Domino, a lop-eared rabbit, has visited me quite regularly
since Mrs Robson rescued him last year. The reason for that
is his overgrown incisors (front teeth). This problem is
quite common and is thought to be inherited.
Rabbit's teeth continue to grow throughout their lives.
Rabbit incisors are reported to grow 12.5 cm per year. The
length of the teeth is controlled by the upper teeth grinding
against the opposite teeth in the lower jaw.
In most inherited cases the problem is mandibular prognathism
- this means that the lower jaw is longer than the upper
jaw. The problem starts in rabbits of 8 to 10 weeks of age.
We see them present in the surgery at 12 to 18 months of
The lower incisors grow very long and protrude from the
mouth. They do not meet the upper teeth and grind them down,
so these keep growing as well and usually curve unseen in
the mouth itself. They can do damage to the gums and cause
a lot of distress.
Rabbits with overgrown incisors will have difficulties
eating, and carrots will be left untouched. They will lose
weight, have problems grooming themselves and can not eat
their night faeces, which may result in a dirty back end.
If the mouth is painful because the teeth are damaging
the gums, the rabbit may also drink a lot.
It is important to have the teeth shortened by an expert
at regular intervals. Because the teeth grow around 1 cm
a month, this may be every 4 to 8 weeks. It is not a painful
task and rabbits tolerate it very well.