Rabbits have deciduous teeth, ‘milk teeth’ that are lost at birth and adult teeth appear in the first few weeks of adult life and grow constantly at an average of 2mm per week! This continuous growth can increase when dental disease is present so it is very important to keep on top of your rabbits dental health.
Dental disease in Rabbits can be caused by a few things; domestication and breeding of rabbits has meant that natural selection has been unable to eradicate dental problems and therefore some breeds are more predisposed due to the conformation of their head and teeth for example, Miniatures and Lion Heads. Another reason may be that their diet is deficient in Calcium and softening of the bone has caused the teeth to move out of line, and therefor e they can’t grind against each other naturally or that the diet is not sufficient in grinding the teeth down.
Some of the signs dental disease that may be present in your bunny are; if the incisors are overgrown (like tusks) or misshapen, ulceration in the mouth, difficulty eating or drinking, weight loss, excess salivation, change in diet preference or sticky eyes. Sticky eyes may seem unrelated to dental disease but painful abscess formation can lead to a blockage in the tear ducks resulting in weepy eyes.
Rabbits are prey animals and are therefore very good at trying to hide sickness or injury, so it’s important your pet attends regular health checks with the vet or nurse.
In terms of treatment, we are limited on what we can do with a conscious bunny. It is possible for the incisors to be burred whilst your rabbit is conscious but for a full examination your rabbit would need to undergo general anaesthetic to perform dental xrays, burr and clean the teeth and possibly extract some of the teeth depending on the extent of the disease and whether this is a reoccurring problem.
Obviously putting your rabbit under general anaesthetic can be very stressful for both the rabbit and the owner, but isn’t always avoidable. Taking care of your rabbits dental health at home can help to prevent any extreme measures and keep your bunny a happy one so we recommend a good quality pellet diet, as rabbits tend to leave the good stuff behind in the coloured muesli types. Also include plenty of hay and grass in their diet too, the minerals and fibre will aid with the grinding of the teeth.