Malocclusion (Buckteeth) in Rabbits
October 24, 2012
Rabbit’s teeth grow continuously throughout their lifetime. Rabbits have two main types of teeth, incisors and molars. The incisors are located in the front of the rabbit’s mouth. They are primarily used for grabbing and cutting food. There are six incisors, four on the top and two on the bottom. The first set of upper incisors is easily seen. The second set, known as the peg teeth, are located behind the first set. The top incisors should slightly overlap the bottom teeth. Molars are the back teeth. They are used for grinding food. The molars are worn down by a chewing and grinding action of tooth against tooth.
If a rabbit’s teeth are misaligned they cannot wear down properly. This can be a very serious problem known as malocclusion (or buckteeth). This can result in root and jaw infections, inability to eat, and pain.
Common causes of malocclusion are:
Injury or trauma to the face disrupting the normal growth of tooth roots
A bacterial tooth root infection which can change the direction of the tooth growth
The rabbit may have been born that way.
Incisor malocclusion is most common in small breeds. Some rabbits require regular teeth filing. The removal of incisors is the best option. This procedure can be done at the time of spaying or neutering and should be performed by an experienced veterinarian.
Malocclusion can be very uncomfortable for a rabbit. Molar teeth can develop spurs, and may even grow to the point of penetrating the roof of the mouth, cheek, or tongue.
Indicators of teeth problems may include eye and/or nasal discharge, drooling, sneezing, increased thirst, inability to eat, and swelling along the jaw line. If you notice any of these warning signs, your rabbit should be examined by a veterinarian. Both the incisors and the molars should be checked carefully. Quite often the molars are either the cause of an incisor problem, or they themselves will become a problem as a result.
Attempting to trim your rabbit’s teeth at home is not recommended. They can easily split or crack and become susceptible to infection. It is a very uncomfortable procedure for your rabbit and should be performed only by an experienced veterinarian using the proper instruments. The filing of molars usually requires that your rabbit is medically sedated as they are in a hard-to-reach position.
Although malocclusion is a serious problem with may require regular veterinary visits, many rabbits with the problem are able to live happy and normal lives. Please examine your rabbit’s teeth on a regular basis and be observant of their behaviour. As with all medical concerns, early detection is a valuable tool.
Source: The Healthy Rabbit Association of Nova Scotia (2012)