The Pet Directory Smal Animal Article - Guinea Pigs have teeth too

As published in The Pet Directory NSW & ACT Edition
By Dr. Elaine Cebuliak BVSc. MACVSc (Dentistry), Dip Ed, Dip Acupuncture, Cert Hon.
Integrative Acupunture & Dental Veterinarian - 0422 413 404

Pocket pets in Queensland are generally Guinea pigs, rats and mice. These animals have “special needs” teeth. This is because their mouth is small, and the teeth are difficult to examine and many of their teeth continue to grow throughout their life. This is why they must gnaw daily on hard foods.

Conformation or shape of the head and jaws is particularly important for the occlusion or “meeting” of the teeth. If there are occlusion problems, guinea pigs may develop a condition known as slobbers. Slobbers is the condition where the fur under the jaw and the neck area remains wet from constant drooling of saliva.

Guinea Pigs need to pick their own grass.
Be careful the grass has not been sprayed or fertilised.

The cause of this is overgrowth of the guinea pigs premolars and/or molars. This happens because guinea pig teeth continue to grow throughout their lives. As teeth continue to grow they must be worn down with abrasive chewing of hard foods including hay, grass and even grass roots. The overgrown tooth often causes injury to the tongue or cheek and this is painful. The guinea pig may also loose weight due to difficulty in eating caused by the teeth problems and the associated pain.

Guinea pig teeth must be worn down by
chewing hard foods.

Diagnosis must be confirmed with the vet giving a short acting anaesthetic, then correcting the problem with trimming or filing the overgrown teeth. This is a difficult procedure as the mouth opening is very small and special gags and cheek dilators must be used. In many cases there is no permanent solution. It is due to the teeth not tracking or positioning properly, and it may a genetic fault. These pigs should not be bred from, no matter how attractive their coat is!

If teeth problems are not caused by genetic or hereditary factors then a diet correction with higher fibre and ensuring vitamin C is added to the diet daily will help. Provide hard fresh food. Native tree branches with leaves and flowers to gnaw on will assist with keeping the teeth trimmed down as well as provide nutrition. Organic vegetables are recommended as well as fresh lucerne hay or chaff. Vitamin C is essential for guinea pigs and man. Good sources of vitamin C are passion fruit, all kinds of fruit and veggies including cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and kale. Extra Iodine may need to be given. Feed kelp (contains iodine) a few times a week, a small pinch in food is enough.

There are a few veterinary dentists in Australia, please ask for a referral to one of these specially trained veterinarians if your guinea pig has slobbers.

Cavies in article above owned by Hannah Dampier. Photographs by Scott McFadden

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