Many rabbits and other rodents have problems with their teeth, either due to a congenital misalignment or incorrect housing or diet. Read here about the consequences of dental problems in your rabbit and how to prevent them
The teeth of rodents and lagomorphs grow throughout life: in three months, the growth can be up to two centimeters. When eating hay, green fodder, and herbs – fodder rich in crude fiber that is chewed for a long time – the animals’ teeth rub against each other: the so-called tooth-tooth abrasion. This ensures that the teeth do not become too long and also do not develop dangerous points or edges that can injure the rabbit.
However, if there is a disproportion between tooth growth and wear due to a congenital deformity or incorrectly composed feeding, significant dental problems can occur with serious consequences. Rabbits’ teeth can become too long or misaligned. This also applies to other rodents and hares.
Causes of dental problems in rabbits
There are many different reasons why dental problems occur in small animals. Often, but not always, they lie in the way the animals are kept:
- congenital deformity
- Feeding mistakes: too little tooth abrasion due to the administration of too little raw fiber-rich feed (hay, green fodder) and instead of feeding with bread and dry feed
- Feeding mistakes: food that is too high in phosphorus (tomato, banana) or low in calcium (lettuce, cucumber, carrot…) leads to a lack of calcium, which causes the teeth to become brittle
- Vitamin D deficiency, especially when kept indoors
- Older rabbits often suffer from dental problems.
- traumatic experiences (e.g. violence, constant nibbling on the bars, mouth spreaders at the vet without anesthetic, fall…)
- Rabbits have other illnesses that cause them to eat less and wear off their teeth
- If a tooth breaks off, the opposite one has to be shortened until it has grown back, since tooth abrasion is not possible.
Symptoms of dental disease in rabbits
The symptoms of dental disease are varied. If the front teeth are affected, you should quickly find out during your daily health check that the teeth are growing too long and/or in the wrong direction or have broken off. This is not so easy to notice, especially with the molars. Other symptoms can therefore be:
- Rabbit eats too little, loses weight
- Rabbit can no longer close its mouth completely
- Rabbits have trouble eating
- one-sided chewing
If you suspect that your rabbit has a dental problem, you should not hesitate and consult a veterinarian.
The consequences of dental problems in rabbits
If the teeth of rabbits and co. do not wear down as much as they should, the length, shape, and direction of the teeth can change pathologically:
- The result is sharp tooth hooks that cut into the tongue and cheek pouches.
- The pain initially prevents thorough chewing, whereupon the animals develop diarrhea and spit out unchewed food.
- In the final stage, swallowing becomes impossible due to the injury to the tongue, the animals lose weight and finally starve.
dr Stefan Gabriel, a veterinarian specializing in dentistry, advises having the animals examined by a vet immediately when dental problems begin: “Every day of fasting weakens the animals and worsens the chances of recovery.”
Treatment of dental problems in rabbits
Treating dental problems in small animals can be time-consuming, lengthy, and expensive. Treatment varies depending on what is causing the dental problem and which teeth are affected.
If you determine that your rabbit may have dental disease, you should see a veterinarian as soon as possible. He has to find out the cause of the misaligned teeth. It is important that he does not use a jaw spreader without anesthesia. An x-ray may be required to make the diagnosis. Treatment also depends on the cause:
- If it is a question of feeding-related dental problems, teeth that are too long usually only have to be corrected once, and then the feeding slowly switched from dry food, pellets, bread, etc. to hay, grass, herbs, some vegetables, and a little fruit.
- If, on the other hand, it is a congenital misalignment or a sign of aging, the rabbit teeth will always grow back incorrectly and the animal will have to go to the vet for a tooth correction every few weeks. Depending on which teeth are affected, this is done if possible without anesthesia (incisors) or with anesthesia (molars).
- If inflammation or abscesses have already developed, the rabbit also needs antibiotics. In some cases, the teeth may also need to be extracted. This means a lifelong feeding change to porridge and grated food.
This food prevents dental problems in rabbits
The be-all and end-all when feeding rabbits is high-quality hay and freshwater. The hay has to be chewed for a long time and this causes the rabbits’ teeth to wear down. Fresh green fodder (grass) is also suitable and important. You should also offer your rabbits high-quality herbs such as nettles, linden blossom, chamomile, calendula, daisies, and dandelion.
Branches and twigs from unsprayed fruit trees and shrubs that are non-toxic to rabbits also contribute to natural tooth abrasion.
In general, look for a high proportion of crude fiber, crude protein, and crude ash. If you feed them pellets, make sure they are hard enough to wear down their teeth. They are often stored for too long and have lost the substances they contain.