For Updated Post, see post dated 4/18/13No Bark, All Bite
Anyone who’s found gnaw marks on the legs of their dining room table, or discovered a series of holes on the underside of their box spring, knows how powerful a tool bunny jaws can be. And while we might bemoan our rabbits’ tendency to chew on anything and everything, it’s important to realize how dental health affects your bunny in other ways.
Rabbits have 28 teeth, just like most humans, but they’re configured a little differently. The most visible teeth, the incisors, are the ones that can do the most damage. They’re designed to grab food and cut it, but they also grab and cut a lot of other things like telephone and electrical cords!
You’ll probably never see your rabbit’s back teeth, or molars. They do the hard work of grinding down the hay and veggies you feed your rabbit. In a healthy rabbit’s mouth, they also grind against each other, to maintain the proper length.
When the teeth don’t fit together properly, it’s called malocclusion. Malocclusion of the incisors can make it impossible for your bunny to eat. It’s relatively easy to examine the incisors by holding your rabbit gently and pulling her top lip back. Check to make sure the teeth are not loose or uneven, and that the gums are a healthy pink.
Molars can grow sharp spines, called spurs. You won’t be able to see this yourself, because those teeth are so far back. There are clues, however, that you can keep an eye out for. If your rabbit seems to be drooling, if there’s any swelling or pain at the jawline, or if you notice a sudden decrease in food intake, call your vet, who will look inside your bunny’s mouth with a tool called an otoscope.
Rabbit dentistry can fix a variety of tooth issues, but early detection is crucial. Have your rabbit’s mouth and teeth inspected by a bunny-savvy vet at least once a year, more often if she’s had problems in the past. And always provide your rabbit with safe objects to chew, like cardboard, untreated wood, and pinecones.