The ultimate guide to a guinea pig’s teeth.
Did you know guinea pigs have teeth that constantly grow for their entire lives? It’s true! Because of this, it’s important to understand why and how to keep your guinea pig’s teeth healthy. This guide will take you through all the basics you need to know to keep your guinea pig’s teeth in great shape!
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Basics of Guinea Pig Teeth
Before we dive into how to keep your guinea pig’s teeth healthy, I want to explain exactly what’s going on in your pet’s mouth!
Your guinea pig has four incisors in its mouth – otherwise known as its front teeth. These are the teeth that you would be able to see if you looked into your guinea pig’s mouth right now. These are the teeth that most often cause issues for your guinea pig because they are what are used to bite into things.
Your guinea pig also has molars in the back of its mouth. These are not visible without special tools to open your guinea pig’s mouth. If you ever suspect your piggy has problems with their back teeth, a vet will definitely be needed to figure out what’s going on.
All the teeth your guinea pig has are constantly growing. This is one of the things that makes them a rodent. And they actually grow pretty fast! A full guinea pig incisor can regrow in about a week.
Since these teeth are always growing, they need to be constantly worn down to keep them a good length. If the teeth get too long, your guinea pig eventually won’t be able to eat. It can also cause other problems in the mouth and make your guinea pig very uncomfortable.
You don’t have to worry about your guinea pig’s teeth being painful. Since their teeth are always growing, they don’t actually have a nerve in them. That means your guinea pig doesn’t feel anything when its teeth are wearing down.
How to Keep Your Guinea Pig’s Teeth Healthy
Keeping your guinea pig’s teeth in good shape is actually pretty easy in most cases. The secret to healthy teeth is unlimited access to good-quality grass hay!
A guinea pig’s teeth get worn down by chewing on things. While there are a few different things you can give your piggy to help keep their teeth worn down, lots of hay is the absolute most important. Orchard grass or timothy hay are the most common types.
You might think hay cubes would be better than loose hay since they are harder – but it’s actually the opposite. Loose hay has more fiber and chewing the stalks is much better for their teeth and their digestion than hay cubes. Cubes should never be a guinea pig’s only source of hay!
Guinea pigs should always have access to hay because it’s important to their digestive system – hay should be at least 80% of a guinea pig’s diet. They need to be eating almost constantly to keep their stomachs moving to stay healthy. This constant eating of hay is also great for wearing down their teeth! Make sure your guinea pig has plenty of hay at all times and you’ll avoid a lot of potential problems.
If you need a recommendation for a fantastic brand of hay for your guinea pigs, I use and love Small Pet Select hay!
The other items you can give your piggy to help keep their teeth worn down are chew toys and wooden hides. Toys can be great because they provide enrichment for your piggy and can give them something to do when they don’t want to be eating hay.
Some guinea pigs absolutely love toys, but some of them won’t touch them at all. This is why it’s so important to give hay to your guinea pigs.
I did want to mention that you don’t need to provide your guinea pig with mineral blocks or salt licks. They won’t chew on these and they are not something your guinea pig needs in their diet.
How to Check Your Guinea Pig’s Teeth
I think it’s important to know how to check your guinea pig’s teeth to spot any tooth problems early. I include a tooth check in with my weekly health check.
As I mentioned before, you won’t be able to see your guinea pig’s back teeth. So really, you’ll just be doing a check of your guinea pig’s front teeth.
The way I do this is to place my guinea pig on a table that I can kneel in front of. It’s easier to see the teeth if you can get a bit lower than your piggy.
I then gently use my thumbs to lift my guinea pig’s lips on either side of their mouth at the same time. This will show you their top front teeth.
Sometimes I’m able to also see the bottom teeth when I do this if my piggy cooperates. If they don’t then I do the same thing, except gently pulling down the bottom lip.
Your guinea pig is not necessarily going to like you looking in their mouth, so it may take a couple of tries before you’re actually able to get a good look. Keep trying! The more often you do this, the more comfortable both you and your guinea pig will get with this process.
When I do the tooth check I basically am just making sure everything looks normal and for any signs of dental disease, which we’ll talk about now!
Dental Problems to Watch Out For
I want to cover the most common dental issues with you so you know exactly what to look for if you think something might be off with your guinea pig. Being able to spot any dental issues is important because you never want your guinea pig to not be able to eat.
If you do suspect your piggy has a dental issue, it’s important to get them to the vet so the issue can be fixed. Your vet will be able to get a closer look at your guinea pig’s teeth and figure out whether they need a tooth trim or other correct treatment to fix the issue.
This is a fancy word for your guinea pig’s incisors not lining up.
If you looked in your guinea pig’s mouth right now, you’d see two front teeth on the top and two no the bottom. These four teeth should also line up with each other – the two top teeth should meet straight with the bottom teeth.
A lot of times with guinea pigs, malocclusion is caused by poor genetics. Some breeders don’t take much care when choosing what guinea pigs to breed together, and it can result in health issues for the babies.
It can also happen if something happens to a tooth or your piggy’s jaw. This could be from an injury or other health problem. When these teeth don’t line up it can cause a lot of problems for your pet.
First off, the teeth aren’t going to wear correctly. As your piggy bites and chews with misaligned teeth, the teeth aren’t going to wear evenly across. They’ll probably wear down at an angle, with some parts getting too long and other parts getting too short.
The other issue with teeth that don’t align is that it can make it really hard for your guinea pig to eat. You might notice some loss of appetite. Teeth that are wearing at an angle can get sharp points that can poke your piggy’s mouth and tongue when they try to eat.
Your guinea pig will need their teeth trimmed by a vet to fix this issue. If your guinea pig’s teeth will always be out of line, then they will likely need tooth trims on a regular basis to keep them healthy.
Overgrown teeth can make it very hard for your guinea pig to eat or drink – or even to close its mouth all the way.
Teeth usually get overgrown if the guinea pig isn’t eating enough hay or if they have another health issue that makes them not want to eat. You might see signs of weight loss as well. Their teeth will just keep growing and growing if this problem isn’t addressed, so it’s better to get it taken care of before it turns into a major issue.
Again, at some point, the teeth will be too long for your guinea pig to be able to eat. This can cause other health issues since guinea pigs have sensitive digestive systems. Feeding softer foods can help keep your guinea pig eating if it is having tooth issues.
If the teeth are left to grow for too long, they can get so long that they poke into the skin of your guinea pig’s mouth. You definitely don’t want that to happen – it’s painful for your guinea pigs and causes other serious problems like infections or tooth root abscesses.
The treatment for overgrown teeth is having your vet trim your guinea pig’s teeth. This is the only way to treat overgrown teeth, but it’s usually a pretty simple process. It’s also important to address why the teeth were able to get too long in the first place so it doesn’t happen again!
Sometimes one of your guinea pig’s front teeth might break off. This can be really scary when it happens, especially if you’ve never seen it before.
This can happen if your guinea pig chews on something they shouldn’t – like the bars of their cage or something else metal. It can also happen if they have an improper diet and are missing the key nutrients they need. The guinea pig might not be getting enough vitamin c.
Guinea pigs can find a surprising number of ways to break their teeth. For example, I had one piggy that loved to drag her ceramic food dish around with her teeth. That resulted in broken upper teeth several times.
The treatment for this depends on how severe the break is. Usually, I just monitor the teeth over the next week or so to make sure the broken tooth is growing back in and the teeth are still lined up and wearing down correctly. If they are, then I just make sure the piggy has plenty of hay and soft foods, and continue to keep a close eye on the teeth until they are back to normal.
However, if the teeth are not lining up or wearing down correctly after a broken front tooth, or if there are any sharp edges, then a vet visit is in order to get them trimmed up and back into good shape.
Final Thoughts on Guinea Pig Teeth
When you are feeding plenty of hay and checking your guinea pig’s dental health on a regular basis, you will be much more likely to avoid any teeth issues with your guinea pig. I challenge you to go check your guinea pig’s teeth today!
Find Out More About Guinea Pigs:
- What Do Guinea Pigs Eat? – A Guide to a healthy diet.
- Daily Veggies to Feed a Guinea pig
- What Size Cage to Guinea Pigs REALLY Need?
- Why Does My Guinea Pig Poop SO MUCH?