While there is increasing recognition that dogs and cats need regular dental care, other small mammals are commonly overlooked. Both the rabbit and the guinea pig are prone to dental problems which may result in a life threatening crisis.
The most common diseases affecting both is the development of poor teeth alignment or the development of sharp ridges on the edge of the teeth. Improper alignment of the teeth allow the molars to overgrow trapping the tongue and making it difficult or impossible to chew or swallow. The development of sharp ridges on the margin of teeth causes laceration of tongue and cheeks. The pain associated with these points causes the rabbit or guinea pig not to eat. Both conditions cause similar symptoms. The common symptoms seen are:
- Weight loss
- Changing in eating habits such change in type of food eaten
- Dropping food during the eating process
- Not eating at all
- Increase drainage from one or both nostrils ranging from clear discharge to yellow discharge
- Increase slobbering or the hair around the mouth being wet
- Bleeding from mouth (rare)
- Infection of the teeth often felt as abnormal areas along the margin of the lower jaw
Factors that contribute to these dental problems are pellet or pellet mixes fed in excess. Other problems with diet are dietary imbalances, such as a lack of vitamin C or of certain minerals even in mixes that claim to have these vitamins and minerals in adequate supply. Genetic factors and trauma may also play a role.
These and other dental diseases require immediate veterinary care, as they can lead to secondary complications, if left untreated. Often by the time these individuals seek a veterinarian care they are in very poor condition and are very difficult to treat with a good prognosis. Exotic veterinarians, like Donald Loden, DVM at Cornerstone Animal Hospital recommend all rabbits and guinea have regular dental checkups yearly. Those individuals with a history of previous problems should be checked every six months.