Brusha Brusha Brushaaaa
It doesn’t matter how much loving care you give your bunnies, if their teeth aren’t in good condition, their health and wellbeing will be affected.
Owners often don’t realise how crucial it is to look after their rabbits’ teeth, or the wide range of painful conditions that tooth problems can cause.
A rabbits’ teeth never stop growing throughout its life. This means they must be trimmed and filed down regularly. Failing to do so will lead to the teeth becoming overgrown. This will be painful for your rabbit, and detrimental to its long-term health.
Wild rabbits chew on tree branches and twigs to wear down their teeth. For a pet rabbit, this can be achieved by filling its hutch with hay, safe/solid wood blocks, and Farmer Pete’s chew toys and Chaffs.
The good news!
Understanding your Rabbits Teeth Health for Better Care
With a little care, your rabbits’ dental health can be well managed, and issues can be prevented. Following these four simple steps will help:
1. Understand the causes
Unlike cats and dogs, ill dental health in rabbits is less likely to be the result of decay or gum disease. Instead, it’s rabbits’ naturally fast-growing teeth, combined with the wrong diet, that causes problems.
Rabbits’ teeth are ‘open-rooted’ and grow continuously (about 2mm every week). The teeth also grow inward. The root will move inside the gums of a rabbit. It will eventually reach the nose or eyes if not ground down.
2. Prevent problems
The number one way to ensure your rabbits’ teeth stay healthy is to feed the right diet. They need mostly hay, and some leafy vegetables and toys, to keep their teeth in good condition. Pellets don’t wear their teeth down.
Another way to help prevent problems with your rabbits’ teeth is to trim their nails often. They can use their nails to scratch off the enamel on their teeth. Bunny teeth have enamel on their front teeth only.
3. Spot the signs
How can you tell if your bunny already has tooth problems? Other animals’ dental problems can be detected by their smelly breath, but the signs in your rabbit will be more subtle and you’ll need to pay careful attention to spot the symptoms.
SOME SYMPTOMS TO LOOK FOR IN YOUR RABBIT:
- Weight loss
- Your bunny is not grooming themselves and develop flystrike (an infestation of maggots from laying flies)
- Wetness on the front paws from cleaning their mouths
- Going off hay and grass because it’s too painful to chew – if a rabbit seems not to ‘like’ hay, it’s almost certainly due to tooth problems and an inability to chew properly
- Faecal matting around the back end
- Lumps on the face – feel the rabbit’s head on both sides and check for any lumps that are on one side only
Also look out for discharge from your bunnies’ eyes, as misaligned teeth can change the shape of a rabbit’s delicate skull – which can block the tear ducts and lead to a build-up of gunk.
4. Keep checking
You should check your rabbits’ front teeth every week. They should be creamy white, smooth except for a vertical line down the centre of the top ones, and end in a neat chisel-shaped bite. Consult your vet immediately if you have any concerns. (Never attempt to trim them yourself.)
Are Baby Rabbits Born with Teeth?
Baby rabbits are not born with teeth. Instead, kits grow them when they are between 19 and 21 days old. At this point, they will start to chew on vegetables, fruits, and hay to get used to their growing teeth and keep them ground down to a comfortable and safe length.
Before they reach adulthood, bunnies have 16 deciduous teeth and 28 permanent teeth. Rabbits have 28 teeth overall! The two big teeth upper and lower we see at the front are incisors (4 in total) the other two wedge teeth beside the upper two teeth are known as peg teeth (2), and the rest 22 teeth (Cheek teeth) remain as molars and grinding inside the jaw.
Rabbits don’t have canine teeth because they are herbivores. Rabbits rarely need to tear into meat or eat meat off the bone.
How to Stop Rabbit’s Teeth from Growing
Pet rabbits need to replicate the lifestyle of wild rabbits. This means they need to be chewing for most of the day, grinding down those long teeth.
The easiest/safest way to encourage chewing is through the hay. Fill your rabbit’s hutch with fresh hay each morning. You will notice that she happily chews on this throughout the day. Rabbits particularly love to eat while they poop.
You will likely notice that your rabbit is compelled to chew other items, too. You need to discourage dangerous chewings, such as electrical cables or hutch wiring.
What Can Rabbits Chew on for Great Teeth Health?
Fill your pet’s hutch with more hay than she’ll eat in a day. Also, you can provide the following for your pet to chew on:
- Farmer Pete’s Rabbit & Guinea Pig Toys such as: Munchy Balls, Tasty Cubes, Treat Logs, Seagrass sandwiches or Treat kabab
- Baby teething toys: Hard plastic type.
- Pinecones. Wash them first with water and vinegar.
- Wicker baskets. Fill these with hay for additional fun.
- Firm, tough rubber balls. Your rabbit will also play with a ball.
- Farmer Pete’s Chaff: Encourage foraging and burrowing while their chew.
Avoid cheap, basic dog, or cat chew toys. These tend to be made of flimsy plastic. Your rabbit will chew right through them, creating a choking hazard.
Switch up your rabbit’s chewing options every day. If she is faced with the same chew toys all the time, they’ll get bored and cease chewing. This means her teeth risk becoming overgrown.
Common Rabbit Dental Problems
Though many people see rabbits as rodents, they are lagomorphs. This describes any animal that possesses continuously growing teeth. Hares and pikas are also included in this group.
The problem rabbits face with having tube-shaped incisors behind the large upper incisors is that they can grow too long and cause many painful health issues. Teeth must be able to wear down at the same rate as they’re growing; otherwise, the following problems will arise:
If a rabbit’s teeth aren’t worn down properly, malocclusion can occur, which is when the teeth don’t meet comfortably when the jaw is closed.
With malocclusion, sharp points on the edges of the teeth have the potential to cut the rabbit’s mouth, cheeks, and gums. Furthermore, long teeth can trap the tongue, while overgrown molars might prevent the mouth from closing altogether.
Malocclusion can be life-threatening if not treated. The teeth will keep growing. This means they risk penetrating your pet’s skin. Rabbits are supposed to have blunt teeth, not sharp fangs.
Most pet rabbits eat a combination of only hay and soft pellets, which doesn’t reflect a rabbit’s natural diet of grass and other roughage. Pellets crumble easily in the mouth.
Dental caries is caused by a bacterial infection and causes tooth decay and demineralization. The acid produced by bacteria erodes the tooth’s enamel and dentine and causes holes in the tooth’s surface. This can be painful and often leads to root infection and tooth loss.
Dental caries tends to be uncommon in rabbits who can keep their teeth filed down. But for rabbits who can’t or consume too many carbohydrates, it’s more likely to occur.
Rabbits are notorious for hiding the condition, so symptoms to look out for include:
- A sudden change in appetite or food preferences
- Wet or matted fur
- A reluctance to eat or drink
- Weight loss
- Bad breath
- Poor coat condition
Any of the above could be a sign that your rabbit is suffering from dental caries, in which case, you’ll need to seek veterinary treatment.
If a rabbit’s cheek teeth are misaligned or not wearing down evenly, sharp points can occur on the tooth. These spurs or spikes can pierce through the cheek’s skin, causing severe pain or discomfort.
Because a rabbit’s teeth are always growing, the teeth on one side can quickly outgrow the other. The abnormal pressure caused by this often causes painful abscesses to appear on the mouth’s soft tissue, which only gets worse if left untreated.
Conclusion on Dental Hygiene To Keep a Rabbit's Teeth Healthy
Good dental hygiene = Happy bunny!
Provide your rabbit with a good high fibre diet, mainly hay and with plenty of other opportunities to chew throughout the day to reduce boredom and to keep those pearly whites healthy.
Regular inspections of your rabbit’s teeth are important. If you look at least once a week, you will discover whether intervention is needed. If this is the case, act before the problem intensifies.