Malocclusion of the teeth (also known as slobbers) is a common problem in guinea pigs who are not fed the correct diet or who have jaw joint problems or trauma to the face. In guinea pigs, their front incisors and back molar teeth grow constantly, so if they are not worn down correctly (by constantly eating hay) then they can become overgrown. When the teeth become excessively long and not worn, then the back teeth can bridge over the tongue leading to the inability to swallow any food at all.
How will I know if my guinea pig's teeth are overgrown?
Many guinea pigs will continue to have a good appetite despite having overgrown teeth, but may be unable to hold food in their mouths and may drop it soon after picking it up; some guinea pigs may just eat their food more slowly than their cage mates.
You might also notice excessive drooling and some may show signs of weight loss. In extreme cases you will visibly see that the front incisor teeth are wearing at an angle or they may be protruding from the mouth if they are excessively long.
If you suspect your guinea pig is suffering from dental disease then you should consult your vet who can perform a visual examination of the front and back teeth.
Can my guinea pig be treated?
Correction of dental problems such as overgrown teeth involves a general anaesthesia for burring of the teeth with a small mechanical burr. They need to be anesthetised as it is too stressful and dangerous to use a burr on a conscious patient.
In minor cases, sometimes a little burring can bring the teeth back into alignment and they need no more intervention; in more severe and advanced cases, your guinea pig may require regular visits to the vet for teeth burring for the rest of its life.
How can I prevent my guinea pig from getting dental problems?
Ensure your guinea pig is given an unlimited supply of hay and/or grass so that they can wear their teeth down naturally.
Try not to feed muesli diets as these have been linked to dental problems.
Try not to overfeed pelleted food.