Many first-time rabbit owners are unaware of how to properly care for their rabbit’s teeth. Why? Rabbit dental care differs significantly from pets like cats and dogs. Raise a happy, healthy rabbit by first understanding how to care for rabbit teeth properly.
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Unlike cats and dogs, a rabbit’s incisors (front teeth) grow continuously.
In the wild, they grind down their teeth while eating, preventing them from becoming overgrown.
However, domesticated rabbits aren’t always provided with the same opportunities to maintain their teeth on their own.
The result? Rabbits are prone to dental problems, potentially leading to serious complications.
A rabbit’s incisors grow on average 2-3 mm every week.
When you consider the small size of a rabbit’s jaw, it’s easy to see how this could cause a problem relatively quickly.
“Owners often don’t realize how crucial it is to look after their rabbits’ teeth, or the wide range of painful conditions that tooth problems can cause.”
Richard Saunders, vet specialist adviser to the Rabbit Welfare Association.
Before you get too worried or write off rabbits as the ideal pet, let’s talk about proper rabbit dental care.
The secret to keeping your rabbit safe and healthy is education.
The more you know, the better prepared you are to monitor your rabbit’s teeth, carry out proper dental care and recognize the signs of a problem early.
Knowledge is power!
Related: ‘How to Litter Train Your Rabbit‘
3 Tips to Care for Rabbit Teeth
#1 – Check Your Rabbit’s Teeth Weekly
The best way to stay up to date on your rabbit’s teeth is simply to check them on a regular basis.
This should be done at least once a week.
NOTE: If your rabbit is not comfortable with you checking out his/her teeth, you may have to work up to it by gradually working up to being able to handle their jaw area and how long you can investigate. Be patient!
His/her front teeth should be smooth apart from a single vertical line down the center of each of the top teeth.
Each tooth should be smooth (no bumps, spurs, or divots) and a creamy white colour.
The bottom of each tooth should end in a flat, chisel shape.
Gently touch their teeth themselves to ensure that they aren’t loose.
At the same time, look at the colour of the gums.
Healthy gums are pink, not darker in colour (red or purple).
Finally, you want to check to see if the teeth are meeting properly with no overgrowth.
Take note if your rabbit shows any pain or discomfort throughout the process.
If your rabbit flinches, check the area for any bulges or signs of swelling.
If you see any issues or have any cause for concern, contact your veterinarian.
#2 – Learn the Signs and Symptoms of Dental Problems
Even if you do check your rabbit’s teeth regularly, there is a chance that a small problem may go unnoticed.
Rabbits instinctively hide their pain in the wild to avoid drawing the attention of predators.
This means that your rabbit is ‘hard wired’ to hide their discomfort from you.
This is NOT a sign that you are a ‘bad’ owner!
Learning the common signs and symptoms of dental issues will allow you to identify a problem and seek help from your veterinarian early.
Dental problems can be incredibly uncomfortable and lead to serious complications.
Common signs and symptoms include:
- Unexplained Weight Loss
- Reduced Appetite
- Poor Grooming Habits
- Weep eyes
- Runny Nose
- Bumpy or Swollen Jawline
- Grinding of Teeth
- Low Energy/Activity Levels
- Deformed, Broken or Excessively Long Teeth
If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian immediately. They will be able to provide temporary pain relief as well as discussing your options for treatment.
Related: ‘Learn to Recognize These 12 Common Rabbit Diseases, Illnesses and Ailments‘
#3 – Provide Opportunities for Your Rabbit to Chew
Wild rabbits wear their teeth down naturally by chewing on hay, branches, and twigs.
We can recreate this by providing items that encourage domestic rabbits to chew in a similar way.
The easiest option is to ensure that there is always a supply of fresh hay available in your rabbit’s cage.
According to the House Rabbit Society, hay should make up approximately 80% of your rabbit’s balanced diet.
Not only does it have great nutritional value, but it also helps to naturally wear down their teeth.
Safe wood blocks and commercial chew toys will also encourage your rabbit to wear down their teeth in a fun and safe way.
These can come in the form of hanging or loose chew toys, ‘furniture’ or structures for your rabbit’s habitat or smaller treat style chews.
While the cost of these chew toys can add up, it will be MUCH cheaper than the veterinary costs associated with dental problems (and your rabbit will be happier too).
Were you aware of these important factors to consider in order to care for rabbit teeth properly?
Feel free to share any tips, tricks and suggestions in the comment section below! (This can be a GREAT resource for newer rabbit owners)