Much like rabbits, your guinea pig's teeth continue to grow throughout their lives. This is never a problem if you're feeding your pet the right type of diet. Guinea pig's teeth are continually being worn down as they gnaw and chew on their food so they get the best out the food they eat. Getting to know your guinea pig when you adopt or buy one, means finding out everything there is know about them, and this includes how their teeth should look.
If this is your first time around guinea pigs, you may be forgiven for being surprised at the length of your pet's front teeth. A guinea pig has two teeth at the top and two at the bottom of their mouths, called incisors. They are usually anything from 1cm to 1 ½cm long, much longer than you might think. If all is well and your guinea pig is eating normally, these front teeth should meet evenly which means the teeth are being naturally worn down every time your pet eats.
Sometimes teeth break, it could be your pet has chewed on the wire of their cage and damaged their teeth or maybe they fell and managed to break a tooth. For whatever reason, you need to check your piggies' front teeth regularly to make sure they are not chipped or broken. If you find they are damaged in any way, you need to get them trimmed or filed so they are even again. Dental problems in guinea pigs are often the cause of loss of appetite, a condition known as 'anorexia' which is why it is essential to get your pet's teeth done as soon as you notice there is a problem.
Occasionally, guinea pigs stop eating altogether due to dental problems which can lead to all sorts of other health issues too. If you notice your pet has stopped eating you should make an appointment to see a vet as soon as you can. Most teeth issues in younger guinea pigs can be caused as a result of an incorrect diet. Guinea pigs need a low calorie, high fibre diet and should be fed high quality hay and lots of fresh, clean grass every day.
It is fairly easy to examine your pet's front teeth (incisors) so it's important to recognise healthy teeth in order to see when there is a problem. The sooner you deal with broken teeth the better for the welfare of your piggy. When examining your pet's incisors you may find they are chipped or broken which makes it hard for them to pick up food and then gnaw on it. The thing to remember is that a guinea pig's teeth grow continually, so trimming or filing broken teeth does not mean they remain short for very long. Guinea pig teeth regrow to a healthy length pretty quickly, which ensures your guinea pig doesn't lose weight or condition. The most important thing is the teeth remain even.
A guinea pig's back teeth are called 'cheek teeth'. They are a lot harder to examine as they sit quite far back in your pet's mouth. To make matters more difficult you will probably find your guinea pig's mouth is usually full of food, so trying to see if there is a broken or overgrown tooth can be virtually impossible. If you think there's a problem, it is far better to take your pet to see a vet who will be able to rinse out your guinea pig's mouth with water before examining cheek teeth. After this the vet will normally use a spring loaded gag which has a cheek dilator on it so they can carry out a thorough examination. If there is a problem, your vet will be able to identify it and then recommend a treatment.
If you need to take your piggy to the vet because of a suspected dental problem, vets don't normally sedate them when examining their teeth. If any of the teeth need to be filed, this can be done without the use of any general anaesthetic. Vets don't like using anaesthetic on guinea pigs because it is risky and it does take the animal a lot longer to recover. This means the guinea pig doesn't start eating as quickly as they should which can be a problem if they are unwell and/or underweight as a result of a dental problem.
Most guinea pigs need follow-up treatments if they have suffered from any kind of dental disease because cheek teeth tend to regrow quickly – within a week a two. You need to find a “guinea pig friendly' vet who will file your pet's teeth without using any general anaesthetic unless the problems is so serious that that GA is needed to carry out more intensive surgery.
As pet guinea pigs gets older, their back teeth may become overgrown but this is not that common, especially if they have been fed a healthy diet and not had any dental problems when they were younger that went untreated.
Sometimes guinea pigs can lose their front teeth altogether which can be very worrying for people who are new to keeping these lovely, busy creatures. You will find the teeth, all four of them do grow back pretty quickly and guinea pigs do not normally lose condition when this happens. Although not very common, it could be the front teeth fall out because of some sort of genetic disorder, although the condition is more likely due to having been fed a bad diet. If this does happen, you should take your pet to see the vet and then check their diet to make sure it is not too rich or high in sugar.
Piggies need a good balanced diet to stay healthy. They get the best out of their food if their teeth are in good condition so by feeding a low calorie diet, lots of fresh, clean greens and plenty of good quality fibre, your pet naturally grinds down their teeth. The important vitamins for guinea pigs are C and D – both of which ensure healthy teeth and bones. One of the best sources of vitamin D is sunlight which means the more often your pet gets to be outside the better. However, if the weather is really bad it is much better to make sure your piggy is somewhere they can keep warm out of the wind, rain or snow.
Guinea pigs have what is called 'open rooted' teeth which means they grow continually as already mentioned above. If a tooth gets chipped or broken, they go out of line which means they don't wear down properly. This leads to their teeth overgrowing and overgrown teeth become painful causing sores in your pet's mouth preventing them from eating properly. If their teeth are nice and healthy, then your pet is eating well and getting the best out of their food. Regularly checking your pet's teeth should be part of your weekly routine, the more you do it, the more you bond with your piggy and this helps you catch any dental problems earlier rather than later.
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