Guinea pigs spend a large majority of their life eating, so healthy teeth are extremely important.
A guinea pig’s upper and lower incisors are very prominent, but these small animals have twenty teeth in their tiny mouths.
It is essential to regularly check your guinea pig’s teeth for any signs of dental issues.
Overgrown incisors are the most common dental problem in guinea pigs, but do they ever break their teeth?
A guinea pig can break its teeth by chewing on hard objects like the bars of its cage. A broken guinea pig tooth needs to be taken care of as soon as possible. Sharp edges on a broken tooth can cut the inside of a guinea pig’s mouth.
A jagged broken tooth is uncomfortable for the animal and could lead to infection or loss of appetite.
Guinea pigs are especially vulnerable to broken teeth if they have a poor diet and do not receive enough vitamin C.
Read on to learn more about what happens if a guinea pig breaks a tooth and some tips for dental care.
What Happens if a Guinea Pig Breaks a Tooth?
Unlike most mammals, guinea pigs do not have baby teeth to lose before their adult teeth grow.
Instead, a guinea pig’s teeth are constantly growing, so they have the same teeth throughout their entire life.
If a guinea pig breaks a tooth or if one falls out, it will simply grow back.
Since guinea pigs have a high-fiber diet, their teeth naturally wear down, and they have to keep growing to compensate for this.
Generally, broken guinea pig teeth do not cause any issues unless the break is ragged and sharp.
A sharp, broken tooth may puncture the inside of a guinea pig’s mouth and make eating difficult and painful.
The growth rate of guinea pig teeth is 1-2 millimeters every week, so the broken tooth will grow back in about 2 to 3 weeks.
Signs a Guinea Pig Has a Broken Tooth
The first sign of a broken tooth in a guinea pig is blood around the mouth or on its bedding.
If you see blood, it is essential to check your cavy’s mouth to see what is going on.
A broken tooth will be obvious because it will be shorter than the other teeth, or it may appear to be sharp and jagged.
Depending on the severity of the break, your cavy may have difficulty eating.
If your guinea pig seems to be less interested in its food than usual, the animal likely has a broken tooth or other dental problems.
What To Do if Your Guinea Pig Breaks a Tooth
If your guinea pig has a broken tooth, it is usually not much to worry about, but it is best to seek veterinary care for a closer examination.
A veterinarian will be able to determine the severity of the broken tooth, and if there are any rough edges, they will be able to file the tooth down properly.
As the tooth grows back, you will need to monitor your cavy’s teeth.
If your guinea pig is not eating as much as normal, the teeth opposite the broken one may grow too long because they are not getting worn down naturally.
It is important to keep the teeth filed down so they are not touching the lower gums or the roof of the cavy’s mouth.
There is also a chance for the broken tooth to grow back at an angle.
It is critical to fix the issue as soon as possible when this happens.
An angled tooth may prevent the guinea pig from closing its mouth or chewing properly.
Eating may be painful, and your cavy could stop eating altogether.
If the tooth has broken off close to the gums and there is a bloody hole where it used to be, you will need to use a curve-tipped syringe to flush the area with a mild saline solution to keep it clean.
Dissolve one teaspoon of salt into one pint of warm water to make the solution.
Keeping the area clean lowers the risk of an infection in the gums.
You may also need to help your cavy eat and drink until the broken tooth grows back.
Cut your guinea pig’s food up into smaller pieces and offer fresh water through a syringe if your pet cannot drink from a water bottle.
Weigh your guinea pig every week to ensure it is not losing too much weight.
You also need to provide your cavy with plenty of vitamin C to keep its teeth healthy and prevent scurvy.
Other Common Dental Problems in Guinea Pigs
Due to the unique physiology of guinea pig teeth, these small animals are prone to having dental problems.
Even if you take excellent care of your cavy’s teeth and feed them the most nutritious diet, it is still possible for dental problems to happen.
Aside from broken teeth, guinea pigs are also susceptible to elongated roots and malocclusion.
Occasionally, the roots of a guinea pig’s teeth will start growing into the jaw.
A routine oral exam usually will not show this happening, but there are a few signs to look for.
If your guinea pig’s eyes are watery or bulging out of its head, this is a sign of tooth roots growing up into the nasal cavity.
When the roots of the bottom teeth become elongated, you may be able to feel small bumps along the lower jawline.
Elongated roots will show up on a dental x-ray, giving your veterinarian a clearer view of what is happening.
There is no cure for elongated roots, but there is a treatment to make eating easier and less painful.
Typically, a veterinarian will file the guinea pig’s teeth shorter than usual to take some pressure off the roots when the animal eats.
This treatment will need to be repeated when the teeth grow back for the rest of the cavy’s life.
If a guinea pig does not get enough fiber in its diet, the teeth will not wear down as they should.
When this happens, the teeth will become overgrown, leading to malocclusion.
As the teeth get longer, they will become misaligned, and your cavy will have difficulty closing its mouth or eating.
Your guinea pig may start dropping chunks of food out of its mouth.
Misaligned teeth may cause sores, abrasions, and infections, and your guinea pig will begin to lose weight because it cannot chew properly.
The hair around your guinea pig’s mouth may be wet from drooling, and there might be discharge from the eyes and nose.
Fortunately, there are a couple of treatment options for a malocclusion.
If the malocclusion is not severe, your veterinarian will trim your cavy’s teeth and recommend chew toys and foods to keep the teeth worn down.
In severe cases, the teeth are usually extracted, and you will have to hand-feed your cavy soft foods like pellets mixed with water.
After a few weeks, the teeth will grow back, and your guinea pig will be able to eat on its own again.
It is essential to monitor the teeth as they grow back to ensure they grow straight and even.
How To Wear Down Your Guinea Pig’s Teeth
Your guinea pig’s diet is critical in keeping its teeth worn down to a manageable level.
Overgrown teeth will prevent a cavy from eating and drinking normally, and the animal could lose weight or starve.
It is important to offer your cavy a nutritional diet low in calories and high in fiber and vitamin C.
In addition to a constant supply of Timothy hay, a nutritious, high-quality pellet food helps wear down a cavy’s teeth.
Tree branches or wood blocks are another excellent way to ensure your guinea pig’s teeth wear down properly.
The branches need to be free from pesticides or chemicals for your pet’s safety.
Hardwood varieties such as hickory, maple, and oak are excellent choices and will keep your cavy’s teeth in great shape.
A salt lick or mineral block has essential vitamins and minerals, and it will help your guinea pig’s teeth wear down as it chews on them.
It is always best to consult with your veterinarian before choosing a mineral block for your guinea pig.
Giving your cavy options for things to chew on will discourage the animal from chewing on its cage and possibly breaking a tooth.
How To Take Care of Your Guinea Pig’s Teeth
It is vital to regularly monitor your guinea pig’s teeth as part of your weekly health check to ensure they do not grow too long and interfere with the animal’s eating habits.
Routine tooth checkups will alert you to any issues your cavy may have with tooth growth or sharp teeth.
If your cavy stops eating less than usual, there is likely an issue with its teeth.
Check to make sure the teeth are wearing evenly and not cracked or discolored.
A guinea pig’s tooth enamel is white, just like a human’s, so any changes will be noticed easily.
Weighing your guinea pig on a small kitchen scale every week is also a way to know if your pet is getting enough food.
Give your cavy plenty of chew toys to help keep the teeth at the proper length.
Vitamin C is critical to your guinea pig’s diet, as it makes the teeth strong and healthy.
A vitamin C deficiency will also lead to scurvy, and some of your cavy’s teeth may be loose.
Since guinea pigs cannot synthesize vitamin C in their body, they must rely on an external source of the vitamin to stay healthy.
Fortified food pellets are an excellent source of vitamin C, but be sure to check the expiration date because the vitamin degrades quickly.
Carrots, apples, and cabbage are beneficial to a cavy’s teeth, but these foods will cause diarrhea if they are not introduced into the diet gradually.
Calcium is also essential for healthy teeth and bones, but giving your cavy too much may cause the development of bladder sludge or crystals.
Avoid filing down your guinea pig’s teeth unless necessary, as keeping them too short will prevent the animal from eating properly.