By Kim Everson, DVM
|Severely overgrown rabbit incisors.|
Bunnies are supposed to have “buck teeth” but their teeth are not supposed to resemble fangs (unless we’re talking about literary legend Bunnicula). Malocclusion, or misalignment of teeth, is not just an unfortunate cosmetic problem. It can be an uncomfortable and life threatening disease!
Rabbits can have malocclusion or bite problems in either their incisors or cheek teeth. Incisors are the central paired top and bottom teeth. Cheek teeth are the premolars and molars beside the cheek which are used for grinding food. The incisors and cheek teeth of rabbits grow, or erupt, continuously. Normally, this growth is held in check by dental abrasion from chewing a diet high in fiber. Malocclusion issues cause overgrown teeth or razor sharp points on the cheek teeth which lead to difficulty eating, poor digestion, weight loss, drooling and painful or infected sores in the mouth.
|Regular trimming of this bunny’s incisors is necessary.|
At a little over 18 months of age, Fuzzy’s bottom incisors had grown to nearly an inch long. Soiled, matted fur was caught in the bottom teeth. His upper incisors, not readily visible, were also too long and were starting to grow into the roof of his mouth! Fuzzy’s owner had provided numerous chew toys in the hopes his teeth would naturally wear down. However, Fuzzy’s severe underbite prevents him from bringing his upper and lower incisors together when he chews so the teeth do not wear down properly. Luckily, a thorough history and physical exam revealed no other significant problems. Fuzzy still had a good appetite, was passing normal stool, was a healthy weight and had a glossy hair coat. Even better, Fuzzy’s malocclusion problems were limited to his incisors and his cheek teeth were normal! We were able to trim Fuzzy’s upper and lower incisors during the appointment. Fuzzy will require regular tooth trimmings in the future to prevent such extreme overgrowth and secondary problems.
Rabbits are an increasingly popular pet. Proper husbandry (diet, housing, and preventive care) is essential for keeping pet bunnies happy and healthy. The Rabbit House Society offers useful information on the care and enjoyment of pet bunnies. Regular preventive care by your veterinarian is also recommended. Immediate veterinary examination is essential for pet rabbits that have not eaten in 24 hours, have diarrhea or are not defecating at all. Injury to the spine or legs, infections and parasites are also important problems. Use caution and consult your veterinarian before using any over-the-counter medications or parasite treatments because certain common antibiotics and flea treatments, for example, can be deadly to rabbits.