All bunny owners should be aware of bunny teeth. These little chompers never stop growing and can become a big problem if they are not cared for properly. In this blog post, we will discuss what is normal when it comes to rabbit teeth, how to care for them and when to worry. Knowing how to keep your bunny’s teeth trim will help prevent serious issues from occurring down the road!
How many teeth do rabbits have?
Rabbits have 28 teeth in total that grow continuously throughout their lives.
- Four incisors, two upper incisors and two lower incisors. These are known as the “buck” teeth
- Two small incisors behind the upper two incisors. These are known as the “peg teeth”
- Six premolars on the top (3 each side) and four on the lower jaw (2 each side) of their mouths. These are known as their “cheek” teeth
- Twelve molars, six on the upper jaw (3 on each side) and six on the bottom (3 on each side).
- You can only see the incisors in your rabbit’s mouth. The molars can only be seen with a special scope (usually an otoscope or “ear” scope) that your veterinarian will have
How do Bunny teeth become overgrown?
Dental disease is undoubtedly among the most common conditions of pet rabbits, with a reported prevalence ranging from 12.2% to 38.1%. Rabbits’ teeth can become overgrown for a variety of reasons and this can happen quite quickly since they grow at about 2-3mm per week!
Causes of dental disease include an improper diet and do not have enough hay to chew on. This is extremely important as it helps wear down their molar teeth and keeps them trim. If you think about it, wild rabbits spend most of their chewing grass so our domestic rabbits need to spend a lot of time chewing also to avoid dental problems.
Secondly, bunny teeth can become overgrown if their upper molars and lower molars are not meeting properly in the middle of their mouths when they chew. Misalignment of the teeth is a condition called malocclusion and it causes bunny teeth to grow unevenly. Malocclusion is not uncommon among rabbits, especially dwarf breeds such as Mini-Lops and Netherland Dwarfs.
There are a few different theories as to why indoor rabbits often develop dental disease. One theory is that they don’t get enough sunlight, which means their bodies can’t produce vitamin D in order for them to absorb calcium from their diet (which also helps with bone health). However, one more recent study looking at a large group of rabbits does not support this theory.
What should I look for if my bunny’s teeth appear to be overgrown?
You can really only visually check the front incisors. You should visually inspect these incisor teeth every 1-2 weeks since they grow 2-3mm per week! If you notice that your rabbits’ teeth are growing too long, take them to your vet that is experienced with pocket pets (many vets are not familiar with rabbit and rodent dentistry so call around to find the right veterinarian for your rabbit) for an examination
Rabbits are prey animals and as such will try to mask any signs of illness or pain. It’s important for bunny owners to be aware of their rabbit’s normal behavior so that you can tell when something is wrong. You can’t check the cheek teeth as these are too far back in the mouth. This is why it is so important for your bunny to have an annual health check so the vet can examine the back teeth. There are some signs you can watch out for in-between checkups. These include:
- Weight loss
- Drooling due to pain
- Any swelling or pain around the jaw and mouth
- Teeth grinding which is an indication of pain
- Changes in eating habits
- Nasal discharge
- Runny eyes or “crying” – this is caused by blocking of the tear ducts
- Discoloration of teeth
If you notice any of the above take your rabbit to the vet ASAP for proper treatment. To do a thorough examination and x-rays of your rabbit’s mouth, your vet will often recommend an anesthetic or heavy sedation and will be looking for sharp edges, malocclusion, and overgrown teeth. They can often also treat the teeth at the same time and your bunny may require surgical treatment such as tooth removal or abscess treatment
What Happens When a Rabbit’s Teeth Are Overgrown? Dental Disease in Rabbits
Dental issues in rabbits are a serious problem and can lead to:
- If your rabbit can’t close her mouth properly, she won’t be able to breathe through her nose. This is a serious problem for rabbits.
- Sharp points or dental burrs teeth may possibly slice your pet’s tongue and gums. This can be unpleasant, result in bleeding, and provide a breeding ground for germs and bacterial infection
- It can become too painful for your bunny to eat – in severe cases rabbits can succumb to death if they don’t eat for more the 24 hours
- They can find it difficult to groom themselves, causing matted fur and poor hygiene, resulting in stress. Flystrike can occur as a result of this.
How do I keep my rabbit’s teeth healthy?
There are a few things you can do to help keep your bunny’s teeth healthy. The best way is to provide enough “roughage”, giving them plenty of chew toys and regular vet visits:
What can rabbits chew on for their teeth?
Give them plenty of quality hay to chew on such as timothy hay. This helps wear down their teeth and keeps them trim. You should also give your bunny a variety of fibrous fruits and vegetables to eat as well. Some good choices include
- Dark, leave greens and plant material such as kale, dandelion greens, bok choi, and romaine lettuce
- Other fibrous vegetables such as carrots, celery and cabbage
- Fruits such as apples, pears, nectarines, peaches and apricots (feed smaller amounts of fruit as they tend to be higher in calories)
Rabbits need to chew on something hard in order to keep their teeth trimmed.
- Wooden toys are a great option to not only help with the dental disease but also boredom. You can either hang the toys at face height or just on the ground. Only provide unpainted, untreated wooden objects and avoid cedar as its toxic to rabbits if eaten
- Cardboard is also a surprisingly great (and affordable) option. Just like kids, rabbits love cylindrical cardboard (such as paper towel rolls) and cardboard boxes. Just remember to remove anything that could hurt your rabbit from the cardboard such as staples and tape.
- Items found in nature, such as pinecones and tree branches, are excellent chew toys for rabbits. These provide new tastes and textures for your rabbit to discover, too.
How do I treat my bunny’s overgrown teeth?
Rabbits that have healthy teeth do not require their teeth to be trimmed. With enough grass, hay and chew toys, they should be able to keep their ever-growing teeth in check. Rabbit teeth, however, may occasionally overgrow and necessitate the attention of a vet
Do not attempt to trim your rabbit’s teeth yourself if you notice they are overgrown! If you attempt to clip your bunny’s teeth without the appropriate equipment, your risk fracturing the tooth which can lead to severe pain and infection.
How often should your rabbit’s teeth be trimmed?
Some rabbits do need their teeth trimmed every 6-12 months despite your best feeding habits. I would recommend you seek out a veterinarian that has a special interest in rabbits (as there are many that don’t).
Teeth Grinding in rabbits
Teeth grinding in rabbits is usually a sign of pain or stress. If you notice your bunny grinding his teeth together, seek veterinary advice.
Rabbits have teeth that never stop growing and these teeth can become problematic. Knowing how to keep your bunny’s teeth trim and what to do if they appear to be overgrown, can help prevent serious issues from occurring. By providing enough roughage, giving them plenty of chew toys, and keeping up with regular vet visits, your bunny should have no problems with their teeth. If you suspect your precious pet’s teeth are overgrown seek veterinary attention – preferably from a rabbit-experienced veterinarian. Thank you for reading! I hope this article was helpful!
- Jekl V, Hauptman K, Knotek Z (2008) Quantitative and qualitative assessments of intraoral lesions in 180 small herbivorous mammals. Veterinary Record 162: 442-449.
- Rooney N, Blackwell E, Mullan S, Saunders R, Baker P, et al. (2014) The current state of welfare, housing and husbandry of the English pet rabbit population. BMC Research Notes 7: 942.)
- Thilliez N, Larrat S, VergneauGrosset C. (2017) Lack of Association between Exposure to Natural Sunlight and Dental Disease in French Companion Rabbits. J Vet Med Surg. Vol. 1 No13.