Pet Rabbit Teeth Information
Some Interesting Notes on Pet Rabbit Teeth
Here is an Etherbun post from a few years ago from Mary Cotter who summarizes a
vet dentist’s observations on rabbit teeth:
Last week at NAVC David Crossley (who is a renowned veterinary dentist, working
on his Ph.D. right now) gave a very informative talk on rabbit teeth. A lot of
the points he made are worth summarizing here. Some of this will be brief quotes
from his paper in the proceedings of the conference – anyone interested can
order the entire proceedings (covering all species) for around $45 from NAVC.
1) Because rabbits’ upper and lower molars do not "match" (there are different
numbers of upper and lower molars, and the upper and lower molars are different
sizes), "abnormalities of a tooth in one jaw may affect up to three teeth [!] in
the opposite jaw."
2) It is largely the silicate content of grass that helps to abrade down molar
length, and rabbits should chew primarily grass for several hours per day.
Chewing less abrasive foodstuffs can result in molar overgrowth. Even some wild
rabbits who have access to more lush vegetation (higher in energy and lower in
silicate content – typical of most vegetables as far as I know) can start to
show a minor degree of molar overgrowth.
3) Side-to-side chewing motion is required for a rabbit to chew grass, but
mostly up-and-down motion to chew pellets, grains, etc. It is the side to side
motion that prevents molar spurs from forming. Because the lower dental arcade
is somewhat narrower than the upper, up-and-down motion will permit the
formation of molar spurs fairly readily.
4) Teeth in the lower jaw grow faster than teeth in the upper jaw, so spurs and
other abnormalities are seen more readily in the lower teeth.
5) "Once any dental problem progresses to a stage which affects the efficiency
of chewing, affected rabbits tend to alter their eating habits, increasingly
searching out higher energy foods. Owners frequently notice the change and
increase the supply of this type of food. Unfortunately this further reduces
tooth wear and may result in serious dietary imbalances and caries development.
Any reduction in jaw function has a dramatic effect on the bone, particularly
around areas of stress such as muscle insertions."
6) Because of their blunted head shape, dwarf pet rabbits’ incisors often do not
function normally, which can result in not only overgrown incisors, but also
problems with molars. In larger breeds, incisor malocclusion is more often the
**result** of overgrown (over-long) molars.
7) "Any pet rabbit that does not wear its teeth sufficiently will end up with its
mouth held open by elongated cheek and/or incisor teeth. This interferes with
chewing, and once established the problem tends to self perpetuate." Crossley
made the point that the chewing of fresh grass probably tends to abrade the
teeth even better than the chewing of hay. Needless to say, however, in many
areas of the USA, chewing grass outdoors will expose the rabbit to
life-threatening diseases such as Baylisascaris, West Nile virus, etc. etc. – so
hay may be the overall best choice for those who don’t have protected "grazing
land" for their house rabbits. In any case, the overall thrust of his lecture
was this: Feed your rabbit low-energy, high-silicate vegetation that will
require hours (literally) of chewing. The way to keep your bunny's GI tract
healthy turns out also to be the way to keep his teeth healthy.
Don't let this pet rabbit teeth information get you down. It is still unlikely
that you will ever have any serious teeth problems with your pet rabbit.