Rabbits can suffer from oral health problems, just like other companion animals. But rabbits don't just use their teeth for eating; they're used for grooming, exploring their environment, marking territory and expressing mood. That's why it's vital that you keep your bunny's teeth in good condition.
Unlike human teeth, rabbits' teeth grow continually during their lifetime. That's why regular visits for your pet to the veterinarian for dental check-ups are important, but you should also know how to monitor your rabbit's oral health at home. Read on to find out more.
Weekly mouth inspections
A very good way of spotting impending tooth trouble is by gently feeling along the sides of your rabbit's face and under his jaw. Both sides should feel the same without any asymmetrical lumps or bumps. If your rabbit flinches away from your fingers, he could be feeling pain caused by a developing tooth root abscess, or from a broken tooth.
Your rabbit's incisor teeth are the four long ones that are situated top and bottom at the front of his mouth. Sit your rabbit on your lap, facing away from you so that he can't back up. Gently feel the incisors to make sure they're not loose, and look to make sure that the gums are a healthy pink, not red or purple that could indicate inflammation or infection. Your rabbit's incisors should meet comfortably. Overgrown or maloccluded teeth (those that don't meet or wear evenly) will need frequent trimming by your vet.
It's important to remove any hair or accumulated debris from around your rabbit's front teeth. You can do this by gently brushing the teeth using a small, pet toothbrush, available from your vet or good pet supply stores.
Your rabbit's cheek teeth are too far back in his mouth for you to visually check easily. However, there are signs of cheek teeth problems that you can look out for as follows:
- becoming fussy with food
- showing an interest in food, but not wanting to eat
- weight loss
- bad breath
- grinding or chattering teeth
- change in temperament – appearing depressed, inactive or bad-tempered
Your rabbit maintains his own teeth to some extent by chewing. It's important to provide foods like hay and carrots that allow your rabbit to wear down his incisor teeth on a daily basis.
You can further augment your rabbit's chewing environment by providing alternatives such as wood, dried pinecones, straw matting and cardboard.
Unfortunately, rabbits are not fussy about what they chew on. If you own a house rabbit, exclude him from areas where wiring is accessible, and be sure to pick up small items such as paperclips and elastic bands that can become stuck between a rabbit's teeth.
Your rabbit's oral health is very important to his general well-being. Follow the tips given above to help keep your bunny's teeth in good condition, and always consult your veterinarian promptly if you have any concerns. Click here to learn more about pet dentistry.