Rabbits can develop a wide range of problems with their teeth, just like people can. Enamel spurs are one of the most common dental problems that pet rabbits develop. Here are five things rabbit owners need to know about enamel spurs.
What are enamel spurs?
Enamel spurs are sharpened pieces of tooth that cut the inside of your rabbit's mouth. Spurs can range in size from small slivers of sharpened enamel to whole teeth. These spurs can grow into your pet's tongue or cheeks, leading to ulceration and pain.
Why do enamel spurs develop?
Your rabbit's molars grow continuously at a rate of approximately 3 millimeters (0.12 inches) per month. If your pet doesn't have access to hay and chew toys, it won't be able to wear down its teeth properly. This allows the tooth to overgrow and meet the opposing tooth at an abnormal angle. When the teeth are misaligned in this way, the chewing surfaces don't wear down evenly. Over time, this uneven wear can lead to sharp edges on the teeth. These sharp edges are enamel spurs.
To prevent enamel spurs, make sure that your rabbit always has access to hay. Hay provides your rabbit with necessary fiber, but since it's so tough, it also necessitates a lot of chewing, which helps to wear down their teeth. In addition to hay, your rabbit needs access to chew toys. Provide a wide range of chew toys, like willow sticks, willow bridges, grass mats, and willow balls, so your rabbit doesn't get bored of them.
What are the signs of enamel spurs?
If your rabbit develops enamel spurs, you may notice that they're no longer interested in eating their hay. To chew hay, rabbits need to perform a sideways jaw movement, and this is painful when enamel spurs are present. If your rabbit is avoiding hay but still eating other foods like vegetables, you need to take a look at their cheek teeth.
If spurs are present, you will be able to see the signs. The clearest sign is torn, inflamed tissue on their tongue or inside of their cheek, though you may also see sharp spots on their teeth as well. If you notice these signs, take your rabbit to a vet right away.
Are enamel spurs serious?
Enamel spurs can pose serious problems for rabbits. Since these spurs are very sharp, they can slice into your pet's delicate oral tissues, like their tongue or the insides of their cheeks. Obviously, this is very painful for your pet, but the pain isn't the worst part. This torn tissue is susceptible to infections, and these infections can then spread from the oral tissues to other parts of the body.
Another issue with enamel spurs is that if they aren't treated, your rabbit may stop eating entirely due to pain. If your rabbit stops eating, their digestive system will slow down or completely stop; vets call this situation gastric stasis. Gastric stasis is life-threatening because it allows for dangerous bacteria to accumulate within your pet's intestines. The toxins released by these bacteria can lead to liver failure.
How do vets treat enamel spurs?
Fortunately, the treatment for enamel spurs is quite simple. Your vet will trim the sharp pieces of enamel and then trim the teeth to allow them to wear down evenly. Medications like antibiotics or painkillers may be prescribed, if necessary.
Generally, rabbits' teeth generally need to be trimmed two to three times before the abnormal growth patterns stop. Your vet will monitor your pet's teeth and will let you know when they need to be trimmed again.
If you think your rabbit has enamel spurs, take them to a vet or animal hospital right away.