Guinea pigs are natural “foodies,” and when they’re not sleeping or playing, chances are they’ll be chomping away on hay, pellets, veggies or whatever other food they can find. That’s why their dental health is so important.
Besides two upper and lower incisors, which are a guinea pig’s most prominent teeth, these creatures house 16 additional teeth in their little mouths in the form of upper and lower premolars and molars.
As guinea pigs are herbivorous, they have no need for canine teeth, and hence, don’t have any.
If you’re going to have a guinea pig as a pet, it’s good to know a few facts about their teeth so you can help keep them in good health.
Unlike other rodents who have yellowish teeth, healthy guinea pig teeth should be white, so if your piggy’s teeth are discolored, something’s not right! Guinea pigs have open-rooted teeth, meaning they grow continuously.
As overgrown teeth can cut into your piggy’s mouth and cheeks, he’ll need plenty of roughage and fiber in his diet to wear his teeth down so they stay a good length.
A piggy’s incisors are quite sharp and your pet will undoubtedly use them consistently to nibble on anything he can get ahold of – including your finger!
These teeth can grow up to 1.5 centimeters in length – making them an impressive sight for such a small creature.
With such long teeth, there’s always the risk of your piggy biting on something hard (like a wire cage) and breaking a tooth. A broken tooth is not only painful, it can hinder your piggy’s ability to chew.
Do Guinea Pigs Break Their Teeth?
Like most creatures, it is possible for a guinea pig to break one or several of its teeth. A piggy may fracture a tooth by biting into something hard like the wires of its metal cage or an inappropriate toy.
A fight with another animal, a hard fall or other type of accident could result in a broken tooth as can improper trimming of your piggy’s teeth. If your guinea pig needs its teeth trimmed, it’s best to have this task done by your vet.
As tooth health is impacted by your guinea pig’s diet, malnutrition could result in weak teeth that are more prone to breakage.
Fractured teeth can be harmful to a guinea pig as the jagged edges can puncture its cheeks or cause sores and lesions in its mouth.
These wounds pose a risk of infection. If your piggy suddenly stops eating or starts behaving erratically, it could be due to dental issues that require veterinary treatment.
Treatment of a guinea pig’s broken tooth (or teeth) will depend on the damage. For surface breakage that results in jagged teeth, your vet may opt to trim or grind these edges down, so they pose no harm to your pet.
If the fracture extends to the gum line, your vet may need to extract the tooth to prevent infection.
To maintain tooth symmetry – which is extremely important for the health and function of a guinea pig’s teeth – your vet will need to extract the same tooth from the other side of your piggy’s jaw. This dental work is done under anesthesia.
What Do You Do If Your Guinea Pig Breaks A Tooth?
Even with good care, there’s always the risk of a guinea pig breaking a tooth. Accidents happen, and piggies themselves are often the cause of tooth breakage due to chewing on things they have no business chewing on.
The good news is that a healthy guinea pig will have no problem growing back a lost tooth if it’s knocked out or extracted.
As lost or damaged teeth have an impact on your pet’s feeding and health, you’ll need to monitor your guinea pig carefully to ensure he’s eating normally and not in pain, during the interim period of growing a new tooth.
If you suspect your piggy has broken a tooth, contact your vet. Initiate a video call with a veterinarian to describe your pet’s symptoms and the circumstances that may have led to tooth breakage.
If you have pieces of your piggy’s broken tooth or the entire tooth, if it has fallen out, you can show these to your vet so he can advise you on what to do. Your vet may recommend bringing your piggy in for a full dental exam.
For the most part, you can expect your piggy to grow back a lost tooth within a few weeks. Even so, guinea pig tooth problems shouldn’t be taken lightly as your pet will undoubtedly suffer consequences from these dental issues.
Jagged teeth can cause painful mouth wounds if your piggy bites down too hard and broken teeth can make it difficult for your piggy to eat.
You may need to hand feed your piggy to keep him from starving. If a knocked-out tooth left a bloody hole, you’ll have to disinfect the area daily with a water/salt solution using a small syringe to prevent infection.
How Do You Tell If Your Guinea Pig Has Tooth Problems?
In addition to broken teeth, guinea pigs are prone to several other dental issues that can affect their health and wellbeing.
Some piggies are born with jaw problems or oddly shaped teeth that affect their ability to grind their food. Guinea pigs are also prone to abscesses, elongation of tooth roots, malocclusion and gum disease.
Anorexia (severe loss of appetite) is a tell-tale sign that a guinea pig may be having problems with its teeth.
Tooth pain or discomfort may discourage your guinea pig from eating, even in small quantities. It doesn’t take long for a fasting guinea pig to lose weight and suffer malnutrition. If your guinea pig hasn’t touched his food for one or two days, notify your vet.
Blood coming from your piggy’s mouth or tooth is another indication of dental issues. A broken tooth may bleed or your piggy may have bitten into its cheek with a broken tooth’s jagged edges, causing bleeding.
Loss of appetite, weight loss, painful chewing and tooth or mouth bleeding are all signs of dental problems that need veterinary treatment.
Unlike people, guinea pigs can grow back teeth to replace the ones that are broken or lost. A broken tooth, however, should be taken seriously as it can impact your piggy’s health very quickly. Healthy teeth are essential to a guinea pig’s survival as well as its quality of life and happiness. Dental problems should be reported to your vet right away for immediate treatment. By scheduling routine dental checkups for your guinea pig, you can help it maintain optimal oral health.