Some medical professionals recommend trimming or grinding down the teeth every two months or so, but this can be uncomfortable, stressful, even dangerous if, during a trimming, the teeth accidentally shatter. Periodic trimmings and grindings can be extremely expensive too, especially when performed under anesthesia. All these factors considered, rabbits with maloccluded teeth are sadly euthanized all too often; the constant upkeep is overwhelming and too much for some to handle.
Recently, a rabbit with malocclusion and severely overgrown incisors arrived at the local shelter. The shelter vet suggested euthanasia and the shelter manager agreed after noting the considerable extra effort that comes with finding homes for special needs animals at an overcrowded, financially stressed shelter.
I, on the other hand, wasn’t ready to give up that easily. After consulting with some fellow rabbit experts at House Rabbit Network, I learned that there was another option: extraction. It seemed simple enough—the defective six front teeth would be removed, and after the mouth healed, he would learn to use his lips to pick up food and use the rest of his 22 teeth for chewing purposes. I spoke with a fantastic veterinarian at the VCA Wakefield Animal Hospital who explained that the surgery was relatively straightforward, the recovery was minimal, and, she said, the rabbit would be as good as new when it was over. In fact, he would even have a slight advantage over rabbits looking for homes—with no front teeth, rabbit-proofing would be a breeze!
I immediately brought the rabbit, who I had named Charley, home. He was severely underweight and malnourished from weeks of eating difficulties, so I spent a couple days feeding him a high-calorie, high-fiber, easy-to-chew diet, which included Critical Care, oatmeal, canned pumpkin, vegetable medley baby food, chopped strawberries, collard greens and cilantro, and even timothy hay broken into small, bite-sized bits. He chowed down for two days straight, and proved his will to live by bouncing all over my house and spending hours sleeping in my lap. Fortunately, House Rabbit Network had offered to foot the bill for the surgery, so after he had regained some strength, we were ready. On an early Wednesday morning, we drove up to
and Charley had his six front teeth pulled (he was also neutered at the same time). I picked him up that evening, and he was, though drugged, already acting a little feisty. By the next morning, he was eating Critical Care and pumpkin mush and three days later was eating entire bowls of pellets, chopped up greens, and even his hay. Wakefield
He’s now a happy, rambunctious little guy, and might I add, perfectly adoptable. I hope this story inspires other owners and shelters with rabbits with dental problems to consider this alternative. As Charley sprints around my living room like a maniac, I can say with full confidence, that incisor extraction is a fantastically helpful surgery, a procedure we would both recommend to anyone.