Often I see rabbits and guinea pigs that have been losing weight. These individuals are frequently in poor condition which creates stress and anxiety for their caretakers. The most common reason is attributed to dental disease. In many instances, force feeding is required for one to three weeks before their condition can be treated because they have lost so much weight.
Both rabbits and guinea pigs are prone to dental problems which may result in a life-threatening crisis. The most common diseases affecting both the development of poor teeth alignment or the development of sharp ridges on the edges of the teeth. Improper alignment of the teeth allows the molars to overgrow, which traps the tongue and makes it difficult or impossible to chew or swallow. The development of sharp ridges on the teeth margins, in turn, causes lacerations of the 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
- Change in eating habits- such change is in the type of food eaten
- Dropping food during the eating process
- Not eating at all
- Increased drainage from one or both nostrils- clear to yellow in color
- Increased slobbering or the hair around the mouth is wet
- Bleeding from the mouth (rare)
- Tooth infection- felt as abnormal areas along the margin of the lower jaw.
Current recommendations for rabbits and guinea pigs are to have a physical examination every 6 months to evaluate the mouth.
The molar points are removed by using a dental bur to grind the surface of the tooth to a flat plateau. Diet plays a role in the development of dental disease in rabbits and guinea pigs. If the primary source of food is hay with minimal pellets (1/8 cup per 5 lbs) your pet will need less frequent need of dental care.
Please contact Cornerstone Animal Hospital for an appointment.