Rabbit Dental Issues - Malocclusion
Dental issues are pretty common in small animals. so maybe you have probably heard from somewhere that rabbits need to chew on wooden blocks or mineral stone to grind their teeth so they don't overgrow? There is some truth in that but let's get to basics.
Lagomorphs (Rabbits) and Rodents (Guinea Pigs & Hamsters) have open-root teeth, meaning they just keep growing. Their teeth grows an average of 10mm in 1month and can grow faster in rabbits with teeth issues. To maintain the length of their teeth, they need to be constantly chewing/grinding their teeth. Which explains why eating a diet high in fibre is ideal for them- fibrous stuffs need more chewing action to break down in the mouth before it can be small enough for swallowing. Which also explains why your rabbit and guinea pig's diet should be 70-90% of hay.
Care to make a guess how many teeth a rabbit has?
The answer is.... E. 28 tooth. Bugs bunny only had 2 teeth, and that, is purely cartoon for entertainment. And, rabbits do not only live on carrots, in fact they should avoid too much carrots as it is high in sugar!
Dental issue is a lifelong issue to deal with... some choose to go for regular teeth trimming, as soon as once in 2 weeks to once in 2 months. Some needed their teeth removed, or even whole jaw removed.. The rabbits can still survive oh! Just that, they probably need a special diet such as chopped up hay or pureed greens/hay/pellets.
Adult bunny's overgrown incisors. She eventually went for surgery to remove the front teeth. But that's not the end of the dental issue.. Rabbits do drool from time to time after surgery, so upkeeping the fur and skin with checks, cleaning and brushing is a must. If the front teeth has issues, there is a good chance the back teeth may have problems in future too, especially if your rabbit is a picky hay eater.
Bunny above has really long overgrown teeth. The bottom teeth is growing upwards and already touching the nose! If the teeth isnt trimmed now, few things could happen. 1, bunny cant open its mouth wide enough to allow food to enter, bunny will be hungry but unable to eat, may die. 2, teeth may break and potentially creating instability for the other tooth, which makes it prone to breaking also. Accidentally swallowing broken teeth fragments doesnt doesnt sound quite right to me either. 3, the teeth will continue growint and eventually pierce through the nose and open wounds/ulcers wil form. Ulcers are really common for maloccusion bunnies. And sometimes its so painful they stop eating... And you should have known by now, that when a rabbit stops eating, their body system may slow down or even shut down.. gut stasis, hypoglycemia, bloat and other complications might arise..
Dont buy a rabbit on impulse, do your checks before purchase.
Unlimited clean timothy hay is a MUST
MAKE SURE THEY START EATING A GOOD DIET OF HAY FROM DAY 1!
Do not promote picky behaviour by allowing your bunny to only choose pellets or tidbits. They wont starve themselves to death will lesser pellets, as long as they have unlimited timothy hay around.
📝Alfalfa hay is a supplement for growing n nursing rabbits. But should be stopped between 4-6months old. Alfalfa hay is naturally sweeter and bunnies do prefer this over timothy hay. I notice manny new owners fall trap to feeding 100% alfalfa from day 1, and then realise they have a problem switching to timothy hay when time comes. The thing is, we start timothy hay from day1, and only give alfalfa hay in limited quantities daily. Note that their young rabbit pellets already have alfalfa content therefore it is higher in protein! Many times we also notice that too much alfalfa hay and pellets may cause soft stool in some young bunnies with more sensitive gut. So it is good practise to limit the quantity of alfalfa hay given daily, to help bunny get used to eating timothy hay daily.