Rabbits have teeth that grow continually throughout their lives. In the wild, rabbits chew on a wide variety of items that naturally wear down their teeth. Give your captive rabbit routine veterinary care and plenty of opportunities to chew to keep this growth in check.
Rabbits have six teeth on each side of their upper jaws and five teeth on each side of their lower jaws, plus four incisors and two peg teeth. The cheek teeth function much like human teeth, grinding and breaking down food for digestion. The large incisors are larger and much sharper than the check teeth, and are used to cut and slice food into smaller, bite-sized chunks. A rabbit’s teeth are open-rooted, meaning they will grow throughout his life, and must be kept in check to avoid abnormal growth.
What to Chew
A fiber-filled diet is one of the best ways to combat tooth issues. In the wild, rabbits eat a plethora of fiber, including grasses, leaves and bark-covered sticks that wear down their teeth. Many pet rabbits are fed a pelleted diet, which lacks the heavy fiber required for proper tooth wear. Provide your rabbit with a variety of fresh hay to promote healthy teeth. Offer your bunny a few twigs each day as an additional source of fiber. Apple, maple and willow branches are all safe choices for your bunny, although you may want to freeze them overnight to kill unwanted insects before feeding.
Signs of Tooth Issues
Routine checks are an essential part of keeping your rabbit’s teeth in good condition. When the teeth become too long, they meet abnormally and form small hooks, known as spurs. These spurs can cut into nearby cheek and gum tissue, which may result in painful abscesses. Rabbits are prey animals, and are notoriously good at hiding pain, so you may not notice your rabbit is in pain until it is too late. Check his teeth at least once a month, and watch closely for any signs that he is in pain, such as a lack of interest in food or digging at his mouth with his paws.
When to Call the Vet
Your rabbit should visit your vet at least once a year to make sure his teeth are healthy and in good condition. Your vet will check his teeth, and trim them if necessary using special dental tools. Between checkups, watch closely for signs of abscesses or tooth pain. These include drooling, rubbing his face with his paws, swelling along the sides of the face, and foul-smelling or bloody discharge from the mouth.
Louise Lawson has been a published author and editor for more than 10 years. Lawson specializes in pet and food-related articles, utilizing her 15 years as a sous chef and as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.