Guinea Pig Dental Health
One of the most common health problems we see in guinea pigs at Aurora Animal Hospital is overgrown teeth. Guinea pigs have continuously growing teeth (all molars and incisors) so dental disease is common when they grow incorrectly. The teeth can continue to grow enough to bridge over and trap the tongue or push through the socket as they extend. To prevent the teeth from overgrowing guinea pigs need to chew almost constantly, which files their teeth down against each other to maintain the appropriate length and angle. The teeth are positioned at about a 35 degree angle rather than flat like human teeth. Chew sticks/blocks only help with the front incisor teeth but do not reach the molars, which are the more common problem area.
The best way to keep the molars in check is with a readily available supply of hay that requires a lot of chewing. This is the natural diet of guinea pigs and is what their teeth were designed for. Pellets provide good supplemental nutrition but grass hay, like timothy hay, should make up at least 80% of the diet. Hay is critical for appropriate dental and digestive health and should be available at all times. Learn more about caring for guinea pigs here.
If the teeth start to overgrow they can get sharp edges against the side of the tongue causing pain, or be uneven which causes pain during chewing. The most common symptom is decreased appetite, or choosing to eat foods that are easier to chew and avoiding hay. You cannot see the molars when you look in the mouth because of their ample cheek tissue and small mouth opening. A special tool is needed to examine guinea pig teeth appropriately.
Once the teeth are abnormal they will need to be filed down to appropriate length and angle under brief anesthesia. Often the teeth can be corrected and normal appetite and eating habits resume once the source of pain is addressed. If the teeth are very abnormal they may never grow completely normally again and require several teeth trimmings per year. If you have more questions about obtaining or seeking care for a pet guinea pig do not hesitate to contact us at Aurora Animal Hospital.