Elongated Incisors – Dental disease in rabbits

Rabbit’s teeth continuously grow; because of this they require a diet high in naturally abrasive and high fibre foods. Grass, hay and other natural plants contain these essential elements. These natural materials are made up of in part silicate phytoliths, lignin and cellulose; the abrasive nature of these components help to wear down the teeth. Rabbits who do not receive the correct diet have an increased risk of developing dental malocclusion.

Elongated incisors are a form of dental disease in rabbits. The front teeth continue to grow until the mouth can no longer close and feeding is painful and difficult. Elongated incisors typically manifest as a secondary condition of elongated molars. The elongated molars prevent the mouth from closing properly, this impacts on how the front teeth are aligned and wear down resulting in the continued growth of the incisors.

The incisors can continue to grow through the skull obstructing the tear duct of the rabbit’s eye. This causes extreme pain and a watering of the eye, which can lead to secondary infections of the tear duct and potentially abscesses forming behind the eye.

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Symptoms

  • Elongated incisors are obvious and easily seen.
  • Stop eating because the pain is so severe.
  • Dribbling around the mouth.
  • Dropping food.
  • Reduction in grooming.
  • Watering/ running eyes.
  • Pus from the eyes.
  • Inflammation around the eyes.
  • Milky white discharge around the eye (Dacryocystitis)
  • Abscesses.
  • Messy bottom.
  • No longer eating caecotrophs.

Causes

  • Poor diet lacking in grass and hay. This is the most common cause of dental disease.
  • Trauma to the jaw resulting in an ineffective grinding motion, possibly due to misalignment.
  • Hereditary defects usually linked to rabbits that have been bred to have shortened jaws such as Dwarf Lops and Netherlands Dwarfs.
  • Diets low in calcium and vitamin D.

Treatment

  • Pain management may be required.
  • Antibiotics if infection/ abscesses are present.
  • Treatment of any abscesses.
  • Tear duct flushing may be required if a blockage is present.
  • Burring of incisors.
  • If elongation of the incisors is severe then incisor extraction may be required. Rabbits cope well without their incisors and will only require food to be given in smaller sizes or grated. This is a riskier procedure with older rabbits due to an increased risk of complications.
  • Syringe feeding and hydration therapy will be required if your rabbit has developed GI stasis.
  • Regular check ups with a rabbit savvy vet to monitor any dental disease.

NEVER clip your rabbit’s teeth with nail clippers. Not only is it extremely painful it also fractures and splinters the enamel, exposing the pulp and increasing the risk of infection exponentially.

Prevention

  • This best prevention is without doubt feeding your rabbit a diet full of naturally abrasive materials such as hay and grass. For more information on what you should be feeding your rabbit follow this link.
  • Access to natural sunlight for vitamin D.

For more information on dental health follow this link.

Resources used: Second Edition Textbook of Rabbit Medicine/ Rabbit Medicine and Surgery for Veterinary Nurses.

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