Rabbits are not rodents, but they do have some characteristics in common, one of which is ever-growing teeth. If the teeth get too long, the rabbit won’t be able to eat properly, and as a result will become ill or die within a very short period if you don’t get veterinary assistance. To avoid an emergency situation, include tooth care among the many things you’ll need to do for your bunnies.
Stock Up on Hay
The basis of your rabbits’ -- always keep them in pairs – diet should be hay, so provide an unlimited supply. Fresh grass is also good. As well as keeping rabbit digestive systems healthy, hay needs a great deal of chewing, which helps to wear down teeth, especially the back ones. Also provide plenty of fresh leafy greens and small amounts of a commercial rabbit food. Fruit and sweet vegetables, such as carrots, should be a treat and certainly not constitute a major part of the diet.
Twigs and Chews
Some, although not all, rabbits also enjoy demolishing hard chews, such as twigs and chunks of wood. If your rabbits have a gnawing habit, indulge it with a steady supply of chews, as these also wear down teeth, not to mention giving your rabbits an alternative to your best furniture. Not all wood is safe, though. Avoid toxic woods, such as yew, and anything that has been chemically treated or painted. Safe woods include apple, pear, willow and poplar. Among the many potentially toxic woods are walnut, cedar and those from stone fruit trees, such as cherry and peach.
Ask Your Vet
During the initial veterinary checkup, ask the vet to show you how to examine your rabbits’ teeth and explain what problems to look for -- this is something that should be demonstrated in person. Your vet can also advise whether an individual rabbit might be more prone to tooth problems, in which case include a monthly dental check as part of your care routine.
Rabbits rarely enjoy being picked up and they may object strenuously to having their teeth examined, so you might need to wrap your bunny in a towel. Put a large old towel over him, pick him and the towel up, and roll the towel around him. Place him in your lap and look at his teeth. Release him and provide a treat -- he won’t have enjoyed the experience. Obviously, if you notice overgrown teeth, you should make an appointment as soon as possible for tooth clipping.
When to Call the Vet
If your rabbits have healthy teeth, it’s normally sufficient just to have your vet check them about once a year, perhaps when you get their vaccinations done. Also keep an eye on your rabbits’ eating habits. If a rabbit appears to have difficulty eating or has started eating only soft foods, call the vet. The same goes if he stops eating or starts eating less -- this could be a sign of illness, overgrown teeth or digestive problems, and is an emergency. If rabbits don’t eat, they are in serious trouble. Just 24 hours without eating can cause them to develop potentially fatal digestive problems.
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.