Guinea Pig Malocclusion

Guinea Pig Malocclusion

Guinea Pig Malocclusion is caused when overgrowth of the Front and Back teeth occurs at the same time. Although it may appear only that the front teeth have overgrown. As the ability to chew deteriorates, the front teeth no longer receive normal wear. Typically the bottom molars grow towards and sometimes over the tongue while the Upper Molars grow towards the cheeks. These overgrown teeth prevent the normal chewing and eating and can cause injuries to the mouth.

Some Malocclusion is believed to be genetic, especially in cases where Cavies younger than two years are maloccluded. Trauma or Infection can injure the teeth, predisposing them to faulty growth patterns. Illness combined with changes in eating patterns can allow the teeth to overgrow and lead to malocclusion. Malocclusion is sometimes associated with Heart Problems.

Signs of Malocclusion

  • Difficulty in Eating (only picking at certain foods)
  • Anorexia (Not Eating At All)
  • Gastric Stasis (Bloat)
  • Excessive Weight Loss
  • Slobbers (mouth can no longer close properly so therefore there chin becomes wet)

Warning Signs Of Malocclusion

  • Does he/she seem to work hard at chewing like he has something caught in his mouth like he has something stuck that he is trying to un-stick?
  • Is there Exaggerated Ear Movement when he chews?
  • Is there any discharge from the eyes or nose? (Can indicate an abscess or Elongated Root)
  • Does he/she seemed to chew to one side?
  • Are the Front Teeth even and Lined up?
  • Does he eat at the same rate/speed the other Pigs eat at?
  • Can he Rip & Tear?
  • Can he eat the peel as well as the apple from an Apple Slice?
  • Does he chew (Carrots in particular) and let pieces drop out again?
  • Does he show interest in food, yet not eat?
  • Is he steadily losing weight?
  • Is he Drooling?

Diagnosis

Finding an Exotics Veterinarian or Veterinarian Dentist who is experienced in treating Cavy Teeth is critical.

Many Guinea Pigs have been Misdiagnosed and the Malocclusion has gone untreated

  • Accompanying the gradual weight loss their are often signs of Scurvy from decreased food intake. Some Vets treat the Scurvy but miss the malocclusion.
  • Too many Vets have only trimmed the Incisors and missed the overgrown molars which were causing the problems.
  • Not all Veterinarians have the Skill, Knowledge and Tools to accurately diagnose and treat malocclusion or identify dental problems.
  • Physical examination is normally done under Anaesthetic, although an initial examination may be done without using an Otoscope to examine the back teeth. This can be done but sometimes with great difficulty due to the fact that Guinea Pigs mouth tend to hold a lot of food. Your Veterinarian may use a syringe of water to try and flush out the mouth area first. Some Vets may use a Buccal Pad Separator to aid in the view of the back teeth although I have not seen these being used at this time.

Some sources suggest watching for the following things during examination:-

  • Did the Vet use Buccal Pad Separator?
  • Did the Vet take X-Rays to look for signs of Abscesses/Elongated Roots
  • Did the Vet feel the Outside of the jaw Feeling/Looking for Spurs?

Treatment

Maloccluded molars are ground and filed and are normally performed under anaesthetic. Front Teeth may be filed or clipped. Since it is possible to Fracture a front tooth filing is normally preferred. In some cases the Guinea Pig may need dental work every few weeks.

Other Dental problems can cause an animal to stop eating.

  • Jaw Fractures can be caused by an injury (fall) and on occasion, from biting to hard on cage bars.
  • A Tooth Abscess may make eating painful.
  • Root Elongation. Another painful condition, which can only be Diagnosed by X-ray.

Questions & Answers

Q1) Is Molar Planning the same as Filing?

A1) Yes.

Q2) Does the Guinea Pig need to go under GA (General Anaesthetic) each time?

A2) To make sure Dental Work is carried out and nothing is missed, Yes!

Q3) How does Monthly Surgery affect an Older Guinea Pig?

A3) If your Guinea Pig has no Heart Issues, there should not be any problems.

Q4) Is the treatment for Elongated Roots the same as Overgrown Molars?

A4) No, if your Guinea Pig is suffering from Elongated Roots the Teeth need filing shorter to compensate for the Elongated Roots.

Misalignment Of The Jaw

Sometimes the Jaw gets “Locked” by getting stuck on a ridge. If your vet understands the problem he may be able to manipulate the Jaw back in to position by rocking the Jaw back to forth until the Jaw clicks back in to position.

If a Guinea Pig is sedated ALL the muscles relax and the Vet would not be able to tell that the Jaw is Misaligned.

Chin-Sling

While often the case that Malocclusion is due to a possible number of factors not limited to Genetics, Illness, Injury or Infection. It has been theorised that the ligament and muscle weakness can contribute to malocclusion. Many Guinea Pigs have responded very well to the use of a Chin-Sling which reportedly holds the Jaw in position keeping the Upper and Lower back teeth in contact with each other which in turn helps grind the teeth evenly against each other, and can also help the Guinea Pigs Jaw Muscles Strengthen making future Dental Planning unnecessary.

This treatment works best after an Initial Planning of Overgrown Molars