basil, mint, among others. They should account for about 5-10% of their nutritional needs.
Finally, you can also consider giving them non-leafy vegetables and fruits sparingly as well as some high fiber pellets in small quantities too. Buy Oxbow Animal Health Bunny Basics Essentials Adult Rabbit Pet Food, Small Pet Select Rabbit Food Pellets, Kaytee Supreme Food for Rabbit, or Hagen Rabbit Pellets
While feeding these pets, ensure the food meets the nutritional requirements and has vital nutrients including the right amount of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, D, magnesium, among other nutrients.
Chew toys, both commercial chew toys and homemade are also important in wearing down a rabbit’s teeth. Also, they will help satisfy the chewing nature of these pets. Otherwise, they may end up being so destructive and chew anything they come across including their hutches.
Go for commercial chew toys such as Kaytee Perfect Chews for Rabbits, Peter’s Woven Grass Ball and mats, Willow Branch Ball for Small Animals by Ware Manufacturing, SunGrow Natural Seagrass Ball, among others
Homemade chew items such as dried pine cones, cardboard boxes, untreated hardwood as well as other rabbit-safe chewable twigs and branches including orange, lemon, apple, willow, and so on will also be ideal for chewing.
When grooming your rabbits (brushing their fur, checking their ears, clipping their nails, etc.), remember to also check your rabbit’s teeth. You will only be able to see only the incisors if you gently lift their upper lip.
Check for any overgrown, uneven, misaligned incisors. Let your vet know any anomaly you notice. Their ends should not have ridges, instead, they should be chisel-like shaped and neat.
Also, check if they are loose and if their gum is ok (pink and not purple or red).
Low jaw palpation
Also, you should consider palpating their lower jaw to check if you can feel any lumps that will indicate apical tooth intrusion. You need to run your fingers on the lower edge of their mandibles.
While palpating the lower jaw, you may feel the lumps and your bunny may react if there is any pain. However, do not confuse the scent gland with apical root intrusion.
Check for a swollen face
Face swellings are an indication of facial, jaw or dental abscesses as well as other dental problems. Always check if their face is swollen including lumps on the maxillae, signs of dacryocystitis (lacrimal sac infection) as well as eyes building out.
Feel the right and left the side of their face, on the cheekbone below their eyes and on the area in front of their eyes to help detect any swelling. Also, check to see if they have sensitivity in these areas which will indicate pain.
Watch for a foul smell
If you often give your bunnies kisses, you may notice a foul smell from their facial area, especially near the mouth or nose. This could be due to rabbit teeth disease or problems. Alternatively, you can sniff your bunny’s breath.
Check if the rabbit grooms
Whereas you may help your pet to groom, you also need to check if it is able to groom itself. If you notice poor coat condition, a perianal area with clumpy pellets (cecotrophs), increase fur mites, or matted fur, it might mean that your pet is unable to groom. Dental problem is a common cause.
Bunny-proof your house
Since chewing is one of the rabbit’s natural behaviors, bunny-proof your home to ensure they do not chew electric wires, rubber bands, pins, paper clips as some may be hazardous and damage their teeth.
Since you might not be able to see all the rabbit’s 28 teeth, it is recommended you go to your vet for a thorough dental examination once or twice in a year. This may require anesthesia as well as specialized tools to check all the teeth.
Further symptoms to look out for
Besides the above routine care, you need to watch for any of the following symptoms which will indicate dental diseases, disorders or conditions
- Drooling (salivating) – You will notice the mouth area, dewlap, chin, and front paws wet or having matted fur.
- A runny nose and teary ears – They can also cause wetness and matting
- Preference of soft foods over hard ones as well as water bowls over rabbit water bottles
- Reduced appetite or unwillingness to eat despite being hungry
- Hunched posture, grinding teeth, hiding, staying in one place for a long time. This are signs of pain. However, the pain could also be from other conditions including hind leg paralysis, bloating, gas, and so on.
- Food scattered all over the hutch because this pet drops food while eating
- Small-sized or few droppings
As prey animals, these pets try to hide any sign of illness to avoid being targeted. Therefore, you need to be observant to be able to notice some of these symptoms.
Whereas you may see rabbit dental kits or rabbit trimming equipment such as the rabbit teeth clippers, we are against trimming their teeth on your own. The various rabbit teeth trimming procedures require a qualified vet.