Guinea pigs are amongst the most common pets found in American households as they are easy to tame and look after. They make great companions for children too but you can find more info here about their diets, habits, and personality. Like most other rodents, Guinea pigs are prone to dental problems, including malocclusion and gingivitis.
Adopting a new pet always comes with more responsibilities as you are responsible for the wellbeing of another soul. Guinea pigs are some of the most popular rodents held as pets due to their calm tempers and interaction with humans. They won’t take much time to tame and will soon enjoy cuddling with their human companions.
If you’re considering bringing a cavy into your home, here is everything you need to know about these rodents and how to properly look after them to ensure they live a long and happy life.
Originating from the Andes in South America, Guinea pigs were domesticated more than 300 years ago. There are over 13 different species of cavies, each coming with impressive fur colors.
The medium-sized rodents have great personalities and usually get along fine with humans and other animals. However, they long after the company of their own kind, and this is why you should always get at least one pair. Some countries go as far as banning owning just one Guinea pig since they can get depressed if they don’t live amongst their own kind.
They appreciate petting and grooming sessions and, based on the thickness of their fur, they should be combed once-twice a week. Although quite resilient creatures, Guinea pigs still need regular visits to the vet to prevent health problems, fungal infections, and parasites.
Similar to other rodents, cavies have a huge appetite, meaning you should be careful about how much food you are feeding them. Overweight and obesity are just around the corner for these animals, especially since they also have a sweet tooth.
Their diet is mainly based on hay and kibbles specifically designed for their needs and should include all necessary vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fibers for healthy growth. Apart from dry food and hay, your Guinea pigs can also receive treats in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Common dental diseases
Unfortunately, Guinea pigs can suffer from various kinds of dental diseases which may affect their health in the long term, and even lead to their premature death. The most common dental affection is the improper alignment of teeth, also known as malocclusion. Slobbers and gingivitis are other teeth problems that need to be taken care of as soon as possible.
Molar malocclusion can develop in rodents over the age of one year or can be an inherited condition. As your pig’s molar teeth wear unevenly, the maxillary cheek teeth develop spurs which can cause bleeding. Severe cases of malocclusion involve the across-growth of the lower molars, entrapping the tongue and preventing Guinea pigs from feeding themselves.
Other dental problems can include cracked or broken teeth, as well as elongated roots.
Symptoms of dental problems
These furry rodents love eating but, unless you provide proper oral hygiene, they will be prone to a series of dental problems, sooner or later. Amongst the most common symptoms that signal dental issues, we can count eating difficulties, weight loss, bleeding from the mouth, sinus infections, oral abscesses, and improper alignment of the teeth.
Guinea pigs that are in pain due to cuts, sores, abscesses or visible overlong teeth will also drool and refuse to eat, which may cause further eating disorders and digestive problems.
Evaluating dental problems
Whenever you notice any of these symptoms, you should immediately contact your pet’s vet. In most cases, a simple checkup will provide the doctor with all the necessary information so that he or she can prescribe the right treatment for your Guinea pig.
In other cases, a radiograph of the skull will be necessary to better understand the health of the teeth’ roots and see if there are other changes in the bones of the skull that might cause problems.
Discovered in time, most dental problems can be fully treated so that your pet can get back to its normal life in no time. However, the longer you wait before you pay a visit to the vet, the longer and more complicated the treatment will be.
Prevention and treatment of dental problems
It is always better to prevent than to cure, so make sure you take your Guinea pig to the vet for at least one annual checkup. Cubs and younger cavies might require increased attention in what they eat to prevent further health problems, including oral and dental ones.
When prevention is not enough, the vet can describe the best treatment for your pet, according to its age, weight, and dental conditions. Malocclusion can be successfully prevented by helping your pet achieve a healthy chewing habit.
Keep in mind that the teeth of your rodent are growing constantly, so it needs something to chew on all the time. Wooden blocks or sticks, as well as special chewing toys, are the most common things you can offer your pet to help with its chewing habits. However, if you opt for wood, make sure it is free of splinters and fine dust that might cause further bleeding and breathing problems if inhaled.
Unfortunately, severe cases of malocclusion cannot be prevented or treated without the help of a specialist, and this is why it is highly important to talk to a vet as soon as possible. After thoroughly examining your Guinea pig, the vet can prescribe the best treatment, which often includes antibiotics to cure abscesses and prevent further bleeding.
Teeth trimming is also mandatory but most owners don’t want to do it by themselves because they are afraid they might hurt their pets. If you fall into this category, a visit to the vet is mandatory every six months or so.
As its guardian, it is up to you to ensure that your pet is healthy and enjoys an active lifestyle, and this includes attending its oral problems. Some vets may recommend you to look for special dental care products such as a toothbrush and a solution similar to toothpaste to prevent cavities, bleeding, and infections.
Diet plays a crucial role in keeping your Guinea pig safe, healthy, and away from dental problems. A complete and balanced diet should include hay, pellets, and fresh fruits and vegetables. However, when choosing pellets, make sure to go for formulas specifically designed for Guinea pigs, as these animals need more fibers and vitamin C, as opposed to other rodents.
Fruits and veggies can be offered as snacks and healthy treats as often as you consider fit. They are low in calories but rich in natural fibers, vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants, boosting your pet’s immune system and helping it live a long life.
Although most fresh fruits and veggies are good for your Guinea pig, you should stay away from cucumbers and watermelons as they are too watery and might cause digestive problems, including diarrhea.
Unfortunately, cavies have a huge appetite, which can often lead to overweight problems and obesity if their owners keep on feeding them more food than necessary. This is why it is highly important to establish a strict feeding schedule and avoid offering food just one time a day.
Keep in mind that your pet might not be able to stop until it sees the food tray empty, and this is exactly why you should monitor its meals and create a balance.
Last, but not least, don’t forget that your pet also requires daily physical exercise to get rid of the extra calories and energy. Installing an exercising wheel inside its cage is the most common way to stimulate it to become more active but, if you have the time, you can also take it outside its cage and allow it to explore and run around the room.
They are very curious and playful, so you can also engage in different games with your rodent to help it work out.
Keeping its cage clean is mandatory if you want to prevent fungal infections, diseases, and even dental problems. Make sure to change the bed every three-four days, depending on how many Guinea pigs you host under the same roof.