Overgrown Rabbit Teeth: Trimming vs Removal

Updated May 20, 2024

Have a look at the rabbit’s teeth in the picture above. What you can see are the lower incisors coming out of the mouth and almost touching the nose. What you can’t see are the upper incisors curling inside the mouth in a similar way.

Much further and any one of them will create a painful wound and prevent eating. Horrible! Why this happens is due to a fact that surprisingly few rabbit owners know.

How Rabbit Teeth Work

Like many herbivores including horses and guinea pigs, rabbits have teeth adapted to an abrasive diet. To counteract the way their rough diet wears down the tooth surface, their teeth grow continuously. These sort of teeth are described as unrooted or open-rooted.

In nature this system works well, ensuring that a rabbit always has healthy teeth ready for action. Imagine how good it would be!

  • No cavities ever
  • No problems with tooth grinding
  • Chips & fractures that heal

However, you can probably already see some problems with having teeth that never stop growing.

Rabbit Dental Problems

There are only two main problems we see.

Malocclusion is when the teeth don’t line up properly. In a human this might just mean braces but in a rabbit it’s a lot more serious. Teeth that don’t grind against each other can’t wear each other down.

Malocclusion is caused by a problem with the shape of the jaws. It mainly affects the front teeth in young rabbits, like the one in the photo.

Overgrown molars, on the other hand, are usually about the food. That’s why rabbit vets nag you endlessly about an 80% hay diet. When the food being eaten is too soft, rabbits don’t grind down their back teeth at the same speed as they grow.

As molars get too long, the tooth roots get impacted in the jaw. The lack of grinding also commonly leads to the formation of painful spurs in the mouth.

Signs Of Dental Issues

As teeth or spurs get longer, they start interfering with chewing. They might also cause abrasions on the cheek or tongue. Therefore, the first clue that your rabbit has problems might be when they go off their food or start dropping food from the mouth.

Just to make things more difficult, a rabbit that’s not eating can still appear to be chewing (a common strategy in prey animals to avoid showing weakness). That’s why experienced rabbit owners also pay attention to body weight and the amount of droppings passed each day.

Signs linked to molar root impaction go from the simple (a weeping eye) to the serious and often fatal (a tooth root abscess or gut stasis).

Treating Overgrown Rabbit Teeth

When rabbit teeth go bad you’re suddenly in a race against time to fix them. Each problem has its own solution.

Overgrown Front Teeth

Once incisors start growing crookedly there’s nothing you can do to stop them. Therefore you only have two choices:

  1. Frequent trimming
  2. Removal

Trimming is done by a vet using a high speed dental burr, usually without needing sedation in a standard appointment. It’s quick, painless and cheap. The only drawback is that it needs to be done every six weeks for life.

Removal of rabbit incisors is often a specialist procedure.

4 upper and 2 lower rabbit incisors after removal

Removal always comes with the risk that one or more of the teeth will grow back. However, most of the time after one procedure you’re done.

I always get asked, “how will he cope without the front teeth?” The answer is that if he was coping with them as abnormal as they were, he will almost invariably eat better without them. The only drawback might be having to chop up large food items.

Overgrown Molars

Overgrown cheek teeth can be much trickier. Firstly, rabbits always need an anaesthetic to have them treated. Secondly, removal is no laughing matter.

Rabbit molar spurs
Rabbit molar spur before burring

Painful spurs can just be treated as needed, usually up to four times a year. We use a shielded dental burr, under anaesthetic of course. Most of the time, if a rabbit’s diet can be fixed afterwards, the problem goes away.

I only remove rabbit molars if they practically fall out in my hands. The rest I refer. It’s not just that removal is very difficult to do well, it’s also that it isn’t always the best solution. Read my page about rabbit lumps on the cheek and you’ll see why.

Over To You

When I think about the teeth of rabbits, which I do often, they remind me of the job I once had running a food packaging machine. It was a touchy contraption, but if you kept it properly adjusted and monitored, your day went well.

However, if you took your eye off the ball, it was only moments away from spewing out an endless stream of defective chip packets while you scrabbled for the stop button.

The difference with rabbits is that they don’t have an off button.

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here. The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

10 Replies to “Overgrown Rabbit Teeth: Trimming vs Removal”

  1. Hi, my 8 month old rabbit has terrible malocclusion which was discovered under GA at castrate. He had a dental at this time on molars & incisors. 5 weeks later they are all really overgrown again! I have talked to my vet about possibly removing the incisors to see if that allows the molars to line up better. My vet has advised that this wont help the molars.
    Can you please advise if you believe it would be worth removing the incisors, my vet is advising dentals every 6 weeks or euthanasia 🙁

    1. Hi Charlotte. Always follow the advice of the Vet who has senior animal rather than someone online, but sometimes it is possible that you can increase the time interval to 10 to 12 weeks if the incisors are removed. The molars will still need doing and the problem will be that they won’t be visible. Therefore I would advise you continue doing exactly what you are doing.

  2. Help! My 3 year old male holland lop is having recurring molar spurs!!!!! His diet is VERY good and he eats lots of hay all the time. He has tons of toys and hard chew toys and treats. Vet thought it just happened unfortunately despite his eating habits being healthy and I figured since he was a couple years at that point maybe it was just a little issue that would be fixed via dental surgery. His surgery went VERY well! However like 10 months ago was when this happened. I noticed the last week he has been acting SLIGHTLY off and his ears were a little hot and cold. Just got to the vet and confirmed his teeth are the issue again. On one molar on his one side the spur is growing and obviously needs another surgery. Anesthesia is very risky especially for rabbits and he’s currently getting blood work to make sure he should be okay for another surgery.. he’s my whole heart and he’s had multiple health issues, one where out of nowhere he had a seizure and nearly died. Yet he’s fought through every time so strong and so happy!!!!! He doesn’t deserve this 🙁 not to mention the stress and financial burden of it all! Does anyone have any suggestions as to maybe a change to his diet/type of hay or anything? Like I said his diet is pretty good! The vet said there’s nothing more I can do and he’ll unfortunately probably continue to get them. Please if anyone has any ideas as to how I can help my furbaby, let me know!
    He’s on western Timothy oxbow hay, under a quarter cup of oxbow adult rabbit pellets, a bowl of fresh greens etc

  3. Hey team . My bunny has dental disease but it was only on the left hand side. But now on the right she has broken two teeth. Number 6 and 3 , number 3 we saved we shaved down to the split and just waiting for it to regrow. But now 3 weeks later number 5 and 1 has become a tiny bit loose. Is there a possibility that they will be okay once number 3 tooth grows back down. Can she survive with tiny bit of loose teeth. Can they go back to being tight ? And not ever have problems. We need the right side all teeth as she has nine left on the left side at all. Can everyone please pray for olly our bunny to keep her teeth. Xxx

    1. Hi Regan. It sounds like she needs to be investigated. Judging by your numbers, these are not incisors, and that’s a whole different ball game, usually involving disease of the mandible.

  4. Hey, I have a question regarding my 6 year old rabbit.
    It had to put it in a wire cage for a little bit which it didn’t like so it bit the wire cage bars, it then suddenly got a fright and pulled back really fast, cracking one tooth and had ever so slight nosebleed (maybe knocked its nose when it jumped back) and her one eye was teary the next day.

    Though it did eat a little still the next day and relatively normal over the next few days.
    It’s been a week, and I noticed she’s struggling to eat hay with her incisors.

    Can the trauma she suffered cause misaligned incisors (it was always fine before)?
    Her incisors are also now growing longer than usual and are still uneven.
    I am so worried about what to do but my parents don’t have much money to spare.
    What would u suggest I do?
    Please help, thank you!

    1. Hi Mina. Sometimes injured incisors will recover and grow back to normal in time; it’s hard to tell. However, it’s a very good idea to spend the money on a rabbit vet visit just to get the incisors trimmed into a reasonable shape so that they are likely to wear correctly against the others and cause less problems in the meantime.

  5. Hi, my rabbit has extremely over grown front teeth to the point his front teeth are nearly touching his nose.
    Just wondering how much it would cost to have his teeth trimmed and filed down?
    I’m located in Ascot park and have a concession card.
    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regards
    Natalie Heneker
    0422 183 406

    1. Hi Natalie. A link to charges can be found in the article. However due to demand we only see new clients within a geographical zone that finishes at Greenhill Road.

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