How rare are black guinea pigs

Dental disease and diet in guinea pigs and rabbits

Eating or refusing to eat is one of the most common reasons why pet owners come to the practice with their rabbits or guinea pigs.

The reasons for this mostly have to do with misalignments of the teeth or with changes in the jaw.

In guinea pigs and rabbits, incisors and molars grow for a lifetime. Their length growth is 2 -3 mm per week and for life. It is therefore extremely important that the teeth are worn properly. Otherwise, massive tooth and jaw problems will develop within a short period of time. Razor-sharp tooth tips arise that stick into the tongue or the lining of the cheek. Overly long teeth change their direction of growth and ultimately lead to the formation of pus and deformation of the jawbone as a result of the changed chewing pressure.

These painful processes prevent the food from being chewed and ground thoroughly. The affected animals show different symptoms:

  • they often salivate
  • they grind their teeth
  • lose food parts from the mouth
  • they only eat soft or chopped up food
  • show interest in food, but hardly consume any food
  • They drink a lot as they try to satisfy their hunger with fluid intake, they become increasingly emaciated

A misalignment of the incisors alone, however, rarely occurs and is usually associated with a molar disease!

If only the incisors are then corrected, this will not lead to the desired lasting therapeutic success!

Breeding and genetic factors as well as older age play a role in dental diseases. The most common cause, however, is a diet that is not appropriate to the species because it is too low in fiber. That means, unfortunately, too much or even exclusively pellet feed, dried bread, grains, corn or food snacks (yoghurt drops, snack sticks, green rolls, etc.) are generally fed. These feedstuffs are not ground up when they are eaten, but only crushed or swallowed completely, with the result that the teeth are not worn out enough. Only feed containing crude fiber, such as hay, grass and herbs, is chewed long enough before it can be swallowed. Due to the extensive chewing activity, not only the molars, but also the incisors are rubbed against each other and worn out thoroughly.

A one-sided diet with too little structure and too many carbohydrates also leads to changes in the natural intestinal flora. The consequences are recurring diarrhea and painful intestinal gas (colic), in the worst case with fatal consequences.

Changes in pressure on the molars can lead to loosening of the teeth. Bacterial infections then lead to purulent abscesses in the jawbone. If excessively long teeth are pressed too hard on one another when chewing, what is known as "retrograde growth" occurs, that is, the teeth do not grow upwards away from the gumline, but are driven further into the jaw like nails until they break through the bony borders . Depending on the location, the affected animals show purulent eye or nasal discharge in the upper jaw area, for example. This is often mistaken for symptoms of a runny nose, but it is a sign of an obstruction and inflammation of the lacrimal nasal canal. The typical marble-like abscesses usually develop in the lower jaw.

Dental problems in guinea pigs often result in “bridging”, that is, the molars grow arched over the tongue and restrict their freedom of movement. The ingested food can no longer be conveyed into the mouth and chopped up and the animal starves and loses weight.

In pets, the incisors can usually be easily examined at home. On closer inspection, oblique wear and excess length can be clearly seen.

The molars are located far back in the oral cavity and cannot be examined without aids. Only about half of the existing tooth misalignments can be seen in the conscious animal. Cheeks, tongue, leftover food and, last but not least, the restlessness and resistance of the excited animal make a detailed examination difficult. For this reason, it is often necessary to put the animal under a brief anesthetic for an exact diagnosis. X-rays of the teeth and jaws show the condition of the tooth roots and jawbones. This enables a representation of over 80% of the pathological changes.

Treatment options
Once the cause and extent of the misaligned teeth or jaw problems have been precisely determined, the actual treatment can begin. Tooth corrections are carried out with dental turbines and milling machines. Due to the risk of injury and the associated stress, this can only be done under anesthesia. For this purpose, the latest drugs are used that can be antagonized (reversed). This means that when the dental treatment is finished, the patient is quickly woken up again. This is the only way to achieve good results in the long term.

The clipping of teeth with side cutters, nail nippers or the like is obsolete, as it can easily lead to tooth fractures and splintering. Painful inflammation of the root and its destruction are the consequences.

Defective teeth have to be extracted and the empty tooth sockets closed again. If only incisors are affected by a malalignment, they can also be pulled in rabbits without affecting the quality of life of these animals.

If misaligned teeth are discovered too late, dental corrections are often necessary for a lifetime. The treatment intervals differ individually for each animal. Incisors often need to be corrected every 3-4 weeks, molars between 1 and 5 months. As a rule, the intervals lengthen after a while, as "normal" wear of the teeth sets in again. In simple cases, even after just one tooth correction and a consistent feed optimization, there can be a long absence of symptoms.

Appropriate nutrition is essential for the health of guinea pigs and rabbits. Even if teeth are already misaligned, a diet rich in crude fiber is a must in addition to regular control and correction of altered teeth.

Appropriate nutrition

  • The basic food is hay or grass, which is always freely available
  • Forage several times a day, e.g. grass, dandelions, herbs, cauliflower and kohlrabi leaves
    • Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, kohlrabi, celery
    • Salads such as endive, lamb's lettuce, rocket
  • very little fruit, such as apple, pear
  • no bread and no corn kernels or corn on the cob
  • Unsprayed, fresh and dried branches from trees and bushes, e.g. from apple, pear, hazelnut trees, currant or blueberry bushes.
  • fresh water is always freely available in a drinking bottle or water bowl