For new rabbit owners, those cute little bunny teeth may catch you off guard! While their teeny milk teeth look harmless at first, baby rabbits are equipped with sharp choppers that can nibble through almost anything. Get ready for them to start gnawing table legs, headphones, and even drywall once they teethe! Rabbits need to chew constantly to wear down their continuously growing teeth. But how and when do baby bunnies get teeth in the first place? What teething symptoms should you watch for? This article dives into the dental development of rabbits from birth through adulthood. We’ll explore when baby teeth emerge, the teething process, why rabbits chew so persistently, and how to prevent dental disease. Let’s take a hopping journey into the world of rabbit teeth!
When Do Baby Rabbits Get Teeth?
Baby rabbits, also called kittens or kits, are actually born without any teeth. Their teeth begin to erupt through their gums within the first two weeks of life. By around 3 weeks of age, baby rabbits will have a full set of sharp, pointed milk teeth that they use for chewing and grinding food.
These milk teeth resemble sharp little pins or needles. They are also sometimes called “deciduous” teeth, meaning baby teeth that will eventually fall out. Baby rabbits typically have 26 deciduous teeth in total – 12 top teeth and 14 bottom teeth. The milk teeth begin emerging in pairs, usually starting with the front incisors.
As the baby rabbit grows, its milk teeth also grow longer and sharper as they erupt further out of the gums. The milk teeth reach maximum length around 5-6 weeks of age. At this point, they are at their sharpest and help the baby rabbit transition from nursing to eating solid foods.
What Kind of Teeth Do Baby Rabbits Have?
Baby rabbits have two main types of deciduous or milk teeth:
Incisors – These are the sharp, chisel-like front teeth that rabbits use for biting off pieces of food. There are 4 upper and 2 lower incisors.
Premolars/Molars – These rear, grinding teeth help the rabbit chew up and digest natural fibrous foods. There are 8 upper premolars and 6 lower premolars.
Like most mammalian babies, baby rabbits have smaller, finer milk teeth compared to the larger permanent teeth they will get as adults. However, the milk teeth are very sharp and designed for cutting, tearing, and chewing.
The incisors of newborn rabbits have a flat chewing surface. As the teeth grow outwards, the chewing surfaces take on a chisel-shape with enamel only on the front surface. This creates a sharp cutting edge. The premolars have bumpy surfaces for crushing and grinding food.
Having sharp milk teeth allows baby bunnies to start nibbling solid foods at a young age while their adult teeth are still developing under the gums. By 3-4 weeks old, rabbits are using their milk teeth to eat solid foods for weaning.
Do Bunnies Go Through Teething?
Yes, pet rabbits do go through a teething process just like human babies! Teething refers to the process by which the baby teeth transition into the permanent adult teeth.
For rabbits, the milk teeth begin to fall out and be replaced by the permanent teeth starting around 12 weeks old. The window for losing milk teeth and growing in adult teeth may last from 3-7 months as rabbits mature. This is why teething can be an extended process for bunnies.
The front incisors are usually the first adult teeth to come in around 12-16 weeks old. Rabbits have hypsodont teeth, meaning they grow continuously throughout life. But the permanent teeth still need to erupt through the gums as the jaws grow and the milk teeth get pushed out.
Teething can be uncomfortable for baby bunnies, just like for human babies. Signs your rabbit may be teething include:
- Chewing more aggressively on objects
- Increased drooling
- Hesitation to eat harder foods
- Loss of appetite
- Grinding teeth together
The good news is rabbit milk teeth are usually shed and swallowed naturally without much problem. Make sure your bunny has safe chew toys and soft foods to help their teething process.
Why Do Rabbits Chew?
All rabbits have a natural instinct to chew and gnaw, but why do bunnies chew so much? There are a few key reasons:
Wear Down Teeth – Rabbit teeth grow continuously and chewing wears them down to a healthy length.
Dental Health – Chewing also helps keep teeth properly aligned and reduces painful dental issues.
Gain Nutrition – Rabbits need to chew their food thoroughly to digest the nutrition in their guts.
Explore New Things – Rabbits examine objects by biting and tasting them.
Alleviate Boredom – Chewing provides mental stimulation and relieves boredom.
Relieve Anxiety – The motion of chewing relaxes some rabbits by giving them an outlet for their stress.
Rabbit teeth are open-rooted and grow at a rate of 3-5 inches per year! If their teeth are not worn down from active chewing, they will overgrow and cause painful dental problems.
That’s why rabbits chew so persistently – they have a biological need to keep their constantly growing teeth at the right length. Make sure to provide your bunny with unlimited timothy hay along with safe chew toys. This will satisfy their natural chewing instinct.
How to Keep Baby Rabbit Teeth Healthy?
Here are some tips to ensure your baby bunny maintains healthy teeth as they grow:
Feed Your Rabbit Hay
Feeding an unlimited amount of timothy hay is crucial for dental health. The abrasive hay fibers will grind the teeth down to an optimal length as rabbits chew. Alfalfa hay is acceptable for young rabbits under 6 months old since it has higher protein and calcium for growth. But gradually transition to timothy hay.
Fruit and Vegetables
Crisp vegetables like romaine lettuce and carrots along with leafy greens provide chewing resistance. Just feed veggies in moderation due to sugar and starch.
Chewing calcium-rich chew sticks or blocks will strengthen new teeth and prevent cavities.
Objects to Chew
Give your rabbit safe chew toys, like untreated wood sticks, cardboard boxes, or mineral blocks. Rotate different chewing surfaces to prevent boredom.
Supervise your bunny closely when first introducing them to new chew items to avoid choking hazards or intestinal blockage from ingesting foreign objects. By encouraging healthy chewing habits, you’ll help your baby rabbit develop a beautiful smile that lasts a lifetime! Consult your vet if you notice any dental issues.
Common Rabbit Dental Problems
Here are some of the most common dental issues seen in pet rabbits:
This refers to misalignment of the teeth and overgrown incisors. It results from genetics, injury, or repetitive stress on rabbit teeth. Signs include drooling, difficulty eating, and tooth roots visible along the gums. Malocclusion requires tooth trimming by a vet.
Cavities! Just like humans, rabbits can get tooth decay from bacteria in the mouth. It’s often from a carbohydrate-heavy diet. Signs include tooth discoloration or a brown molar. Caries may require antibiotics, pain meds, or tooth extraction.
Dental abscesses happen from untreated infection at the root of a tooth. Pus and swelling around the jaw are symptoms. Abscesses need draining by a vet and antibiotic therapy. Otherwise, the infection can spread.
With proper dental care, dental disease is preventable in rabbits. Get your bunny accustomed to having you look in their mouth and gently touch their teeth. Seek vet care if you spot any dental issues before they become severe. With vigilance and good chewing habits, your rabbit can have healthy chompers for many years!