trim the incisors of your rabbit yourself !!!
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A healthy occlusion has the top incisors slightly overlapping the bottom incisors. The latter should rest between the first and second pair of incisors, the second pair being located right behind the maxillary (upper) incisors.
Clinical presentations of different rabbit dental disorders
Never trim the overgrown incisors of your rabbit with a pair of small wire cutter or with nail clippers !!!
It is painful, crude and, sooner or later, a source of serious dental problems !!!
The use of a rotary tool, e.g. Dremel, for self-treatment of incisors, is also dangerous without proper training or precise teaching by a veterinary professional. How is it possible to restrain a rabbit safely, open its mouth, file the incisors and make sure that the temperature of the tooth does not become too high, see the level of filing, avoid to touch/damage the tongue ? What about pain relief ?
Trancing is not the solution to keep the rabbit calm. It may wake up, turn over unexpectedly, try to fight or escape while its incisors are trimmed with a Dremel tool. Better not imagine the consequences…
These pictures were taken for illustration purposes only and were reworked in the computer (Photos: A. van Praag).
Self-correcting incisor problems cause a tremendous distress and pain to the rabbit. Self-trimming the teeth of a rabbit inevitably has disastrous consequences. Frequently observed dental problems resulting from self-trimming with a cutter or a nail clipper include:
· Sharp edges, that can hurt the rabbit when eating or grooming;
· Stress fracture or longitudinal cracks in the tooth, either in the visible part or under the gum line;
· Tooth growth stopping due to damage of the tooth root (endodontic diseases);
· Exposure of the dental pulp resulting in pulpitis (inflammation of the most internal part of a tooth, the dental pulp);
· Abscessation and changes of the surrounding tissues and the alveolar bone.
· Fracture of the jaw bone;
· Pain due to the sudden concussion of the dental pulp and nerves in the periodontal and periapical tissues surrounding the tooth root, due to the enormous amount of energy released into the tooth during the clipping.
If malocclusion of the incisors is present, the alignment often worsens with regular self-trimming, and drastic dental work is required when professional help is finally sought. Sometimes the problems may have become so bad that the rabbit has to be euthanized.
Correction of dental disorders should be done by an experienced veterinarian only
The size of the oral cavity of the rabbit is small, and motion range of the jaws is limited. This makes examination of the oral cavity with an othoscope on a conscious rabbit difficult. Dental problems or lesions can easily be overlooked. The full evaluation of dental problems and their treatment (trimming of incisors, coronal reduction, etc) is only possible on an anesthesized rabbit, using proper instruments like incisor gags and cheek pouch retractors, or a table top gag... If the case that a rabbit is allergic to an anesthetic drug or anesthesia is not possible due to health problems, trimming of overgrown incisors can be done on a conscious but sedated rabbit.
Incisors and molars have a high growth rate, about 11-12 cm a year throughout the life of a rabbit. This means that trimming of abnormally growing incisors may be needed every 4 to 6 weeks, sometimes even every 3 weeks. Surgical removal of the incisors may be an option to avoid regular visits to the veterinarian, more so to avoid the onset of soft tissue damage, abscesses and/or secondary problems like dacryocystitis and blockage of the sinuous nasolachrymal duct. Regrowth of the removed tooth is rare.
Under exceptional circumstances, a veterinarian may instruct the owner how to file the incisors when a rabbit suffer from severe dental problems that needs regular trimming and surgical removal is not an option. This situation should remain the exception.
A special thank you to Kim Chilson, for sharing the story as well as pictures of her beloved Georgie rabbit
A special thanks to Dr. C. Morales and Debbie Hanson for the pictures of malocclusion from Stella
Thank you to to Kaspi for his help and demonstration of the dangerous clipping methods in rabbits
Thank you also to Flora, and the other rabbits that remained anonymous