Rabbit Teeth Problems

 

Rabbit teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. Normal chewing action wears them down just to the point that they don’t overgrow. This is one of the reasons it is important to feed your rabbit a high fiber diet. Another very important reason to feed a high fiber is GI stasis problems.

A rabbit that has a malocclusion does not have this normal wearing action and can suffer overgrown teeth. This problem can be serious enough to inhibit the ability to eat. Most rabbits do fine if their teeth are trimmed periodically. On select cases we will remove the problem teeth.

Before we begin click here to see an x-ray of a rabbits mouth to view incisors and molars. Come back here after you have reviewed rabbit tooth anatomy.


Treatment

This patient has overgrown lower incisors. They are definitely inhibiting its ability to chew. They need periodic trimming every 2-4 weeks to prevent recurrence.


They are trimmed with a special scissors that will not crack them. If needed, they are also filed to remove any sharp edges. This technique should not be tried by inexperienced people because teeth are brittle in nature, and in this case are weaker than normal due to the abnormality. They can easily fracture because of these two factors. In addition, rabbits can fracture their back if not properly restrained.


Even though the upper incisors are not as long as the lower, they also need trimming because they are growing into the lower jaw.


This rabbit has an upper right incisor (arrow) that has been chronically infected. We decided to remove the incisors because trimming the teeth was not solving the problem.


As you saw from the x-ray pictures the roots of these incisors are very deep and they curve significantly. Great care must be taken during their removal so they don’t crack at the root. In this picture we are gently breaking down the attachment of the tooth to the gums.


This is the appearance immediately after surgery.


In some rabbits the problem is much more serious than overgrown and unsightly incisors. These rabbits have severe problems with their molar teeth, preventing them from eating properly. If untreated they can die. A large part of their problem is a diet that is too low in fiber. This causes improper wearing down of the molars, and even can lead to elongation of the roots of the incisors.

Rabbits with this problem are not eating well, losing weight, and are slobbering. Looking into a rabbits mouth is not the easiest thing in the world to do. Not only do they find it distasteful, but their skin folds make it near impossible to visualize the teeth without anesthesia and proper instruments.

When the molar teeth don’t wear down properly they develop points that pinch the gums  or tongue and make chewing painful. These rabbits are treated by filing the molars down until they become smooth, and instituting a higher fiber diet.

This rabbit has points on one of it’s molar teeth. Its on the side of the mouth near the tongue. You can see it on the right side of the molar tooth.

rabbit-molar1

Here it is just after initial trimming. We will smooth down the rough edges.

rabbit-molar2

In some cases the chronic molar problem causes the roots to elongate. This is a serious problem, that can lead to abscesses, pain, inability to eat, and even death.

This is a picture of Mike. He has overgrown molar roots that we will be removing. His IV catheter is giving him fluids just prior to anesthesia.


Putting an IV catheter in a rabbit takes special skill from our nursing staff. You can learn more about catheters if you like by following the IV catheter link.


Before you attempt to treat one of these rabbits you need instruments enabling proper exposure of the teeth.


These rabbits need complete anesthesia for proper treatment. We use a very safe gas anesthesia and usually intubate for an additional margin of safety. The arrow points to the beginning of the breathing tube as it enters the mouth from the left. You can trace it as it courses down and to the right.


We diagnosed Mike’s problems partially by a history of weight loss and poor appetite, along with excessive salivation.You can see the chronic irritation the saliva has caused on his chin.


A radiograph was also helpful in the diagnosis. The arrow points to the elongation of the roots of the molar teeth. Compare it to the rabbit below with normal molar roots.


These roots are normal. The arrow on the left points to the incisors, the one below points to the molars. Can you see the difference in the molars from the abnormal rabbit above.


Now that Mike is finally anesthetized we can gain access to his molar teeth. The white arrow points to one of them deep in his oral cavity.


These are the teeth immediately after removal. The roots are on the bottom.


A closeup of one of them shows the infection around the root (on the right).


Unfortunately, Mike had more than teeth problems. He had abcesses in his eye and on his tongue caused by Pasteurella. The arrow points to the ulcer he has on the tip of his tongue.

 


Prevention

One of the most important things you can do to keep your rabbit’s teeth healthy is to feed a high fiber diet. This consists of mostly timothy hay or timothy hay pellets.

Regular exams by one of our doctors will also catch this problem before teeth get infected or your rabbit becomes ill.