Guinea Pig Dental Care
The need-to-know on your guinea pigs chompers!
Guinea pig dental care
Did you know a guinea pig has 20 teeth! These teeth are ‘open rooted’ which means they continue to grow continuously for their entire life!
Because a guinea pig's teeth are always growing, they need constant care to ensure that the teeth don't grow too long and cause them difficulty eating. If the teeth grow too long, your guinea pig wont be able to get food into his mouth, which may lead to starvation.
Perform weekly health checks!
Keep an eye on your guinea pig's eating habits. Changes in his eating habits, or not eating at all, may be caused by tooth problems and overgrowth. When you perform a weekly health check, check that the teeth are wearing evenly, there are no cracks, that the top and bottom front teeth meet in the middle, and that the teeth aren't discoloured. Their tooth enamel is white in colour and their front teeth can be sharp! Both front and back teeth can become overgrown, but it is more common in the front.
Lastly, weigh your guinea pig on a regular basis. If your guinea pig's weight starts to drop, there could be an issue with his teeth that is preventing him from eating properly.
Preventing tooth overgrowth
The key to good tooth health in a guinea pig is CHEWING! Tooth overgrowth may not always be 100% prevented, but there are a few tips to keep their teeth short and healthy as best as possible. Regular clipping is not recommended as this is stressful to the guinea pig and may result in eating difficulties if done too often, this is however an available option if the teeth become too long and are unable to be worm down naturally. Natural ways include providing things to chew and gnaw on like hardwood tree branches (untreated) such as apple wood, hickory wood, maple wood or oak. Offering chew toys and chew sticks made for guinea pigs. Providing mineral blocks and salt licks that are available specifically for guinea pigs and are also high in vitamins and minerals. Feeding hay cubes and compressed pellets for guinea pigs. And adding things to their diet such as carrots, cabbage, apples and fresh hay.
Guinea pigs are herbivores that like to spend many hours a day foraging and grazing on grass in small herds. For general health and gastrointestinal health it is important to provide sufficient fibre in their diet. Providing grass/grass hay is key in providing the ‘complete’ diet and helps to encourage chewing to assist in teeth care. Some grass examples are Timothy, Oaten, Wheaten, Pasture, Paddock, Meadow or Ryegrass hays and your guinea pig should have access to one or a few of these at all times. Guinea pigs should not be fed Lucerne (alfalfa) or Clover hays as they are too high in protein and calcium. Make sure your guinea pig has access to clean fresh water at all times, your guinea pig will drink a surprisingly high amount of water and should be supplied through a number of guinea pig water bottle feeders in various areas of their enclosure, do not supply 1 large bowl or bucket of water that your guinea pig could fall into.
Fresh leafy green vegetables & herbs may be fed for variety and enrichment. Some examples of these include broccoli, cabbage, celery, carrot tops, bok choy/other Asian greens, dark leafed lettuce varieties, parsley, dandelion, coriander, basil, dill, mint.
Did you know?
Guinea pigs cannot synthesise Vitamin C, which means they can’t make any themselves, however it is required in their diet and is great for keeping their teeth strong and healthy. Vitamin C is usually supplied sufficiently by the fresh leafy green veggies, but it is advised to supplement this with small quantities of vitamin C rich foods such as citrus or kiwi fruit.
If you need to change your guinea pig's diet, please make sure you introduce any changes gradually over a few weeks.
The following foods should not be offered to guinea pigs: cereals, grains, nuts, seeds, corn, beans, peas, breads, biscuits, sweets, sugar, breakfast cereals, chocolate, buttercups, garden shrubs, lily of the valley, onion grass, onions, potato tops, raw beans; beetroot, spinach and rhubarb leaves; pickled foods or any bulk plants (may cause digestive problems).