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.
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.
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 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.
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