Dental health is very important to a rabbit’s overall health, and cleaning and maintaining your rabbit’s teeth should be a regular part of your care routine. You may be wondering how to care for them, what problems may arise, or general information about what their teeth are like such as how many they have or what a rabbit’s mouth looks like.
How do I care for my rabbit’s teeth? Rabbits have 28 teeth that grow constantly and need to be ground down to maintain a healthy mouth. Eating the proper foods and chewing on wood or other toys will naturally clean and grind down your rabbit’s teeth. If your rabbit develops overgrown teeth, it’s important to address it quickly.
What Does A Rabbit’s Mouth Look Like (Full Diagram)?
A rabbit’s mouth has three sets of teeth set far in the front for biting, similar to the front teeth of a human. However, they have four upper front incisors rather than two, with two larger ones in the front and two “peg teeth” slightly behind them. In the back of their mouth they have molars for grinding up food. The space between these two sets of teeth is called a diastema, and it exists so that rabbits can store food in their mouth and continue eating while they still have unchewed food in their cheeks. A rabbit’s molars are also called “cheek teeth.”
You can pull back the gums to look in your rabbit’s mouth and see if the incisors are healthy, but a veterinarian will need an otoscope to look into your rabbit’s mouth to see the molars because they’re so far back.
How Many Teeth Do Rabbits Have?
If you look at a rabbit’s mouth from the outside, you may think they only have four teeth. However, if you were able to open their mouth and look at all their teeth, you would see that rabbits actually have 28 teeth total. Rabbits have:
- 4 upper incisors, with one set (the peg teeth) sitting behind the other
- 2 lower incisors
- 3 upper premolars on each side for a total of 6
- 2 lower premolars on each side for a total of 4
- 6 upper molars and 6 lower molars
A rabbit’s teeth may occasionally fall out due to damage, excessive chewing or pulling, or genetic issues. However, these teeth should grow back. Rabbits typically do not permanently have less than 28 teeth unless there is a serious health issue.
How Big Should My Rabbit’s Teeth Be?
Your rabbit’s teeth should be long enough to come together and meet neatly when its mouth is closed. Any shorter and they may not be able to chew or bite properly; any longer and the teeth will begin to cause damages to your rabbit’s gums and lips. If your rabbit’s teeth are crooked or do not meet, this could be a sign of malocclusion, which may be caused by injury or genetics. If your rabbit is missing a tooth, it may have fallen out due to injury or infection. The tooth will grow back, but you should monitor it to make sure it reaches the proper length and position when it grows back in.
What Can Cause A Rabbit’s Teeth to Become Overgrown?
There are three main causes for rabbit tooth overgrowth, which is also called malocclusion. The first and most common cause is an improper diet and inadequate chewing opportunities. Rabbit teeth need to be ground down naturally on a daily basis by eating large quantities of grass and hay. Rabbits cannot survive off of just fruits and vegetables or just pellets; they need grass and hay both for the fiber content and for grinding their teeth. If your rabbit’s diet is mainly made up of pellets and it doesn’t have unlimited access to grass and hay, it’s likely that your rabbit will develop overgrown teeth. Your rabbit knows how much to eat when it comes to grass and hay, so you should always have some available for it to eat. You also need to make sure that you have plenty of wood and chew toys available for your rabbit to grind down its incisors.
The second cause of tooth overgrowth is genetics. Malocclusion can be passed down genetically, and the rabbits with the disease will always have a risk of overgrown teeth. Proper care and monitoring can control the malocclusion, but if the source is hereditary then it’s a lifelong project to maintain and control your rabbit’s teeth. Overgrown teeth may need to be removed and regrown, or you may need to make regular trips to the vet to get teeth trimmed. Be aware of your rabbit’s hereditary diseases before adopting and be sure you have the time, energy, and money to properly care for your rabbit.
The third cause is injury, which is more common when it comes to incisors rather than molars. Your rabbit may cause injury to itself by chewing or pulling on cage meshes or other objects, pulling its tooth or teeth out of alignment. Other injuries resulting from falls or similar accidents may also knock a tooth out of alignment, sometimes severely. Once the tooth is out of alignment, it can no longer be ground down in the same way and it will start to grow out of control.
How Do I Take Care of My Rabbit’s Teeth?
If you are feeding your rabbit correctly and providing it with proper chewing material, your rabbit’s teeth should be taken care of naturally. Rabbit teeth are maintained by chewing and grinding down food, so you should provide your rabbit with a lot of grass and hay for them to chew on. Problems typically arise when you are feeding your rabbit a diet that is heavy in pellets, which don’t provide the same level of chewing and grinding as breaking down the fibers of plant matter do. You should also provide your rabbit with chew toys to grind down their incisors properly. This can be as simple as finding rabbit-safe wood in branches or small rods. Good woods include:
Make sure the wood is untreated with pesticides if taken off a tree, and untreated with other chemicals if bought from a store. Toxic woods that you should not give to your rabbit include:
Rabbits will naturally gravitate towards wood but will often try to chew on plastic or other materials. Make sure you are providing adequate safe chewing options for your rabbit.
How Do I Keep My Rabbit’s Teeth Short?
You should not need to do anything extra to maintain your rabbit’s teeth other than monitoring them for issues such as crookedness. Some rabbits may have a genetic history of overgrowth, called malocclusion. This means that the teeth grow in crookedly, curving towards the face rather than meeting neatly when the rabbit closes its mouth. This can be addressed but not treated by trimming your rabbit’s teeth on a regular schedule, typically once a month. A better alternative may be to remove the teeth and allow them to grow back in while closely monitoring and guiding the process. This can result in healthy teeth replacing the old teeth. Once your rabbit’s teeth are grown in normally, they will go back to being maintained by regular chewing and eating.
Should I Trim Overgrown Teeth?
If at all possible, you should not trim your rabbit’s teeth yourself. Doing so requires careful knowledge and precision to make sure the teeth are cut safely without hurting the rabbit in the moment or longer term. You should always consult a vet before trimming any teeth, and if possible you should allow a trained professional like your vet to do it. Under normal circumstances, your rabbit’s teeth will never need to be trimmed. If your rabbit’s teeth meet when it closes its mouth, this means its teeth are the correct length and should not be trimmed. If your rabbit has malocclusion due to injury, it may be better to go to a vet and get the tooth removed completely so that it can grow back in correctly. If your rabbit has hereditary malocclusion, you may need to trim its teeth every month or so. In this situation, you may want to get a trained professional such as a vet to teach you how to do this on your own.
How Do I Trim My Rabbit’s Teeth?
If it is absolutely necessary to trim your rabbit’s teeth and you cannot take your rabbit to a trained professional, you can trim your rabbit’s teeth at home. You will need a few things to make this happen:
- Very sharp wire cutters
- A towel or blanket
- Calming items or medicines such as chamomile cream
Trimming your rabbit’s teeth is a very dangerous and precise process. You run the risk of cracking or breaking its tooth, cutting the tooth too short, cutting its gums or tongue, or getting bitten or cut yourself. First, you should use the calming medicine to get your rabbit to relax. Then you should wrap your rabbit in the towel or blanket tightly to prevent struggling. Lay your rabbit on its back and open its mouth with your fingers so you can fit the wire cutters around its teeth. Be careful to avoid its gums, skin, or tongue. Very carefully and in small increments, trim the tooth down until it is a safe length. Repeat this for each of the overgrown teeth.
This is not professional advice and should not be taken as such. Your first course of action should always be to go to a trained professional to have this process done or be formally trained in this process. Trimming your rabbit’s teeth can be very dangerous and harmful if done incorrectly.
How Often Should I Trim My Rabbit’s Teeth?
Healthy rabbit teeth will never need to be trimmed except in rare circumstances. If your rabbit is showing signs of lethargy, refusing to eat, or has a sensitive mouth or cheeks, it may have an overgrown molar. In this case you should take your rabbit to the vet to have the tooth shaved down and the injuries to the mouth treated. You cannot safely shave an overgrown molar at home. If your rabbit has genetic malocclusion, you may need to trim its teeth every 1-2 months depending on how fast its teeth grow. It’s best to get this done by a trained professional such as a vet rather than trying it yourself without training. Your rabbit’s teeth should be trimmed no more frequently than once a month to avoid cutting them too short and causing other health issues.
Are Trimming and Shaving the Same Thing?
You may hear different terms when it comes to treating a rabbit’s teeth. The words “trimming” and “shaving” typically are used interchangeably depending on the person. Trimming may be used more frequently when talking about the incisors, while shaving may be used to talk about the molars. This is because the processes are slightly different. Trimming the front teeth typically involves clipping off a portion of the rabbit’s teeth to shorten teeth that are too long, which shaving the molars usually involved grinding down sharp portions of the teeth that have grown up and begun to irritate a rabbit’s cheeks.
How Much Do Shaving and Trimming Cost?
Getting your rabbit’s teeth trimmed or shaved by a professional such as a veterinarian will usually cost around $250. Your vet should not need to take expensive x-rays because they can see the teeth easily with a simple otoscope. Your vet will usually put your rabbit under sleeping gas but not anesthesia because it is just as effective in this situation and less expensive. The process should take less than 30 minutes and when it is done your rabbit should be allowed to go home, possibly with pain medication to help the healing cheeks. If your vet suggests x-rays, anesthesia, or boarding, you should ask why or find another vet for a second quote. These expensive options should not be necessary when doing a simple procedure such as trimming teeth. If your vet suggests a bill that is over $300, you should find out why and what procedures are being suggested. Don’t be afraid to look for a different vet and get an idea of general pricing in your area.
What Are the Dangers of Overgrown Teeth?
Overgrown incisors can cause damages to your rabbit’s lips and gums by digging into them or rubbing against them. These injuries can include chafing, bleeding, rashes, and abrasions. Overgrown incisors can also be infected or swollen at the roots, causing your rabbit pain while eating. Especially overgrown teeth may injure the nose.
Overgrown molars have sharp edges and can cause lacerations to your rabbit’s cheeks. These can bleed and get infected. These kinds of injuries typically cause the rabbit to stop eating due to the pain, which can also cause starvation and lethargy.
What Do I Do If My Rabbit Has Overgrown Teeth?
Depending on the reason, you may want to take different courses of action when it comes to addressing overgrown teeth.
- If a tooth is overgrown because of an injury that knocked it out of alignment, you may want to get the tooth removed by a trained professional so that it will grow back in correctly. Do not attempt this at home. While the tooth is growing back in, you will need to monitor it carefully to make sure that it is growing the way it’s supposed to.
- If your rabbit’s teeth are overgrown due to inadequate chewing material, you should get the overgrown teeth addressed professionally and then change your rabbit’s diet to be heavier in hay and grass. This will prevent overgrown molars. You should also provide wood or chew toys to maintain your rabbit’s incisors.
- If your rabbit has a genetic disorder, you will need to get its teeth trimmed regularly. Removing the teeth so they can grow back in is sometimes an option, but it may not always work. It is important not to let this rabbit breed, as this hereditary condition is dangerous and expensive to treat.
What should I feed my rabbit to keep it healthy? It’s important to feed your rabbit unlimited hay and grass, but you should supplement this diet with a small amount of pellets or preferably a few cups of fresh vegetables and no more than two tablespoons of fruit a day.
How should I groom my rabbit? You should brush your rabbit at least every three days to remove loose hair and avoid hairballs. You should also clean any waste or other debris out of the fur on your rabbit’s underside.
How much will it cost to take my rabbit to the vet? A simple checkup may cost anywhere from $50-100 depending on your area. Other services like spaying and neutering may cost more, with the average cost of fixing a rabbit being $250.