trim the incisors of your rabbit yourself !!!
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Correct length and alignement of maxillar and mandibular incisors (Photo: A. van Praag)

Healthy occlusion showing the chisel-shaped occlusion of the mandibular (lower jaw) rabbit incisors between the maxillary incisors and peg teeth (Photo: A. van Praag)


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

Appearing healthy...

but suffering from a tooth root abscess

(Photos: Veterinary Exotic Information Network)

Grave abnormal occlusion of incisors in a rabbit

(Photos: Dr. C. Morales, Prestonwood Animal Clinic, Houston, USA)



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.


Georgie relaxing


Georgie after jaw surgery to clear an abscess


the black tongued rescue…

When I first got Georgie, I brought him back into the vet, who was excited to see him again. He said that he had the worst teeth he had ever seen, (he had taken out the incisors before Georgie was mine, but the people wouldn't keep him, and gave him up one week after the operation) and went running around the clinic trying to find the teeth, which he kept to show people how bad they were...could not find them, so I never did see how bad they were.

Georgie demonstrated first hand what happens when teeth are clipped by non-professionals from a young age. Those mouth abscesses that started in teeth roots finally ended him.

The picture on the left was taken after the operation to repair an abscess in jaw, where there was a wad of antibiotic impregnated gauze rolled up inside the wound, held in place by an external stitch. At 10 days, I was to take the stitch out, pull out the gauze, and allow healing. I did that, and it bled a lot. My vet had neglected to inform me to expect that amount of fresh blood! I was very worried, and called; he said that was good, as it showed the wound was healing. I still insisted on having vet look at it. It was a good operation, and did heal well with only pain meds and ongoing broad spectrum antibiotics given. It was about another 28 months or so of managing abscesses with surgical repairs, and switching the diet over to less normal food, and more chopped and slurry, before this 12lb bunny became for all practical purposes, toothless. He still had molars, but they abruptly quit erupting about 3 years before he died. He had many ongoing small jaw abscesses, and was on constant pain meds, and antibiotics for the rest of his life.

A particularity of Georgie was his black tongue. About 10 % of the ones my vet sees are black, and that makes it hard when they are under anesthesia, as they are always looking blue-black! Whew, that was nice to hear, as I know what I saw, and I have not ever seen another black tongue, and did not want poor toothless Georgie's tongue to be falling off! :)))

Kim Chilson


Correction of dental disorders should be done by an experienced veterinarian only


In the case dental disease is suspected or observed, the oral examination made on a conscious rabbit should be accompanied by a general examination of the rabbit, an ophthalmologic examination and examination of the oral cavity under full anesthesia, accompanied by radiography of the skull under various angles, in order to assess the health of the teeth roots and the periodontal tissue, infection, the presence of an abscess or development of osteomyelitis (bone inflammation).


The oral cavity of a rabbit is small and requires the use of incisor gags for proper visualization (Photo: Veterinary Exotic Information Network)


Set of tools used by a veterinarian for rabbit dentistry


Using specific dentistry tools is of utmost importance (Photo: Veterinary Exotic Information Network)

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