Friends of rabbits and other herbivores have special teeth that help them eat plants. Animals like these can get very sick if they don’t eat enough plant fiber. It can cause problems with their teeth. Read on to learn about the risks of tooth disease and how to best avoid them, as well as what makes herbivore teeth different.
Why are rabbit teeth so unique?
Our teeth don’t change size or shape, and they’re great for breaking down food that people eat. Pets that eat plants, like rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and degus, need different kinds of teeth because they have to chew a lot of tough plants all day. Our teeth have a clear root, but these teeth don’t. They keep growing at a rate of about 2 mm per week! The teeth are meant to keep growing to make up for the tough fibers that wear them down.
But having teeth that are always coming in comes with some problems. For example, herbivores depend on their teeth being worn down evenly and constantly. If this doesn’t happen, their teeth might get too big and out of place.
What happens when rabbit teeth get too big?
For small animals like rabbits, having teeth that are too big can be very painful. They can press on the gums or lips if they get too long or grow in the wrong way. If the cheek teeth aren’t worn down enough, they can get sharp points, called “spurs,” that hurt the lips and tongue.
Rabbits whose teeth are too big can also stop eating, first because it hurts and then because the teeth can’t fit together properly. It can be very dangerous for bunnies and other herbivores to not want to eat. Their gut systems are very sensitive and need food all the time. If they don’t eat for even a short time, it can be life-threatening.
Loss of hunger can make things worse, creating a cycle of bad behavior. If the pet stops eating, its teeth will wear down even less, which makes its tooth problems worse and makes it even less likely to eat. Animal friends who are going down this downward spiral will need medical help and a lot of love and care to get better. It’s important to try to keep your pet from getting oral disease because it can be very bad.
How can we keep rabbits and other small animals from getting tooth problems?
Some pets are born with dental disease, but most of the time it starts because the teeth aren’t being worn down properly, either because the food isn’t right or because the pet stops eating it. This means that you can keep your pet’s teeth in good shape by giving them the right food and making sure they keep munching.
What is the best food to eat to keep your teeth healthy? Because omnivore teeth are designed to chew on high-fiber foods like grass all the time, this is what they should eat most of the time. We say that hay or grass should make up about 80% of the food. This is easy to figure out because one body-sized portion of hay per day is the right amount.
You can pick from many kinds of hay, and not all of them are good. The nutritional value can be very different depending on the type of grass and when it is picked. Meadow hay, like our Russell Rabbit Tasty Hay, or Timothy hay, like our Science Selective Timothy Hay, are usually the best choices. These hays taste great and are good for you.
Herbivores need hay, as well as a handful of the right vegetables and a measured amount of food made just for their species every day. This food should also have a lot of fiber to help your teeth as much as possible. Our Science Selective range has a lot of fiber and lets you eat more of it per calorie than other foods, which is good for your teeth because it forces you to chew more.
Looking out for the signs of dental disease in rabbits and other herbivores
Even though it’s better to keep teeth problems from happening, some pets will still get them. If this happens, the best way to make sure a quick recovery is to find the problems as soon as possible.
It may be easy to tell if the front incisor teeth are too big, but you won’t be able to tell if the cheek teeth are too big. Not only should you look at the teeth, but you should also be on the lookout for these other signs of rabbit oral disease:
- If your pet drools, their chin may get wet or they may lose fur there. People who own rabbits that have tooth problems often find that their forelimbs are wet or stained with saliva from brushing away the extra moisture.
- Having trouble eating—your pet may look upset while they’re trying to eat and may drop their food. They might go up to the food bowl and then change their minds.
- If a rabbit gets spurs on its cheek teeth, it may find it painful to move its mouth from side to side. This means it will stop eating hay and vegetables before pellets.
- Loss of appetite: This can be dangerous because it increases the chance of gastrointestinal stasis, a serious disease that could make your pet very sick.
- Loss of weight
- Abscesses can sometimes form in the jaw area when you have bad oral disease.
- People who drool a lot are more likely to get flystrike because their skin is wet and weakened.
If you see any of these signs, you should take your pet to the vet right away. Your pet’s dentist will be able to check them out and fix them if they need it.
We hope this helped you learn more about dental problems in rabbits and other wildlife that eat plants. The main point is that a healthy diet is very important if you want to avoid tooth problems. Hens will stay healthy and happy if they get lots of hay, some vegetables, and good pet food.