Your guinea pig has teeth that keep on growing throughout their entire life. It is essential that your cavy has some things to chew on so that they can keep their teeth in the right shape. They need this gnawing to grind their teeth down or they can become too long and a problem for your guinea pig.
When your guinea pigs teeth are too long they can actually have difficulty eating. Guinea pigs like to naturally chew. So you need to give them a variety of things that will both keep them occupied and prevent their teeth getting too long.
The Lowdown on Guinea Pig Teeth
If you look into the mouth of your guinea pig you might believe that they only have four teeth. Most obvious are the two upper incisors and two lower incisors. But the truth is that guinea pigs have 20 teeth. As well as the four incisors they have premolars, upper and lower, and a further three pairs of molars, both upper and lower.
You will not find canine teeth in your guinea pig. At the front they have a gap in their teeth known as the “diastema”. This means that there is a gap between two teeth and a lot of mammals have this including humans.
The front teeth of your guinea pig are very sharp. A lot of guinea pig owners will let their pets gnaw away at just about anything but we don’t recommend this. Like us, guinea pigs have white enamel on their teeth. It is hard to spot the molars in your guinea pigs mouth because they have fat pads covering them up.
Does your Guinea Pig have Healthy Teeth?
The top and bottom incisors that your guinea pig has can grow as long as 1.5 cm. Check regularly to see if your guinea pig eats normally, and is not having any difficulty with their food. If you look at the incisors then the top and the bottom should be the same in length and you should not see any signs of decay.
Inspecting the molar teeth of your guinea pig is not easy. They are far back in the mouth and the best way to have them examined is to visit your vet. Your vet will be experienced in this and will have the necessary tools to perform a thorough examination of your guinea pigs molars.
Guinea Pigs Teeth can break
Guinea pigs are champion chewers and sometimes they may get a little carried away and bite down too hard on something. There have been many stories of guinea pigs breaking teeth on their cage for example.
The problem that you have is that you will probably not even know that your beloved cavy has suffered in this way. Make a point of asking your vet to regularly check your guinea pigs teeth. If any are broken then the vet can file down other teeth around it so that everything is even. A serrated or sharp broken tooth can cut the inside of the mouth.
Make sure that your guinea pig is getting the right amount of vitamin C in their diet. If this is lacking then their teeth can become brittle and they may start to lose teeth. Any lost or broken teeth should grow back over time.
Common Problems with Guinea Pig Teeth
You need to be able to detect the signs of problems with your guinea pigs teeth. Here are some signs that you can look out for:
- When your guinea pig chews their food they show signs of pain
- Your guinea pig is hesitant to eat their food
- Your guinea pig just won’t eat
- There are sores, cuts or abscesses in your guinea pigs mouth
- Their teeth look longer than they should be
- Your guinea pig is losing weight
Keep a close eye on how much your guinea pig eats. You should have an idea about the amount of food that they consume each day, and if this changes and they eat less then teeth problems may exist.
If you have problems in your mouth, such as an abscess, sore or cut, then it will be painful for you to eat and it will put you off your food. The same is true for your guinea pig. We can tell others about these problems but your guinea pig can’t.
If your guinea pigs teeth are misaligned then they probably have molar malocclusion. It is possible to inherit this condition and it can also develop over time. Your guinea pigs teeth suffer from uneven wear and this can lead to the creation of spurs. Spurs can cut into your guinea pigs mouth and cause buccal ulceration.
A guinea pigs incessant chewing is a natural protector for them against malocclusion. So you need to do everything possible to help them to chew as often as possible. We will answer the question “what can I give my guinea pig to chew on?” below.
If you do everything possible to make sure that your guinea pig chews regularly but you suspect that they still have a malocclusion problem than take your pet to the vet. They can check the teeth and file down problem spurs etc to prevent any damage to the mouth.
It is possible for the roots of the teeth to grow into the jaw or push up too much. This is not an easy thing to spot and sometimes it is best to look for symptoms such as the bulging or tearing of your guinea pigs eyes.
If you suspect an elongated roots problem visit the vet as soon as possible. Your vet will x-ray the teeth and this will show if the problem exists or not. If the problem is at an early stage then the vet can use a chin sling which attaches to the jaw using Velcro straps.
What can I give my Guinea Pig to chew on?
The first thing that you can do to encourage your guinea pig to chew as much as possible and avoid dental problems is to ensure that their diet contains chewable items. Your guinea pig should be eating pellets every day and you can add some vegetables here which need crunching before eating.
Another good reason to add these crunchy vegetables is the vitamin C that they will provide. So we are talking about broccoli stems, fresh carrots and other vegetables that need a good crunch. Each day you can give your guinea pig a small amount of these vegetables.
Hay is an important part of your guinea pigs diet so go for the more crunchy type such as alfafa or Timothy hay. Although this hay is not as crunchy as the vegetables it will provide a crunch challenge for your guinea pig. Give them this type of hay as often as you like.
Wood and Cardboard
You want to ensure that your guinea pig has the right combination of diet and chew toys so that their teeth are as healthy as possible. It is not necessary for you to spend a great deal of money on chew toys as your guinea pig will be just as happy chewing on wood and cardboard items such as the rolls used for toilet paper.
If you are going to give your guinea pig wood to chew on then make sure it is untreated. Sticks or blocks are fine but you need to avoid cedar and pine wood as they emit strong odors which can actually cause damage to your guinea pigs lungs. When you give your guinea pig cardboard be sure to check for any adhesives or other toxic materials first.
Guinea Pig Chew Sticks and Toys
There is a large range of guinea pig chew toys available. Most of these are made from wood that will not harm your pet and keep them chewing for a long time. You will also see a variety of guinea pig chew sticks available. The chew sticks are a perfect fit for your cavies mouth.
The aim of any guinea pig chew toy is to rub against their teeth for grinding down and getting rid of any debris. You can find toys that look like fruit and vegetables and these will certainly interest your guinea pig.
Check to see what materials the toy consists of. The more complex toys often have a combination of wood, soft loofa and sisal. These are all fine and will provide variety for your cavy. There are guinea pig toys available which you can hang on the side of the cage too. Toys that contain wooden balls that move around will keep your pet amused.
When it comes to chew sticks then a favorite will be those made from edible bamboo. These have a sweet taste that your guinea pig will love. Chew sticks come in different packages and normally you will find around 10 – 15 sticks in a packet.
You can also get rice sticks for your guinea pig. These are very crispy and have a great texture and size that your guinea pig will enjoy. Rice sticks have corn added and do a good job cleaning their teeth.
There are organic wood sticks that you can buy for your guinea pig too. It’s not difficult to find apple wood sticks that have a nice sweet taste for your cavy. These are usually available in packages by weight such as 100 grams or 500 grams.
How about giving your guinea pig a chew toy that also doubles up as a hiding place? Well it is possible to get larger chew toys in the shape of logs and so on that your cavy can chew on and also use as a hideaway as well. If you are going to get a chew toy like this then look for clips on it so that it can attach to your guinea pigs cage.
Make your own Guinea Pig Chew Toys
We have already mentioned that you can give your guinea pig cardboard items such as paper towel rolls for them to chew on. Try not to give your cavy cardboard that has a lot of ink on it as this can be harmful.
If you are someone that likes DIY then you may have some wood available that you can cut up into small blocks for your guinea pig to chew on. Make sure that any wood you give your cavy doesn’t have any paint or any other kind of sealant or preservative on it.