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Dental care in rabbits

Rabbits’ teeth grow throughout their life.They are worn down to an even surface by the chewing and nibbling actions of a rabbit eating. If the incisors overgrow they may protrude from the mouth or curl round making eating and grooming progressively more difficult. Overgrowth of molar teeth causes sharp spurs which cause pain and laceration in the cheek and tongue. Drooling of saliva is often seen with molar problems. A significant and serious complication of molar problems is abscess formation.

 Why do rabbits’ teeth grow abnormally?

Dental problems in rabbits can be caused by congenital defects, trauma, foreign bodies, tumours and incorrect diet. There is a progressive problem of acquired dental disease in pet rabbits that is common and due to diet and lifestyle.The first stage of disease is poor enamel quality and long tooth roots. These teeth then distort and stop wearing against one another correctly.

What can be done with overgrown teeth?

Overgrown incisors can either be clipped or preferably trimmed with a high speed bur. Sometimes they can return to wearing correctly.The best long term solution however is usually to extract the incisors. Molar teeth are clipped or burred under general anaesthesia. Diseased teeth may again be extracted, especially where the opposing tooth can also be removed. The procedure will need to be repeated every 3-18 months.

What should I feed my rabbit to try and prevent teeth problems?

  • Pet rabbits should have good quality hay or grass available at all times. Chewing roughage is essential to stop the teeth from overgrowing.
  • A wide range of green foods and vegetables should be given but fruit and succulent vegetables such as lettuce and tomatoes should be given in moderation.
  • Feed small amounts of rabbit pellets once a day only and remove after a couple of hours. Avoid feeding cereal mixes which allow the rabbits to pick out the carbohydrate rich pieces and leave the mineral and vitamin pellets.
  • No more than 2-3% of the rabbit’s bodyweight should be fed as pellets daily.
  • Introduce all new foods gradually.
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