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Guinea pig teeth: a cavy owner’s guide

Guinea pig teeth: the front teeth

These four teeth at the front (two top, two bottom) are called the incisors. The teeth of a guinea pig are constantly growing. So your cavy needs to be able to chew almost constantly to keep their guinea pig teeth worn down or it won’t be able to eat properly. Feed them hay or anything chewy like an untreated apple branch or a thick stalk of celery. Often when the front teeth overgrow, it is because of a problem with the back teeth making it difficult or painful for them to chew at all, so make sure you have both sets checked if there are any problems.

Do guinea pigs bite - guinea pig teeth
Do guinea pigs bite – guinea pig teeth

Guinea pig teeth: the back teeth

Just like the front teeth, guinea pig teeth in the back are constantly growing. Therefore, it important that your cavy have access to hay all day, every day.  They constant chewing of the hay keeps their teeth worn down. Make sure to keep their guinea pig cage full of hay and safe toys for them on which to chew.

The two main types of guinea pig teeth problems: Overgrowth and Malocclusion

Dental problems are one of the most common disorders among guinea pigs. Among them is the dental overgrowth: when a cavy’s teeth grow to long beca to an ineffective or inadequate wear. Another problem that can happen with guinea pig teeth is malocclusion. This happens when your guinea pig’s teeth aren’t aligned properly, for example, if the top teeth are long and the bottom teeth are short.

How can I tell if my guinea pig has a dental problem?

One of the good things about getting your guinea pig from a breeder is that you can find out their parent’s health history. If they had dental problems, it is likely that their offspring also, since this is a disorder with a strong genetic component.

For early detection, you must remember to review your cavy’s teeth regularly. The incisors (the front guinea pig teeth) should never close completely on the lips. Back teeth in guinea pigs must always be short and smooth. It they are pointy, this is a first symptom of a bad wear.

In really advanced cases, the lower back teeth are bent inwards trapping the tongue, preventing swallowing. The upper back teeth, meanwhile, are bent outward, digging into the skin causing injury. This makes it impossible for a guinea pig to eat and drink, and death can happen within days of starvation or dehydration.

Without looking at the teeth, the first symptoms that indicate that there is a problem are:

  • weight loss (you can weigh your cavy daily to see if they are losing weight)
  • they stop eating hay and woody food
  • exagerrated chewing
  • drooling
  • a wet chin (due to drooling)
  • the front teeth are wearing out at an angle
  • they only chewing on one side as they eat

If their guinea pig teeth aren’t the right size, it will be too difficult to properly chew food. The first foods they will stop eating are those that are more work on your cavy’s teeth: timothy hay and other plants with hard stems. Sorry to say this but, if you don’t have your cavy treated, they will gradually stop eating all food and eventually die.

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My guinea pig has a dental problem – what can I do?

If there are symptoms that your cavy’s teeth are a problem, you will need to get him to a vet to have them checked out as soon as possible. You may need to feed your guinea pig with a syringe before and after treatment if necessary.

Unfortunately most of the dental problems have only surgical solution, filing or removal of parts involved. This is why it’s so important for guinea pig teeth to be checked regularly and to feed your cavy plenty of hay to keep their growing teeth from getting too long.

If the teeth of your guinea pig is too long because of a poor diet, the veterinarian may file their teeth to their normal size and changing the diet so that the problem does not happen again. They afflicted cavy will also get more hay to get them to chew and wear down their teeth.

In contrast, if the problem is caused by malocclusion, this may require repeated surgical treatment throughout the life of your guinea pig. If the malocclusion only affects one or a few teeth, these can be removed and the rest can be filed.

Can I prevent this from happening to my pet’s guinea pig teeth?

The best way to prevent them is to keep hay available 24 hours a day. Don’t offer them extra food. Force them to eat hay. You can also offer them thick stalk vegetables like celery or leeks and cut the vegetables as little as possible to force them to use more of their teeth.

However, if the problem is caused by malocclusion, this will only delay the onset of symptoms.

A guinea pig with dental problems requires special care and continuous supervision.

 

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