Pet Health Wellness Wednesday

Pet Dental Health: Dogs,Cats and Ferrets aren’t the Only Ones with Teeth


'Guinea Pig teeth' photo (c) 2011, energy2024 - license:

Dogs, cats and ferrets aren’t the only ones who have to worry about dental care. A lot of our other pets have teeth which need to be kept in mind when it’s comes to keeping them in good health.

Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats and chinchillas have teeth that are different from our and our pet carnivores’ teeth, they continue growing throughout their life. To stay healthy their continuously growing teeth need to stay at an appropriate length in order for them to eating properly.


How do you keep their teeth length in check? Diet plays a big part.. Eating the appropriate foods allows the teeth to wear in a normal way due to the mechanical action of the teeth chewing the food.

In rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas all their teeth- incisors, premolars and molars, continue to grow through their life. This means they need a diet that includes a fair amount of roughage like hay that gets chewed by their back teeth. A diet of just pellets doesn’t provide enough chewing action to keep the teeth in check.

Mice, rats, hamsters and gerbils have incisors that continue to grow through their life, but their premolars and molars don’t grow. The varied diet they need helps keep those incisors at the right length.

''Stelllllllaaaaaaa!'' photo (c) 2009, Carly Lesser &  Art Drauglis - license:


One thing about rabbits and rodents, they chew on anything. It’s a natural inclination they have because of their continuously growing teeth. If you don’t provide objects for them to chew on, they’ll chew on whatever they can find- their cage, their bowls, your molding; your couch. To keep them healthy and protect your stuff, it’s a good idea to provide them with some safe chewies. You can find a variety in your local pet stores and online*. Keep in mind  that many items only allow your pet to chew with their front teeth. Since rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas need to chew on their back teeth too, be sure to offer safe branches and twigs for them.

Dental Problems

Malocclusion is probably the most common problem you’ll see. This is when the teeth don’t meet like they should and often results in overgrown teeth making it hard for your pet to eat. This can happen for a few reasons. The teeth or jaw may not have developed like normal so the teeth aren’t lined up as they should be. An injury to the tooth can affect how it grows as can an infection.

Cavities and periodontal disease can also occur in rabbits and rodents. These might not be as obvious so it’s important to watch for any symptoms that indicate oral pain.

A veterinarian who is familiar with caring for these pets should be consulted for dental problems. Small mouths can be hard to work in and requires some specialized equipment to be able to exam and care for the teeth. In the case of overgrown teeth, it can be tempting to want to take care of the problem at home, but trimming the teeth with clippers could result in a fracture that affects future growth of the tooth. In rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas it’s also possible the problem is due to misaligned teeth in the rear which will still need to be corrected.

Monitoring Your Rabbits or Rodents Teeth for Problems

There are a few things you can do to help catch dental issues before they have a big effect on your pet’s health.

  • Monitor their eating. If they are only eating certain foods (smaller or softer) or not eating much at all, their could be a dental issue.
  • Watch their weight. Weight loss can be a sign your pet is eating less due to a dental issue.
  • Check for smaller or fewer stools which can indicate your pet is eating less food.
  • Do periodic checks on their incisors(front teeth). It can be very hard to get a good look at the rear teeth, but if the bite alignment is off anywhere in the mouth, you may see a problem with the incisors too.
  • Watch for excess salivation.
  • Watch for discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Watch for any lumps around the mouth. These could be a sign of an abscess.

If you see any of these symptoms, contact your vet as soon as possible.

Sugar Gliders

Sugar Gliders don’t have the same tooth structure as rabbits or rodents. They have 40 teeth- all are small except for 2 large incisors on the bottom. Their teeth are like ours in that they don’t grow throughout a glider’s life. Gliders can develop periodontal disease. It’s important to keep them on a good diet and steer clear of a diet that has too many carbohydrates. Monitor them for any dental problems and if you suspect a problem, be sure to see a vet who is familiar with their care.


Keeping an eye on your pet’s oral health is important no matter what the species. Giving them the care they need to keep their teeth healthy and monitoring them for any issues is a step in the right direction to keeping them in good health.

This post is part of the Small Pets Blog Hop Hosted by Peace Love & Whiskers. Find more small pet links by clicking on the badge.

Pet Health Wellness Wednesday

Pet Dental Health: Whiter and Brighter

Now that we know who the enemy of good pet dental health is, how do we fight it?

'Big Yawn' photo (c) 2008, Dylan Ashe - license:

Well, first I’ll give you the bad news. There is nothing that is 100% effective in preventing plaque and tartar from forming. But what you can do can make a huge difference.


Brushing will give your pet the biggest benefit in improving their oral health because it assists in removing plaque. Since it takes a few days for plaque to harden into tartar, it works best if done every day or two. And while pet toothpaste (toothpaste for humans should never be used for pets) does have some features that help make brushing easier such as added abrasives and a taste that hopefully appeals to your pet, even brushing without it will help as the mechanical action of the bristles will remove plaque.

The earlier you begin brushing teeth the better. Not only to get your pet used to it and to get you in the habit of brushing, but to reduce the damage to those fibers that connect the tooth to the surrounding tissue. This damage causes pockets around the tooth that brushing will not be able to reach.

Professional Cleaning

What do you do when there’s tartar on the teeth or when your pet has periodontal disease and deep pockets? In that case, a professional cleaning is needed. A professional cleaning is able to remove plaque and tartar that is under the gum line. Along with this removal, a  thorough exam is done to check for other dental issues like broken teeth, loose teeth, or growths in the mouth. While cavities are common in humans, they are rare in dogs, cats and ferrets, but cats can develop tooth resorption lesions. Dental x-rays may be taken to check the roots and bone for any problems.

Ann at Pawsitively Pets did a great post on what is done during a professional cleaning- An Inside Look at Teeth Cleanings for Pets. Scalers are used to get to remove plaque and tartar both above and below the gum line. The teeth are polished. Fluoride may be applied. It’s a lot like your biannual cleaning. But there is 1 big difference.

Anesthesia. To undergo a professional cleaning, your pet needs to be anesthetized. And this is something that worries a lot of pet owners. Anesthesia is never anything to take lightly, there is a risk with any procedure. But there are things your vet will do to lower the risk. Pre-op bloodwork will help rule out any systemic problems. Your vet may want to do an ECG to rule out any heart problems. They will monitor your pet’s heart rate and oxygen level while under anesthesia.

What about cleaning the teeth without anesthesia? There are places that offer scaling teeth as a service. You can even buy scalers to try and use them yourself. But is it a good thing to do?

There are a few reasons this might not be the best thing for your pet.

  • It is hard to work below the gum line on pets that are not anesthetized. It can be uncomfortable and there are times in human dentistry when local anesthesia is used for those patients with extensive periodontal disease. Trying to keep a pet still while doing this extensive cleaning can be hard and even dangerous since sharp instruments are used.
  • Since all the scaling is done above the gum line, it makes the procedure cosmetic only and still leaves a big problem since the real danger to your pet’s health resides below the gum line in the gingival pocket.
  • Scaling roughens up the enamel of the tooth making it much easier for plaque to stick. This is one of the major reason teeth are polished as part of a cleaning- to smooth the tooth surface. You are creating a kind of Catch-22- the more you scale, the more you are going to have to scale.
  • Scaling causes the release of bacteria which can enter your pet’s bloodstream. For a pet with bad oral health that can be a lot of bacteria.Some pets may need antibiotics, but someone who is not a veterinarian would not be able to evaluate your pet’s health to see if they are needed or prescribe them if they are.
  • In many states dental procedures are required to be done by a vet or under a veterinarian’s supervision. People who perform cleanings in states where the veterinary practice acts states this is the case can be considered practicing veterinary medicine without a license with a risk of fines or imprisonment. (The Pennsylvania Veterinary Practice Act considers anything that “diagnoses, treats, corrects, changes, relieves or prevents” dental conditions the practice of veterinary medicine. Practicing veterinary medicine without a license carries a penalty of  a fine of $1,000 or a prison sentence of not more than six months or both a fine and prison for a first time offense. A second offense carries a fine of $2,000 or a prison sentence of six months to 1 year or both a fine and prison.). They aren’t going  door to door to see if someone is scaling teeth in their home, but someone who is offering anesthesia-free dental care as a service could be in violation of their state’s law.

'Cookie 3' photo (c) 2010, Will Merydith - license:

There may be times when a vet decides to do an anesthesia free dentistry on a pet for whom the risk of anesthesia far out ways the problems poor oral health can cause. Usually these are older pets with bad systemic problems and the odor from the periodontal disease is a huge problem, but again this is just a cosmetic issue, it won’t improve their oral health. For most pets, the potential problems from poor oral health out way the anesthetic risk.

Other Dental Products

If you go walking down the aisles at the pet store, you’ll find a variety of products that are suppose to help your pet’s teeth- rinses, water additives, chewies, treats, food. I am not an expert on these products and honestly, my mind tends to go to “well, if it really worked, my dentist would be recommending some of these things for me”.  (I haven’t seen any tooth cleaning cookies on the market for people yet, have you?) Some of them do offer some benefits like chewies. Items that get chewed have some mechanical action that helps remove plaque, but the best thing to do is ask your vet for their opinion on the best product for your pet. And remember brushing is your best bet for maintaining your pet’s dental health.

Note: It’s important to remember that anything your dog chews that is hard like a marrow bone or cow hoof could cause your dog’s teeth to fracture or damage to the pulp or root of the tooth.

Dental care is one area we can really be proactive as owners. Just taking a few minutes each day to brush their teeth can pay off greatly in keeping them in good health.


Part 1- Pet Dental Health: The Tooth and Nothing but the Tooth

Part 2- Pet Dental Health: Enemy, Thy Name is Plaque

Pet Health Wellness Wednesday

Pet Dental Health: Enemy, Thy Name is Plaque

'Will's teeth' photo (c) 2007, Emma Jane Hogbin - license:

When it comes to oral health, there is one enemy that can cause a whole mess of problems- plaque. A sticky, invisible substance made of bacteria and food particles, it forms over the teeth. As it sits there it combines with the minerals in saliva over several days to form the hard brown deposit known as tartar or calculus. It continues to develop, adding new layers to the tartar. While it certainly looks ugly, what you are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg.

While the tartar is forming, below the gum line toxins from the bacteria in the plaque causing irritation and destroy the tissue surrounding the roots. This is known as periodontal disease. Gingivitis is the early form of this disease where the gums are inflamed, and swollen but tissue destruction hasn’t begun. With proper care, gingivitis can be reversed. Periodontitis is the later form where the fibers that keep the tooth in place are destroyed causing deep pockets around the root. Bone destruction may even occur. At this stage teeth become loose and can cause pain. Periodontitis can not be reversed, but with proper care, further destruction can be slowed or prevented.

The tissue destruction gives the bacteria access to the blood vessels sending the bacteria through the body in the blood system. This bacteria has  been shown to have an effect on the heart, liver and kidneys. High bacteria levels in the blood can also make it hard to regulate a diabetic pet’s blood glucose.

Periodontal disease is considered the most common disease in adult dogs and cats, but as you can see it doesn’t just stop at the mouth. Good oral health can help keep your pet in good general health. Next week I’ll write about how periodontal disease is treated and what steps you can take to prevent it.


Did you miss Part 1? Check out  Pet Dental Health: The Tooth and Nothing but the Tooth

Christmas Countdown Pet Health Wellness Wednesday

Christmas Countdown Day 12- White Christmas- Prepare Your Dog for Winter



Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? There’s something magical about having snow for Christmas and who doesn’t love seeing their dogs running in the first snowfall of the season.

As pretty as it is, it’s important to make sure your dog is ready for the winter weather.



'Daisy's sweater' photo (c) 2011, Sarah Brown - license:

Being mat free can help your dog handle the cold weather (short-haired dogs luck out here). When I groomed there were people who didn’t do much brushing and would wait until Spring to get their dogs groomed because they were afraid of them getting cold.But matted hair can actually make a dog colder. Hair that is matted takes longer to dry keeping your dog cold longer. Plus it holds moisture close to the skin and can cause a skin infection to develop. The best thing to do is either brush their hair regularly or keep them on a regular schedule at your groomers so they stay mat free. A coat or sweater can keep your dog warm if they have to be clipped down.

Your dog’s feet are another area to watch during grooming. Having the hair between the pads of the feet trimmed can help your dog grip the ground more easily. Long nails cause the dog’s toe to splay out making it hard to grip so it’s important to keep the nails trimmed.



Dog coats and sweaters may help keep short-haired and smaller dogs warm. Make sure your dog can move easily in their outfit and that it’s not loose enough to come off and your dog get tangled up in.

Boots can be nice to have on those freezing cold, frozen ground days. Not all dogs will enjoy them, but it might be worth a try.


Diet & Exercise

Those of us who live where the temps drop in the winter might find our pups less active. Less activity means less calories are needed so watch your dog’s waistline and adjust how much food he gets especially when he is enjoying the holiday cooking you do for him.

Since the weather might not be agreeable to long walks, you can keep your dog active by using food dispensing toys, hiding toys and treats for your dog to find and teaching tricks. I’m not sure how many calories spinning burns, but it can be a good trick to teach for getting some exercise in a small area.


What tips do you have for getting your dog ready for winter?
Pet Health Wellness Wednesday

Wellness Wednesday- Diabetic Pet Resources

Even though I worked in a veterinary hospital when I adopted my first diabetic cat, Woody, I still felt like I didn’t know enough about diabetes. I began looking online and was fortunate to find some resources that helped me learn more about the disease and the way to care for it. I also found support from other cat owners who shared their life with a diabetic kitty. I learned a lot and was able to make a difference not only in Woody’s life, but also in 2 other diabetic cats’, Minuit and Poughkeepsie, lives when I adopted them last year.

There are several resources on diabetes in pets online that you can turn to if your pet is diagnosed.

Pet Diabetes- General Information

Pet Diabetes Wiki

Muffin Diabetic Pets Association

Feline Diabetes

Feline Diabetes
Your Diabetic Cat

Canine Diabetes

Canine Diabetes

K9 Diabetes

Diabetes in Other Pets


Diabetes in Rabbits


Diabetic Pet Birds


Diabetes in Ferrets

Guinea Pigs-

Guinea Pigs with Diabetes


It can be shock learning your pet has diabetes. Having some knowledge about the disease can alleviate a lot of the fear, while knowing and being around others going through the same thing can help you get through the hard times.


Do you have a pet with a chronic illness? Have you found support online?