Dental disease is very common in rabbits and is often linked to what they eat, which is why keeping on top of their diet is really important.
Your rabbit's teeth
A rabbit has four sharp incisors at the front – two on the top and two on the bottom with smaller incisors behind those. In total they have 28 teeth with 16 on the top and 12 on the bottom.
They’re part of the whole digestive system and help to effectively break down food such as hay and fibrous materials many other animals are unable to. Molars towards the back of the mouth further help grind down food.
Unlike humans, or indeed dogs and cats, rabbits are born with rooted teeth – they don’t have baby teeth which fall out to be replaced by sturdy adult ones. They grow throughout their life and are constantly being worn down and renewed.
However, dental disease is very common in rabbits which is why keeping on top of their diet is really important. With regular care, you can make sure your rabbit’s teeth stay in great condition.
Looking after your rabbit's teeth
Rabbit’s teeth are constantly growing and being ground down, so there’s no need to brush them like you would your own. Rabbits chew constantly which is a fundamental part of the process that helps keep their teeth healthy. In order to keep them that way, it’s crucial you make sure they have the right food.
Poor diet and lack of fibre are the most common causes of dental disease in rabbits so making sure they have a high fibre diet is one of the best ways to maintain teeth health. Rabbits in the wild live mainly on grass and rarely suffer from dental disease so making sure your rabbit has a good supply of grass is essential. This isn’t always possible all year round so hay is a great alternative. It has long fibre in it which has to be chewed from side to side and helps wear your rabbit’s teeth down. As an added benefit, hay contains a special type of fibre which is vital in making sure their gut works properly.
Make sure they have a good supply of hay or fresh growing grass (not cuttings) and other roughage every day. This should make up 80-90% of their diet. You can give them fresh greens and fruit in the morning and rabbit pellets for added nutrients, but these should only account for around 10%. It’s best to avoid rabbit muesli as it can cause serious teeth and stomach issues – especially if your rabbit prefers to eat the softer, tastier bits and leaves the harder fibrous bits.
Apart from the front teeth, which are usually obvious at a glance, it’s pretty hard to check your rabbit’s mouth without them becoming distressed. However, regular check-ups with your vet will mean any problems can be spotted early on.
Dental disease in rabbits
There are a number of dental issues that rabbits can suffer from:
Domestic rabbits often suffer with overgrown front teeth but equally they can have overgrown molars too. If a rabbit’s teeth become too long, they can start growing into the soft tissue and causing pain, which in turn prevents them chewing properly. Stick to a fibre rich diet to prevent this and get overgrown teeth checked and trimmed by your vet.
Deformed or damaged teeth
Much like overgrown teeth, deformed or damaged teeth can affect your rabbit’s ability to chew. They can cause pain and swelling which stops your rabbit from chewing properly, grooming themselves, and being able to eat.
Your rabbit’s teeth are very close to their tear ducts. If their teeth overgrow, they can press upon the duct, causing tears to spill out onto your pet’s fur around the eye. This can lead to eye infections and even abscesses behind the eye.
Signs of disease
Rabbits are notoriously good at hiding when something is wrong so as not to appear vulnerable. The trouble with this is by the time you do notice a change, whatever is ailing them is often quite serious.
However, there are still signs you can look out for which may indicate there’s a problem with your rabbit’s teeth:
- A dirty bottom – grooming has become difficult or painful for them
- Diarrhoea or soft droppings
- Weight loss
- Teeth grinding
- Weepy eyes
- Being less active
If you notice any of these signs in your rabbit, then it’s best to take them to your vet for a check-up.
Talk to your vet about looking after your rabbit's teeth
Keep your rabbit healthy and happy with our essential guide. While there’s no perfect way to care for all rabbits because each rabbit and situation is different, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to provide you with the basics of caring for your pet.