When baby rabbits come out of the nest and start on solid foods, their teeth will continue to grow all their lives, and they need to constantly chew and gnaw to keep their teeth ground down to proper length and size. The constant grinding against opposing teeth maintains the shape and keeps their four front incisor teeth (two on top and bottom) razor sharp. In perfectly aligned teeth the bottom incisors go behind the top ones and come to rest in a very fine shallow groove at gum level. If you look carefully at the pictures below you will see that there are two tiny pegs at the base of the top teeth to guide the bottom teeth home.
The teeth are maloccluded if the bottom teeth don’t go under the top teeth, but instead go in front of the top teeth. When this happens the teeth don’t get ground down but keep growing until the bunny can’t chew or eat and eventually starves to death if not attended to.
As I didn’t have any pictures of rabbits with malocclusion I went on line and found this very graphic article dealing with it. Follow the link below the pictures to read the full article and the implications of the suffering the rabbit goes through due to breeding with rabbits that have malocclusion. The teeth either have to be removed or constantly trimmed by a vet every few months.
Signs of malocclusion apart from obvious teeth sticking out of its mouth are gradual loss of weight and appetite. The bunny will become listless, dehydrated and unable to chew properly. Other problems which can occur include abscesses in the teeth, teeth growing into the upper jaw, and death from starvation.
Malocclusion can be corrected temporarily by cutting back the teeth so the bunny can eat enough to remain healthy. At best this is a short term solution as the teeth have to be trimmed constantly – about every 4 weeks – or they have to be removed entirely. Young bunnies occasionally pull on cage wire with their teeth and cause misalignment, which also results in malocclusion.
So, before you buy your baby bunny get the breeder to give it a health check in front of you, explaining the procedure and what to look for at each step. Read my health check procedure so you know what the breeder should be showing and explaining to you. That way you can make sure that your bunny hasn’t got malocclusion.
p.s. check for spayed feet when the breeder flips the bunny over.