Guinea pigs’ teeth grow throughout their life, so if they don’t have enough to chew the teeth grow too big. Dental problems are common (de Knegt 2012). Sometimes the incisor teeth don’t fit together properly – malocclusion. More commonly the cheek teeth are not worn down enough and the back end of the tongue can get stuck in the teeth causing difficulties in chewing and swallowing (Capello 2006). Once the guinea pig stops eating, or eats very little, its whole gut slows down – which is a veterinary emergency in itself.
Symptoms of tooth problems are slobbering, difficulty chewing, weight loss, digestive problems and failing to eat. Because guinea pigs are so small, their teeth are difficult to see and they may need a light anaesthetic so that a vet can get a an Xray and provide treatment. It’s really important that the vet doesn’t miss the cheek teeth, as can sometimes happen. After treatment, the guinea pig may still refuse to eat, or fail to eat enough to wear down its teeth, because its mouth hasn’t healed, so it is important to speak to your vet about this possibility. Painkillers may be needed.
Tooth problems usually reoccur unless there are changes made to put more fibre into the diet (Dupont 2005). Vitamin C deficiency can cause tooth pain and adding fresh vegetables to chew helps wear down the teeth (Rhody, 2014). Increase the provision of good dry Timothy or meadow hay and also give some chew sticks. Read What should I feed my guinea pigs.
Capello, V., (2006), ‘Diagnosis and treatment of dental disease in small rodents,’ Proceedings of the North American Veterinary Conference, vol 20, 1707-1710
Capello, V., (2009) ‘Diagnosis and Treatment of Dental Disease in Guinea pigs and Chinchillas,’ Proceeding of the SEVC
Southern European Veterinary Conference 2009. Available at www.ivis.org/proceedings/sevc/2009/eng/Capello1.pdf Accessed 3 January 2014
Dupont, G., (2005), ‘Dentistry in exotic animals in private practice,’ Proceedings of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association 2005. Available at www.ivis.org/proceedings/wsava/2005/35.pdf Accessed 3 January 2014
De Knegt, s., (2012), ‘Welfare assessment in young pet rabbits and guinea pigs in the Netherlands,’ Dissertation Utrecht University, 1-67
Rhody, J. (2014),’Vitamin C supplements for guinea pigs,’ in ed. Brown, S., Small Animal Health Series, Available at www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?A=2750 Accessed 3 January 2014.