Why Do Rabbits Grind Their Teeth?

If your rabbit is grinding their teeth, the most common reason is that they’re in pain or discomfort. It’s a self-soothing activity that rabbits do when they’re struggling. The grinding is often accompanied by other symptoms like shaking and bulging eyes.

There’s another sound a rabbit makes which could be mistaken for teeth grinding – teeth chattering. It’s a softer sound with a far more pleasant cause – enjoyment. It’s also known as purring and a more gentle version of teeth grinding.

Read on to find out more.

Tooth Grinding Versus Tooth Chattering in Rabbits

The other thing to consider is if your rabbit is grinding their teeth in pain, or chattering because of contentment. These quite similar movements are drastically different in cause, so neither should be ignored.

Tooth GrindingTooth Chattering
FrequencyNon-stopOccasional depending on the situation
SoundLoudGentle and quiet
Eye movementEyes bulging and openEyes closed
Body movementShaking, showing other symptoms of pain listed aboveN/A

If you’re struggling to assess if they’re grinding their teeth in pain or chattering in enjoyment, see what context the sound is in. If it’s when you’re petting your rabbit with no other symptoms, that’s probably a direct result of the attention. If it’s when they’re nowhere near anyone and with no obvious cause, it very well could be the sign of something more serious.

When the purring stops, your rabbit has probably enjoyed being petted but would like you to stop now. If they start digging on you, biting, nudging, or signals in any way that they want to be put down, then you should respect their wishes to prevent them from becoming more aggressive.

Reasons Why a Rabbit Might Grind Their Teeth

A rabbit grinding their teeth is almost definitely in pain. There are a number of reasons why your rabbit could be in pain or unwell, and determining exactly why will speed up treatment.

Your rabbit might be teeth grinding because of either physical pain or mental trouble.

Physical pain your rabbit might be dealing with:

  • Post-surgery pain
  • Broken or sprained limbs
  • Dental pain
  • Joint pain
  • Urinary infections
  • Bacterial infections
  • Gastrointestinal problems

Stress trigger that can harm your rabbit’s mental health:

  • Extreme stress from danger
  • Loud, sudden sounds
  • Changes in routine
  • Being left alone for extended periods
  • Going through a new, scary experience (e.g. being taken to the vet or in the car)
  • Nearby predators
  • Being stuck in their cage for prolonged periods
  • Cramped, dirty environments
  • Too much light or too much darkness
  • Boredom and lack of mental stimulation
  • Being handled too often
  • Being bullied from other animals
  • Grief after losing a bonded friend

Regardless of the reason, teeth grinding means that your rabbit is in some kind of pain. Make sure you get them help to relieve the pain as soon as you can.

Signs of Pain in Rabbits as Well as Grinding Their Teeth

If you’re unsure if your rabbit has a problem when they’re grinding their teeth, look out for some of these other signs that something isn’t right. Once or more sign indicates a bigger problem, and will probably need veterinary attention.

Look out for these other symptoms of pain:

  • Reduced appetite or refusing food entirely.
  • Not drinking as much as normal.
  • Changes in behavior (not wanting to socialize with other rabbits, avoiding you, acting out of character).
  • Lethargic (low energy and not moving much).
  • Sitting hunched over (this could indicate an internal problem like a digestive issue. If they’re sitting in an awkward position it could also be an injury that’s causing them to keep their weight off a certain limb).
  • Aggression (biting and refusing to be handled. If your rabbit isn’t normally so hostile, this is an even bigger sign).
  • Changes in stool (diarrhea, soft stools, or not passing any stool at all).
  • Not grooming (rabbits are usually obsessed with cleanliness and grooming. If they’re neglecting their cleaning then something isn’t right).
  • Drooling and dribbling.
  • Weeping eyes (any sort of fluid coming from their eyes is unusual).
  • Isolating (if your rabbit is hiding away and not wanting to be around any people or other pets).
  • Not sleeping (a rabbit unable to sleep might be being kept awake because of the intensity of the pain they’re feeling).

You know your rabbit best, so if you notice any unusual behavior then don’t wait for more obvious signs to appear. The sooner you get in touch with a vet, the faster and more successful the treatment will probably be.

What Can I Do to Help My Rabbit if They’re in Pain?

It’s heartbreaking to see your pet in pain, and you’ll want to do anything you can to help. Once you’ve identified the symptoms and have a cause, treatment can start.

The best treatment for your rabbit will come from a vet. They can do a professional assessment and let you know what’s needed – whether that’s surgery, medication, or something else.

Make sure your rabbit is comfortable with plenty of bedding, that the room is at a good temperature, and that you’re feeding them a healthy balanced diet. If your rabbit requires medication, follow the instructions on dosage and time between doses.

Never give your rabbits human medication – it’s toxic to them and will cause a whole bunch of internal problems that could quickly become fatal.

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