Rabbit dental malocclusion: causes, symptoms and treatment

The teeth of the rabbit are hypsodonts, that is, they grow continuously. Insufficient wear of its teeth can lead to a painful pathology for the animal: dental malocclusion. What are the causes, symptoms and treatment? Our responses.

What does a rabbit’s dentition look like?

The 28 teeth of the lagomorph are at open roots and have the particularity of growing throughout its life. Its dentition consists of:

  • 4 incisors, 6 premolars and 6 molars above;
  • 2 incisors, 4 premolars and 6 molars below.

What is rabbit dental malocclusion?

As seen above, the teeth of the rabbit are distinguished by a continuous growth. By not wearing out enough, they become too long, grow erratically and annoy the animal: this is called dental malocclusion. The visible part of the tooth grows but also the root which then sinks into thebone of the jaw. This phenomenon – which generally appears around the age of 3 to 4 years – can injure the inside of the mouth (palate, gums, etc.) as well as the rabbit’s tongue, causing a severe pain. While it is not always easy to examine the teeth of your animal down to the molars, some signs will guide you on the trail of a dental malocclusion.

What are the symptoms of a dental malocclusion?

The clinical signs of this pathology are manifested in the form:

  • From a loss ofappetite and sorting of food;
  • Troubles digestive (the rabbit no longer consumes its caecotrophs which facilitate its digestion);
  • Weight loss;
  • Eye or nasal discharge;
  • Of a hypersalivation ;
  • Sneezing;
  • Constipation;
  • From a protrusion of the tongue;
  • Of a abscess along the jaw (when the abnormality was detected and treated late).

Rabbit dental malocclusion: what causes?

The appearance of dental malocclusion in rabbits can be due to:

  • Food. A rabbit fed exclusively on pellets does not use its teeth sufficiently, which leads to a lack of wear (either its food lacks fiber or the animal sorts its ration and discards food sources of fiber);
  • Congenital. A lagomorph can be born with a small, narrow jaw that can lead to malocclusion of the molars. The dwarf rabbit, for example, often has an upper jaw (maxilla) that is shorter than the lower jaw (mandible). This anomaly is genetically transmissible to the offspring;
  • Metabolic. A deficiency in vitamin D sometimes causes a bad fixation of calcium on the bones, causing decalcification in the jaw which weakens. A vitamin D intake can be favored by exposure to natural light (balcony, garden, etc.);
  • Traumatic. As a result of a fall or shock, a tooth can break or saturate the jaw causing malocclusion over time.

How to treat dental malocclusion in rabbits?

Dental malocclusion requires the intervention of a veterinary who will examine the rabbit’s mouth using an otoscope. Anesthesia may be required if the animal does not allow itself to be handled or to take x-rays. If the presence of a malocclusion is proven, treatment consists of cut the excess part. The use of a pliers (nail clipper) is controversial today because the instrument would exert a force liable to twist, crack or even break the teeth. The risks of damage to the periodontium and the tissues surrounding the root as well as inflammations at the level of the pulp. The employment of a micromotor with a bur or cutting disc is now recommended in order to cut the teeth without exerting excessive pressure. Certain serious cases sometimes make theextraction incisors. On the other hand, that of the molars is strongly discouraged unless it is a vital emergency.

How to prevent dental malocclusion in rabbits?

The dentition of rabbits should be monitored very regularly in order to identify the appearance of the pathology as early as possible. At the same time, care must be taken to provide your animal with a sufficient quantity of fibers every day. A diet containing elements rich in silica or hard also leads to long chewing and therefore good wear of the teeth. If your rabbit is adult, it is advisable to drastically limit the rations of granules or even eliminate them completely. Instead, only provide him with:

  • Of hay quality ;
  • Of the greenery : wild grass, endive, salad, spinach, celery, kale, chard, carrot tops, radish, beetroot…;
  • Of branches : raspberry, strawberry, hazel, apple, willow, currant, maple, beech, lime …

These gestures of prevention will delight your rabbit and save him a lot of suffering.