Just like us, animals can also damage or lose their teeth with age and disease. So is the case with your guinea pig.
However, your pet’s teeth are different than ours.
To determine how you can treat tooth loss in your cavy, you should familiarize yourself with their dental structure first.
What Guinea Pig Teeth Look Like
Contrary to popular belief, your cavy actually has 20 teeth.
Besides the 2 large upper and lower incisors their mouth has a pair of upper and lower molars as well.
However, rather than canines, they have a gap called a diastema between their two main teeth.
The teeth are also open rooted and never stop growing but you can prevent them from overgrowing by giving them hard veggies to gnaw on.
The front teeth are quite sharp and the enamel is white.
Their chubby cheeks make their molars almost impossible to detect even when their mouths are pried open.
This is not a problem for vets who have buccal pad separators.
Common Dental Problems with Guinea Pigs
Even if you take really good care of your cavy’s dental hygiene, it may still get dental diseases that can make its teeth fall out or get damaged.
Here are some common ones it can suffer from:
A guinea pig’s teeth are similar to a rabbit’s.
Both have teeth that are open rooted and never stop growing.
However, in some cases, the roots of your cavy’s teeth can encroach in the jaw and start growing there.
These are called elongated roots and while an oral examination may not reveal anything, bumps along the lower jawline are a telltale sign.
If your pet’s eyes are also teary or swollen that can also be a sign that their teeth are growing all over the place.
The first thing you need to do is take your guinea pig for an X-ray so the condition can be diagnosed. Any elongated roots will show up in the print.
If the issue is caught early your cavy may only need a chin sling. This is a small sling that is attached with Velcro straps around the pig’s jaw.
If your guinea pig’s teeth are overgrow or its diet does not have enough hard food that can wear them down, its teeth will become maloccluded.
The front teeth will appear larger than normal but they may hide the back teeth which may also be distorted.
If the condition is not corrected in time, your guinea pig will have trouble chewing and the front teeth will start to deteriorate as well.
It can also lead to mouth sores, injuries, and infections to the point that your pet may stop eating altogether and start losing weight.
Besides lack of appetite, be on the lookout for these symptoms if you think your pet has this condition:
- A constantly gaping mouth.
- Discharge from the nose and eyes.
- Chewing from one side of the mouth
- Constantly wet chin
- Picking up food but not eating it
Teeth that are mallocluded are hard to miss so chances are your vet may not ask you to get your pig X-rayed.
Once the condition is determined, you should have the teeth filed down.
If the problem is serious or too far gone for this to work, you may have to do multiple visits until the issue goes away.
Tooth Loss and Damaged Teeth
If you give your cavy a diet that does not have sufficient vitamin C its teeth will get brittle with time.
The result will be broken teeth or complete tooth loss from minor bumps and accidents.
A healthy guinea pig will have no trouble growing replacements but a cavy that is deficient in this vital vitamin can also suffer from damaged gums.
Check if your cavy lost a tooth by checking its gums.
If you see a bloody hole where a tooth used to be, clean it out using a syringe filled with slightly salted water.
This will clean out the wound and prevent an infection from setting in.
However, if the tooth is intact but damaged or chipped, take your pet to the vet.
It may need to be extracted and you don’t have the tools, facility, and training to do it safely.
If the teeth start to grow inwards and touch the mouth then you need to book an appointment right away.
Is Sedation Necessary?
As a concerned pet owner, you will naturally be worried about your fur baby if it is undergoing a surgical procedure.
Most worry about sedation and whether their guinea pig can come out of it fine or not.
The good news is that most dental procedures for cavies don’t involve a general anesthetic.
Most vets don’t like sedating small animals because many don’t respond well to it. Some never wake up, especially if they are already near death’s door while healthier ones take some time to recover.
The latter can also lose their appetite post-procedure for a few days which is dangerous when their body needs nutrition the most.
Find a vet who is experienced in treating cavy dental problems without using anesthesia.
If yours has to have multiple treatments, the decision can literally save its life.
A good vet will file down the guinea pig’s teeth first and will only use mild anesthesia if the problem is serious enough for surgery.
The Perfect Guinea Pig Diet for a Strong and Happy Cavy
If you want your guinea pig to have strong and healthy teeth that can grow up easily when damaged, take a look at its diet first.
Cavies are herbivores, and as foragers, they instinctively adapt to the type of food they come across.
Since their teeth never stop growing, they need roughage that can wear them down and prevent dental issues.
Here are some things you need to include in their diets to make their teeth strong and to make them healthier:
Grass and Hay
Your fur babies should have a steady supply of hay and grass that they can munch on.
You can give them oaten, Timothy or grassy hay but not clover hay. That is high in protein and calcium but it can be a bit excessive for such small animals.
Plus, the hay should be fresh and dry so that your pets will dig in enthusiastically. If it is moldy it will not appeal to them and may even make them sick.
A steady supply of hay and grass is necessary because it encourages them to keep chewing. As mentioned before, this wears down their teeth to manageable levels.
Keep this in a tray or a hay basket in their cage or outside it where it cannot get contaminated with waste.
Leafy Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs
Leafy and green veggies are ideal for guinea pigs as they promote dental health.
Some safe ones you can give your pets include rocket, mint, kale, beetroot, snow peas, Brussels sprouts, and herbs such as rosemary, basil, and dill.
Also supplement their diet with fruits such as apples, mango, and papaya.
Just make sure that you take the seeds out first as they may be toxic to these small animals.
Sufficient Vitamin C
Just like we cannot synthesize vitamin D on our own, guinea pigs cannot process vitamin C. This is a trait that they share with all small mammals.
However, it is a critical nutrient for them is it strengthens their teeth and bones which may otherwise deteriorate with time.
Good sources of vitamin C include green veggies as well as orange, red and yellow capsicum.
This also includes fruits such as pineapple, berries, and kiwifruit all of which are rich in vitamin C. Feed them a blend of this diet a couple of times a week.
Pellets may be easy to provide and clean up but they should not be your pig’s main diet.
Some do contain adequate amounts of vitamin C, in a few months that supply will dissipate if the pellets are not consumed.
Needless to say, if you feed old pellets to your cavies, they will get sick.
Important Points about Guinea Pig Diets
Here are some things you should keep in mind when you are feeding your pet cavies:
- Remove uneaten food immediately after your guinea pigs are done feeding. The leftovers will rot and if your pets eat those, they will get sick.
- Make sure that the veggies, fruits, and herbs you give your guinea pigs have not been treated with harsh chemicals.
- Never feed your cavies grass clippings from your lawn. These can cause constipation.
- Introduce new food gradually to allow your cavies’ digestive system to adjust. Do this by adding a small amount in their food and increase it over 2 weeks.
- Don’t feed your guinea pigs food that can harm them such as grains, nuts, seeds, garden shrubs, avocado, onion grass, foxglove, and rhubarb. Plus don’t give them people food as they cannot digest it.
- Make sure your pets have fresh and clean water every day. Install a few water bottles around the cage if you have more than one guinea pig.
The bottom line is if you want to know if your cavies are healthy and happy, just take a look at their teeth.
If they are chipped, damaged, or loose, it may be time for a diet change.
Don’t experiment! Take them to a vet to determine the type of food you should give them for a healthy and long life.
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