Do Rabbit Teeth Need to Be Trimmed?

Find out if you need to trim your pet rabbit's teeth in this Howcast video featuring bunny lover Amy Sedaris and rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter.

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Rabbits make wonderful pets. If you're thinking of getting one, check out these videos: Actress Amy Sedaris, who is a loving mom to her own pet bunny, helps rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter, Ed.D., LVT answer all your questions about how to take care of a pet rabbit. It's not always easy, but it's worth the work.

 
 

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Mary Cotter: So a lot of people wonder about trimming their rabbit's teeth. They've heard that rabbit's teeth need to be trimmed. In fact, if your rabbit has good occlusion. . . And you may or may not have heard that word from your human dentist. Occlusion is the way the teeth meet. If the rabbit has good occlusion you should never have to touch your rabbit's teeth. They have open rooted teeth that do grow continuously throughout their lives. These rabbits are called hypsodonts, that's an animal that has open rooted teeth. Amy Sedaris: Hypsodonts. Mary: But if their teeth are trimmed naturally by chewing the right materials you don't need to do anything to trim them. However, there are rabbits out there who are not well bred and their teeth don't meet correctly and those teeth can actually grow into tusks. People will send me pictures of rabbits that have teeth that look like some African large mammal with big tusks coming out of the front of their face. Really, really sad. Some of the rabbits have tusks that are growing through their nostrils, they can't eat or drink. I got a rabbit in about 10 years ago who was like skin and bones. We thought he was very elderly at the time because he had no meat on him at all. And it turned out that the reason why he didn't was because he couldn't eat. His teeth had grown over his tongue, he could neither eat nor drink. So it was very, very sad. We trimmed his teeth, he began eating and drinking right away and he lived another 7 or 8 years that and he was not a young rabbit when we got him. But that can happen and you have to stay on top of that. So the answer to that question is if your rabbit's teeth are normal you do nothing and if they're not normal you'll probably be seeing your vet every few months because vets who are rabbit savvy know how to trim those teeth down. Years ago, and we're talking front teeth now, years ago people use to take a dog nail clipper and clip off the excess teeth. Amy: Oh my goodness. Mary: What you can do. . . And I know in places where there aren't vets they're kind of forced to do that. But it was discovered somewhere along the way that when you do that the tooth can crack longitudinally and that creates a channel for bacteria to get up into the bone and you want to avoid that if possible. So if you can get to a rabbit savvy vet, the vet will take the teeth off, trim the teeth off with an electrical tool or with files and make sure that nothing cracks longitudinally. Rabbits can also get something called molar spurs just as horses do. Horses have their teeth what's called floated throughout their lives and that is filed down to get sharp spurs off them. Rabbits are a lot like horses in that respect. They can get tiny little spurs that either cut into their cheek or cut into their tongue. That can happen throughout their lives and it probably does and they probably break off tiny spurs with no problem. Every once in a while you'll get a spur growing and the rabbit can not get it to cut down by normal eating and you will have to take the rabbit to a vet to get that spur trimmed or the rabbit's eating will change drastically. So that's how you know when your rabbit has dental problems. If the rabbit can't eat or drink normally, maybe the rabbit is picking out food and then dropping it or starting to chew food and then stopping, sometimes you'll see them opening and closing their mouth almost as if they're yawning. All those things indicate dental problems. Amy: Okay. Mary: And the other thing you can do, and everybody should do this at home with their rabbits, you should feel your rabbit's jaw line whenever you can. Develop a real good sense of what is normal for your rabbit's jaw. You want to feel all along the jaw line to make sure there are no lumps and bumps because rabbits can get molar abscesses and the molar abscess will cause a bulge at the jaw line. So feel this rabbit's jaw line, see what you think about this one. Amy: This rabbit's huge. It needs braces, yeah it needs braces. Mary: How does that feel? Amy: Feels good. Mary: Good right? Amy: It's like the size of a man's jaw. It's crazy. Mary: This rabbit has a nice, normal jaw line, no lumps or bumps, no problems with her teeth. I wonder if she would let us take a look at her front teeth here? Amy: They're funny. Mary: Can you see teeth here? I don't know if you can see them or not. This is not the best way to do this with her facing away from me, but you don't have to do that. When you're at the vet if you want to see your rabbit's teeth, ask your veterinarian, your veterinarian will show you the teeth and maybe use and instrument to show you the back teeth. Amy: But they're super sharp. Mary: They're very sharp, they're chisel sharp and they can cut to the bone so you want to handle your rabbit carefully. Amy: Right. Mary: Amen for teeth, no braces.

Expert

  • Mary E. Cotter

    Mary E. Cotter, M.A., Ed.D., LVT is the founder of the NY-based Rabbit Rescue & Rehab. She serves as chapter manager of the NYC House Rabbit Society and is vice president of the International House Rabbit Society. Involved with rabbit rescue since 1982, she speaks and writes frequently on rabbit-related topics, addressing owners, veterinary professionals and shelter workers. Mary is an adjunct assistant professor in the veterinary technology department of LaGuardia Community College (City University of New York) and co-manages a 7,000-member Internet mailing list focused on rabbit health, care and behavior.