Guinea Pig Dental Malocclusion: What Is It?
Malocclusion is a medical term that indicates a problem in the placement or alignment or your Guinea Pig’s teeth. For instance, you might notice your Guinea Pig has long teeth or that the molars are not properly placed, trapping your Guinea Pig’s teeth. It means that your piggy’s teeth aren’t properly aligned and interfere with the mouth working properly. This can occur with the front as well as with the back teeth. This is a very serious and common issue which can lead to severe problems, such as weight loss, apathy and even death.
Can Guinea Pigs have dental problems? If you are a Guinea pig owner, you probably know that they are pretty sensitive creatures. As loving as cuddly as they may be, they require a lot of work, and you have to look out for their health and the possible afflictions they may develop. Teeth should be always catered to and in focus for your Guinea Pig. Why? Well, first of all because Guinea Pig Teeth grow continually. Yep, you read that right!
So how do you see it happening? It’s not like you check your Guinea Pig’s mouth or teeth every day. True, you don’t do that, but you can watch out for some basic signs, and the first one is excess saliva. You can also look out for specific sounds that are actually teeth-rattling, which may sound at first as coming from the lungs. If your Guinea Pig has long teeth, especially long incisors in the front, this is a sign that you need to take them to the vet for a trimming.
Guinea Pig dental malocclusion can be discovered if you listen and watch closely. When you listen to these noises to see if they are actually teeth grinding because this can also be an expression of the pain your piggy feels. Other symptoms can include weakness, specific sounds, not passing any feces or just sitting in a corner and not moving.
Remember, they are very good at hiding their feelings and their pain, so if you have any hunch, please hold your Guinea closely under observation.
Whatever the case may be, the issue can be diagnosed by an intra-oral examination by an experienced exotic pig vet. It is useful for you to have any relevant information at hand though (weight fluctuation or any symptoms you may have noticed are very useful).
Guinea Pig teeth grow throughout their whole life, they don’t just stop, like human teeth… And when teeth overgrow, the teeth along with the jaws can become misaligned. This can easily cause chewing or swallowing difficulties and producing excess saliva.
If this happens to your Guinea Pig, you need to act quickly, because this can snowball into other issues as well. The most common is called malocclusion, and it can be defined as any deviation in the relationship or contact between the biting and chewing surfaces of the upper and lower teeth. This can quickly impact their lifestyle and affect their capacity to intake food and nutrients.
Have you ever wondered how many teeth do Cavies have?
Even though it may only look like your guinea pig only has has two upper and two lower incisors, they have many more! They have a full set of twenty teeth. Inside their tiny mouths, along with the incisors, are a pair of upper and lower premolars and three pairs of upper and lower molars.
Your piggy is using his teeth the best he can, even though it’s still possible for him to eat on one side, the problem can be quick to evolve on a different side.
Overgrown molars trapping the tongue or digging into the cheeks can cause drooling as a reaction. If you see your Guinea Pig drooling, go to your exotic vet immediately!
If your Guinea Pig has dental malocclusion, he will not be able to eat even if he has a healthy appetite. This will result in him dropping most of his food, partially masticated or even untouched. This will lead in a slight but steady weight loss, and it will be noticeable in a few weeks. More often than not, it will be accompanied by apathy and depression.
Combined with other signs, this is an indicator of dental issues, indicating an infection or abscess. It is necessary to consult your vet immediately, as this can be an indicator for other diseases as well.
This is an obvious sign of tooth problems. It means your Guinea Pig wants to eat and has a normal appetite, but there is something standing in the way and preventing him from properly masticating the food.
It's All About The Diet
We cannot isolate one reason for this happening, but diet usually plays a very big part in the appearance of guinea pig dental malocclusion. Even though we can have two Guinea Pigs eat exactly the same thing, and one of them having dental issues and the other not, diet is crucial when it comes to Guinea Pig dental problems. Insufficient hay is the number one reason for this issue, as hay help Guinea Pigs maintain their teeth. Remember, 80% of a Guinea Pig’s diet should consist of grass or hay, 10% should be pellets and 10% should be veggies. If you’re feeding your Guinea Pig 90% salad and 10% hay, this is a big problem.
Guinea Pig Dental Malocclusion Prevention
The wrong diet is the most common cause of dental problems in pet guinea pigs. Tweaking their diet and including the right food can have a major impact and prevent guinea pig dental malocclusion.
• A guinea pig should always have available a large amount of high-quality timothy hay. This will make your piggy chew and basically “grind” on the biting surface of the back teeth. Ever wonder why cucumber or salad isn’t such a good idea? It’s all about the texture. Hay brings a lot of benefits to your piggy. It also provides enough fiber to promote their gastrointestinal health, so the more reason to feed your piggy some!
• Fruit and vegetables with a softer texture are not as good at stimulating a guinea pig to chew. That “side-to-side” movement which happens every time they get their hay is just not going to happen with a cucumber.
Sadly, there are situations when prevention is not able to correct these problems, so the last resort for your piggy is a dental surgery. Guinea Pig dental malocclusion treatment sometimes implies surgery, if the issue is more complex, mostly affecting the molars. If the issue only affects the incisors (guinea pig has long teeth), a teeth trimming will do. is not such a complicated procedure and can be done in one day, but what happens after is actually critical.
You may need to syringe feed your piggy one or two weeks after the surgery. During this period, you will need to get your guinea pig reaccustomed to their normal diet, but also try to introduce a healthy diet into their routine.
Short-term goals expect accomplishment in a short period of time, such as trying to get a bill paid in the next few days.
What Should They Eat?
Think about it like this. What do you think Guinea Pigs ate before they became domesticated and our best friends? Do you think they had special food for PetSmart? Colored pellets? No! The wild ancestors of guinea pigs fed on tough grasses, leaves, and bark, and guinea pig dental problems or guinea pig dental malocclusion were prevented naturally. There were no vets or special products, but they maintained their teeth naturally. We need to respect that too because this is what a Guinea Pig needs. Grass chewing is hard work because the teeth are constantly being worn down by the combination of silica and fiber. In order to cope with the constant wearing away of the teeth, guinea pigs evolved those long front teeth called incisors and cheek teeth that grow continuously.
80% hay, 10% pellets, and 10% veggies, remember? This is the secret formula in preventing guinea pig dental malocclusion. However, do not deny food to your pig in this critical period just to make them eat hay. If they do not want to eat, they will not eat it.
Be patient and listen to your instincts and to your piggy’s needs! Guinea pig dental malocclusion surgery is a difficult and trying procedure and it is normal for you cavie to take a few weeks to become himself again.
Starving rodents to make them eat what they should is NOT an option. Unlike cats or dogs whose digestive system is laid out for irregular food intake, guinea pigs need regular feeding. They can lose weight pretty quickly, and you need to prevent that at all costs, especially in this critical period.