Adult rabbits have 28 teeth. There are two pairs of incisors in the upper jaw and one pair in the lower jaw. The second pair of upper incisors are called “peg” teeth. They are smaller teeth that sit behind the first pair of incisors. When the mouth is closed, the lower incisors rest on the “peg” teeth. Rabbits also have premolars and molars called “cheek” teeth. There is a large space between the incisors and the “cheek” teeth which makes it easy to give oral medications when necessary.
Rabbit teeth have no enamel, wear down quickly and grow continuously. Their diet plays an important role in keeping their teeth worn down. As the rabbit chews hay, the grinding action and abrasive texture helps keep the premolars and molars worn down. An improper diet can cause tooth problems, such as spurs, in as little as a few days. Grass hay and greens wear the teeth down much more than pelleted diets do.
|Speculum used to do a complete oral exam.|
Another cause of spurs is malocclusion. Malocclusion is were the upper and lower teeth do not align properly. When the rabbit grinds its food, the tooth surfaces do not meet properly and do not wear evenly causing a “point.” Without proper grinding, spurs can form on the cheek teeth causing pain and ulcerations to the cheek tissue and/or tongue.
Annual exams are important so the veterinarian can visualize the cheek teeth to make sure spurs have not developed. If spurs are present, the rabbit will need to be anesthetized so those spurs can be filed down. Medications, such as antibiotics and/or pain medication, may be prescribed.
If you notice your rabbit not eating well, drooling or producing fewer or smaller fecal pellets, these may be signs of an oral problem. Call Kingsbrook Animal Hospital at 301-631-6900 so we may assist in helping your rabbit feel better.