Dental care is very important for both humans and animals. The big misconception about dogs, for example, is that their breath should be stinky. Stinky breath usually means that there’s a problem with either stomach or teeth. For guinea pigs, the same applies. Guinea pigs use their teeth to grind some hay or any food you give to them and sometimes, their teeth can run into a problem. While it may seem that guinea pigs have a total of 4 teeth, two at the bottom and two at the top, the situation is different.
In total, guinea pigs have twenty teeth, which is twelve less than humans. If that’s something you didn’t know, well… this article is here to inform you about guinea pigs and their teeth. We’ll talk about everything from typical dental problems to their teeth in general and if you’re willing to learn something new, grab a cup of tea and let’s start!
Guinea Pig Teeth: What You Need to Know
As we mentioned before, guinea pigs have 20 teeth. The middle two at the front and the bottom are incisors. Other teeth include premolars and three pairs of lower and upper molars. Unlike many predator animals out there, guinea pigs don’t have canines, meaning that they can’t slaughter an animal like a lion would do. This goes hand to hand with guinea pigs, though. As they’re herbivorous animals, they don’t need two pairs of canines.
Between their upper and lower incisors, they have a tiny gap. This gap is called a diastema. Humans also have diastemas and it’s completely normal. If you’ve seen someone having a diastema between the front teeth, that’s completely normal. Back to guinea pigs, it’s important to mention that their teeth are open-rooted, meaning that they’ll grow indefinitely.
Preventing their teeth from growing further is simple – get some food! When guinea pigs chew, they don’t only remedy this problem but also take care of their dental health, which is crucial for an animal like this.
Still, their front teeth are VERY sharp and can easily chew down things like your furniture. That being said, don’t let your guinea pig chew everything it sees. It’s important to mention that guinea pig’s teeth should be white, which represents a healthy color. In the next section, we’ll see how you can check your guinea pig’s teeth for potential problems.
Guinea Pig Dental Care
Checking Guinea Pig’s Teeth
Let’s see what you should take into an account when examining your guinea pig’s teeth. First of all, you want to take a look at its incisors. Although they look very small, they’re in fact the biggest teeth in your guinea pig’s mouth. With the ability to grow up to 1.5 centimeters, their roots are located deep inside guinea pig’s mouth. If you move its mouth a little bit, you can see the whole incisors, which is a great sign. When a guinea pig eats normally and shows no signs of appetite loss, its teeth should be worn down with the food.
However, incisors should be intact and their length should match. Guinea pigs also have molars and these teeth are a lot harder to come by. Not only they’re far inside the mouth but they are also very small. Examining the molars by yourself is probably not the smartest idea. On top of that, some amount of food can get there and it’s even harder to see them. If you really want to check the molars, visiting your vet is the best bet. Did you notice that rhyme? That’s because we’re giving you the right info!
Jokes aside, molars should be definitely examined by a vet. With the special tools that they have, examining should be a piece of cake and any needed intervention can be done in a matter of seconds. As we mentioned, guinea pigs love to chew everything, similarly to other rodents. However, guinea pig’s teeth are sometimes fragile and can break when they chew something hard, like a cage, for example. This is why checking your guinea pig’s mouth often is imperative.
In case it has a broken tooth, you’ll need to take it to the vet. The vet will determine if they need to do something and in most cases, this tooth will need to be trimmed or filled to be even again. Sharp edges of the teeth can damage the guinea pig’s mouth and lead to some serious trouble.
What If Your Guinea Pig Refuses to Eat?
The experienced guinea pig owners know that guinea pigs sometimes just won’t eat. One time, they’re full and they can’t take a single bite. Other times, it may be a digestion problem or simply a dental problem. In the case of digestion problem, the symptoms can almost always be seen. However, dental problems can be latent as guinea pigs don’t flinch when they feel the pain in their mouth.
When your tooth hurts, do you like eating? Guinea pigs neither!
In the case its appetite ceases, you should always consider dental problems. It can go so serious that guinea pigs can develop anorexia. In guinea pigs, anorexia represents a severe loss of appetite. The loss of appetite leads to weight loss and if there aren’t enough quality nutrients to keep your guinea pig alive and healthy… well, you know what that means!
If your guinea pig refuses to eat for a couple of days, taking it to a vet is very important. In fact, if it doesn’t eat a day or two, it’s a reason for concern. The vet will then determine if your guinea pig is having digestion, dental or any other problems. In every case, the vet will be able to precisely tell you what’s going on.
What Dental Problems Can Guinea Pigs Get?
Unfortunately for guinea pigs, they can suffer from various dental problems. But, on the brighter side, there are only a couple of them which are the most common and most of them can be fixed relatively easy. Here they are:
1. Tooth Loss and Broken Teeth
As mentioned earlier, guinea pigs can break their teeth, much like humans. In humans, breaking a tooth is much harder and it requires some serious pressure. In guinea pigs, though, it’s very easy if the diet isn’t good and is lacking vitamin C. If you thought that only vitamin D and calcium are great for your bones, let me tell you that vitamin C works like a charm! That’s why incorporating a bit more vitamin C in your guinea pig’s diet is crucial. However, let’s not blame the diet completely, as broken teeth can be an effect of the injury.
If your guinea pig is healthy, both broken or lost tooth shouldn’t be a problem. It will easily grow again. However, some problems can occur and it can start to grow in a different direction, pushing other teeth, which can be very painful for guinea pigs. When you see a lost tooth, examine its root. If there’s blood inside, be sure to flush it out and disinfect it. A tooth infection is very dangerous and can produce abscess, which can make your guinea pig’s mouth swollen.
The broken tooth can be equally dangerous. A sharp or ragged tooth can injure your guinea pig’s mouth and you should visit the vet immediately.
2. Elongated Roots
The rooted teeth of guinea pigs sound like an ideal situation. They grow bigger by the day, much like in rabbits. But, guinea pigs can suffer from a condition in which their roots are elongated. When the root is elongated, it means that it’s pushed up, which can make the tooth grow into the jaw. The worst thing is that the oral examination can’t bring up any results. Instead, you can feel it under the palm of your finger. In the bottom teeth, touch the jawline and you should feel bumps.
For the upper teeth, it’s quite easy to notice it by examining the guinea pig’s eyes. If they’re teary, it can definitely indicate that teeth are making the problem. Thankfully, you can still do an X-ray to fully determine if you’re right. This problem, in most cases, can’t be fixed directly. But, if it’s an early stage of the condition, a vet might give you a chin sling. It’s sort of a contraption that’s attached around the jaw with some straps.
Last, but not least, we have a very common condition called malocclusion. Malocclusion is a state in which guinea pig’s teeth are overgrown and not worn properly. Thankfully, it can easily be spotted by looking at the front teeth. However, while it may seem that only front teeth are maloccluded, in most cases, the back teeth are also in a trouble. If not treated on time, malocclusion can produce some serious problems for your guinea pig.
For example, the teeth can deteriorate over time, alongside the ability to chew. Without chewing stuff, guinea pig can’t receive a healthy amount of wear that keeps the teeth healthy.
Malocclusion can also interfere with the guinea pig’s teeth growth. In most cases, top molars will grow towards the cheeks, while the bottom molars usually grow in the direction of the tongue. This condition causes injuries, infections, and sores in guinea pig’s mouth, which can be a very unpleasant experience. Coupled with the fact that your guinea pig will lose weight if it doesn’t eat properly, the lack of various macronutrients and micronutrients will definitely take a toll on the poor guinea pig.
Here are some signs which can determine if your guinea pig has a problem:
- Sudden weight loss
- Guinea pig refuses to eat
- Difficulties with chewing or chewing on one side of the mouth
- The mouth of the guinea pig is constantly open
- Discharge from nose or eyes
If you notice some of these, be sure to visit the vet as soon as possible. The vet will then take your guinea pig to an X-ray and determine the cause, as well as the presence of the problem. Usually, maloccluded teeth can be easily spotter but X-ray is here to help reduce the problem. The maloccluded teeth will be filled and if malocclusion is severe, your guinea pig will need dental work every month to get the job done.
Recommended Food for Guinea Pig’s Dental Health
Diet, in most cases, is the number one reason why your guinea pig’s teeth are beaten. That is why a proper diet is very important, for both guinea pigs and humans. People can’t grasp just how healthier we can be if we stick to healthy food and evade sugars and fats altogether. Back on the topic, guinea pigs will need a LOT of fibers in their diet, a bit fewer calories, and some high-quality grass and hay every day. While the quality diet can’t guarantee that your guinea pig will be always healthy and without problems, it can decrease the chances of any problems by a huge percent.
What about some pellets then?
Well, we talked about it before – some are good and some are bad for your guinea pig. If you manage to snatch a good deal at your local pet store and get some quality pellets, there you go! Pelleted food will often be designed in a way that complements hay and grass thus helping your guinea pig to wear down its teeth. Some tree branches are also great but have in mind that some of them are full of chemicals and pesticides. Aside from that, you can always include some salt or mineral blocks.
Salt blocks will give your guinea pig a healthy amount of calcium and other minerals, as well as vitamins if you’re planning to buy enriched salt blocks. If you’re not sure what salt blocks to give it, you can always talk with the vet about that.
Teeth are very important organs in your guinea pig’s body and as such, they should be treated well and with care. If you notice that your guinea pig has some problems with its teeth, you should definitely take it to the nearest vet. Be sure to examine the teeth once a month or even better, take it to the vet for a preventive examination.
It’s better to detect potential problems on time, than having to put your guinea pig through tremendous pain. Now that you know everything about guinea pig’s teeth, get your furry buddy and examine it!