Dental Care: Encourage Your Rabbit To Do The Bunny Munch

Does your adult pet rabbit's teeth seem longer than they were a few weeks ago? Surely those choppers are not still growing, are they? As a matter of fact, yes, they are. Rabbits and other pocket pets have a unique characteristic that requires your attention to prevent oral health problems.

Eternal Tooth Eruption

Once the teeth on a human, dog, or cat erupt, their teeth growth stops once the crowns have fully emerged from beneath the gum line. A rabbit's teeth, on the other hand, are open-rooted, which means that they continuously erupt and grow. This feature is a design of preservation. Rabbits are herbivores, meaning that their diet consists exclusively of vegetation. In the wild, rabbits spend their days nibbling and grazing on a variety of plant materials, including tough, woody, and fibrous specimens. All of that hard chewing wears their teeth down, but their ability to eat is never threatened because their teeth continually grow to make up for it. Rabbits are classified as lagomorphs, but members of the rodent family share this open-rooted tooth trait. Pet rodents, more fondly known collectively as pocket pets, include the following:

  • Guinea pigs
  • Chinchillas
  • Hamsters
  • Mice
  • Rats

Even though your pet rabbit is domesticated and does not need to rely on nature for his meals, the instinctive need to chew on things remains because those teeth still continue to grow regardless of whether or not they get worn down. Depending on the type of tooth, its location in the mouth and the individual rabbit, his teeth grow at a rate of approximately one to five millimeters each week.

Dental Problem Detection

Your rabbit's front teeth are his incisors, and these are the teeth that you can easily inspect at home. They should not be excessively long, crooked, or curved sideways. You should also observe your rabbit for the following signs of dental problems:

  • Reluctance to eat
  • Food falling out of his mouth when he eats
  • Excessive salivation
  • Nasal discharge, which can occur if inflamed upper incisors are irritating his sinus cavity
  • Tearing, which can occur if inflamed upper incisors are putting pressure on his tear ducts
  • A bulging eye, which occurs if an abscess forms on an upper incisor near the orbital region
  • Excessively grinding his teeth

Your rabbit's premolars and molars, known as his cheek teeth, may be more challenging for you to inspect for overgrowth. Regular examinations with your exotic veterinarian will provide a better look at those teeth. Monitoring your rabbit's teeth will enable you and your veterinarian to take steps to avert the following problems that can result from overgrown teeth, such as: 

  • Oral ulcerations
  • Lacerations on his tongue
  • Oral abscesses
  • Malocclusion, which is a deformity that can result from a misaligned bite

Overgrown teeth can be trimmed down by your veterinarian. While many rabbits tolerate this procedure when the incisors are overgrown, sedation will likely be necessary if the cheek teeth need to be trimmed. With proper home care, you can eliminate the need for having them trimmed.

Dental Health Diet

A commercial pelleted rabbit diet may provide your furry friend with the balanced nutrition that he needs, but the chewing motion that is required for consuming those small pellets is different from the chewing action that he needs to wear down his perpetually growing teeth. Continue to feed him the commercial food, but be sure to also supplement his diet with a generous amount of grass hay and some leafy greens. Some ideal choices include the following:

  • Timothy hay
  • Oat hay
  • Kale
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Swiss chard
  • Escarole
  • Collard greens

In place of commercial rabbit treats, you can offer your rabbit fibrous fruits and vegetables, such as apples and carrots, but be sure that these foods do not make up a substantial portion of his diet.

Grinding Through Gnawing

In addition to noshing on his nutrition, you may have noticed that your rabbit has an intense desire to chew on anything that he can get his teeth on. Gnawing on your cushy sofa or on dangerous electrical cords will do nothing to grind his teeth down. Chewing on the metal bars of his enclosure can actually damage his teeth. Provide your rabbit with safe chew toys that will safely wear his choppers. Some good choices include the following:

  • Natural wicker items that have not been treated, glazed or painted
  • Small tree logs that have not been treated with herbicides, pesticides or other chemical products
  • Blocks of natural pine wood that have not been treated, stained or painted
  • Commercial rabbit treat logs or blocks
  • Blocks of compressed alfalfa

When choosing noncommercial products for your rabbit to chew on, such as wood, be sure to consult with your exotic animal veterinarian to avoid potentially toxic choices.

By encouraging your rabbit to wear down his teeth through chewing, you will be taking an important step in home dental care to keep his teeth from turning to tusks.

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