Molar and Premolar Malocclusion and Elongation in Rabbits
In rabbits, the molars and premolar teeth are aligned as a single functional unit and referred to as the cheek teeth. Cheek teeth elongation occurs when normal wear does not properly occur, or when the teeth do not align properly (malocclusion). The latter is one of the most common complaints in pet rabbits, and can happen either at birth from trauma or because of other reasons.
Cheek teeth elongation generally occurs in middle-aged or older rabbits, while younger rabbits may suffer from congenital malocclusion. Also, Dwarf and Lop breeds are believed to be at a higher risk for congenital misalignment.
Symptoms and Types
- Inability to chew food
- Anorexia and subsequent weight loss
- Preference for water bowl over sipper bottle
- Excessive drooling
- Nasal discharge
- Tooth grinding
- Excessive tear production
Elongation is often a normal part of aging for pet rabbits who live significantly longer than wild rabbits, and therefore experience longer periods of tooth growth than would normally occur in a natural lifespan. However, acquired cheek teeth elongation -- which generally appears in older rabbits -- often occurs due to a lack of fibrous tough foods. These tough foods allow the rabbit to properly grind its teeth.
Conversely, congenital skeletal malocclusion is most likely to occur in younger rabbits as well as Dwarf or Lop-eared breeds. This is a birth defect that cannot be prevented.
A veterinarian will generally conduct an oral examination to diagnose malocclusion or elongation. An analysis of bacterial cultures and fluid taken from oral abscesses is also recommended. Other diagnostic tests may include urine analysis, CT scans, and skull X-rays.