Guinea pigs and those teeth! Guinea pigs really do need regular dental check-ups, since their teeth grow constantly. Even if we provide them with lots of hay and other fiber, and tons of safe natural wood toys to chew and tug, our little friends can still develop problems. Your guinea pig’s teeth won’t need regular filing (also called planing), but it is a good idea to have that mouth checked regularly.
Dental issues can be genetic, and there may also be some relation to weak muscles and ligaments in the jaw. Along with malocclusions, abscesses and elongated roots may cause your piggy problems. Tooth problems not only hurt, but they can cause your piggy problems with eating, end upu with weight loss, and generally snowball into a health crisis.
“Malocclusion” just means the teeth don’t line up right and interfere with the mouth working properly. Here’s a picture of some teeth grown over this poor piggies tongue, starting about half way back (we’re putting a nice big image here so you can see it well):
Notice that we are not just worried about front teeth here: the problems often happen far back in the mouth.
What are the symptoms of malocclusion?
- Your piggy may have some trouble eating, picking at the food and acting like something is stuck in his or her mouth.
- There may be weight loss. Rapid weight loss is dangerous for a few reasons, so keep an eye on that weight, and if it starts to fall, get to the vet.
- Your cavy’s mouth may hang open just a bit, since it can’t close properly anymore.
- Your guinea pig’s chin and lower jaw may be damp or even kinda drippy. This is called The Slobbers, and usually happens when the malocclusion is advanced.
photo credit: Tufts.edu
- Ear movement may look more exaggerated than usual, due to the jaw muscles working extra hard to get some chewing done.
- Does your piggy seem to be chewing all his food on one side of his mouth?
- If you have other guinea pigs (and we hope you do!) do the others eat faster?
- Can your piggy eat all the foods and parts of foods? For instance, does he eat the apple peel as well as the softer inside part?
- Do little pieces of fruits and veggies drop out of his mouth when he eats?
- Does he act all excited about eating, then not eat, or pick up something in his mouth and drop it again uneaten?
- Is there any nose or eye discharge? (This might mean an abscess has developed too – this happens often).
The takeaway here is this: if your guinea pig isn’t eating, or isn’t eating fast enough, or isn’t eating everything on his plate, something is up and it is time to get things checked out. They simply don’t decide to lose a few ounces for vanity’s sake…they eat! Any guinea pig off his food is a guinea pig who has some issue.
Here’s to a healthy appetite, and the teeth to handle it!