Overgrown teeth or dental malocclusion is one of the most common problems in rabbits encountered by vets. If left untreated this may result in the rabbit being unable to eat and therefore having to be put to sleep.
Rabbits' teeth grow constantly throughout their life and if there is not enough fibre in the diet, or if the teeth are not aligned properly, then they will overgrow.
The dangers of overgrown rabbit teeth
Overgrown teeth become spiked and will start cutting into the side of the mouth and the tongue. This causes mouth infections, ulcers and an inability to pick up food and eat it. Remember rabbits need to eat continuously to support their gut flora. If a rabbit does not eat they will suffer from a condition called ileus, an often fatal condition where the digestive tract stops working.
Signs of overgrown rabbit teeth
Clinical signs include anorexia, weight loss, salivation or dribbling and potentially the growth of abscesses around the face and jaw. Eye infections and matted droppings around the tail base may be an indication of dental disease.
Malocclusion of rabbit teeth
In some rabbits, a malocclusion (misalignment) of the incisor (front) teeth is congenital i.e. it is present from birth and these rabbits will need treatment and possibly tooth removal.
Acquired malocclusion occurs in older rabbits and is thought to be primarily diet related. A correct diet is essential to your rabbit and problems can occur particularly if your pet is not eating enough fibre, in the form of hay, grass and vegetables, to wear down the teeth at a sufficient rate.
Tooth growth in rabbits
Problems can also arise if your rabbit refuses to eat the pelleted part of a dry feed diet since these pellets contain calcium and phosphorus essential for good bone and tooth growth. Rabbits need regular teeth checks and these should be carried out by a vet at the time of vaccination.