Malocclusion, also referred to as ‘buck’ teeth or ‘wolf’ teeth, is a dental disease that is common in domesticated rabbits. Typically the teeth do not align correctly resulting in such ailments as overgrowth of teeth, sharp spurs on the molars, and curling of the incisors. Immediate treatment is required to ensure the continued health and happiness of your pet rabbit.
A rabbit’s mouth consists of incisors, premolars, and molars. There are 6 incisors total, 4 located on top of the mouth and 2 located on the bottom. The remaining teeth in a rabbit’s mouth consist of premolars and molars located in the back and on either side of the mouth. The incisors serve to grab and cut their food while the molars serve in grinding food down.
Rabbit teeth grow continuously throughout their lives in response to their fibrous diet consisting of grasses and other coarse materials. If they did not grow constantly the rabbit’s teeth would grind down too quickly leading to a very short life span. Thus rabbits grind down their teeth naturally through the chewing process and when they are at rest.
Malocclusion is caused by three possible factors: genetic/ heredity, facial trauma, or bacterial infections. Bacterial infections can cause teeth to grow in odd directions. Facial or head trauma can also lead to the disruption of natural tooth growth. Overgrown molars can cause malocclusion of the incisors.
SIGNS OF MALOCCLUSION:
* Decrease or absence of appetite.
* Interested in but avoids eating food.
* Eye and/or nasal discharge.
* Swelling around the jaw.
* Increased thirst.
* Food expelled from mouth after chewing.
If left untreated malocclusion can cause the teeth to curl; result in biting of the lips, cheeks, tongue, and gums; and development of sharp spurs on the molars. Treatment often involves removal of the incisors in certain cases. Since rabbits use incisors for grabbing and cutting it is not suspected of diminishing their quality of life but instead adds to it since often times they learn to pick up food with their lips and have their molars grind the food for easy digestion as usual. Filing or grinding down the teeth is another option that is sometimes implemented. ALWAYS consult with your veterinarian regarding diagnosis, prevention, and treatment options for malocclusion.
If you notice any signs that indicate your pet rabbit may be suffering from malocclusion take him to a vet immediately. The quicker you address the problem the easier it will be on both you and your pet. I wish you and your pet the best in health and happiness!