Dental Care for Your Rabbit, Exotic or Pocket Pet

The need for dental care isn't limited to dogs and cats. Rabbits, exotics and pocket pets need dental care, too! Ask your veterinarian about what dental care is recommended for pets not listed here.

Rabbits, Chinchillas & Cavies

Rabbits, chinchillas and cavies can have a variety of tooth problems, the most common being malocclusion and tooth abscesses. Malocclusion is the improper alignment of teeth resulting in tooth overgrowth. When incisors (front teeth) are misaligned, they can’t wear down on the opposing teeth and can grow to extreme lengths. Gnawing on hard objects (wood, metal) doesn’t help wear down the incisors and may actually damage the teeth, helping to create a malocclusion.

Molars (back teeth) may also overgrow due to misalignment, or due to tooth infection and pain which prevents normal chewing. Symptoms of tooth overgrowth include weight loss, appetite loss, drooling, oral odor, and tooth grinding. Treatment includes trimming the teeth to proper length and correcting any underlying problems.

Tooth abscesses may involve front or back teeth, and can result in facial swelling, odor, appetite loss, and loose or painful teeth. Treatment includes extraction of infected teeth, draining all visible abscesses, and long term antibiotics. Severe abscesses may involve large areas of the face and may be life threatening.

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Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs have constantly growing teeth, and may develop overgrown incisors or molars for a variety of reasons. Incisor overgrowth may be visible as long tusk-like projections from the mouth. Molar overgrowth or infections may cause drooling, chin staining, foul odor, and difficulty eating.

Treatment of tooth problems often involves trimming the overgrown teeth back to normal length, extracting any infected teeth, correcting any other illness which may be contributing to the problem, and forcefeeding if the guinea pig cannot eat. Many cases are curable, but some dental problems can be persistent and life threatening.

Skunks & Ferrets

Like other carnivores, skunks and ferrets may develop tartar, gingivitis and periodontal disease with age. Brushing may reduce plaque and improve dental health. Cleaning and polishing teeth under anesthesia may be needed when a skunk or ferret has significant tartar and dental disease. Fractured or infected teeth might need extraction.

Rats, Mice, Hamsters & Gerbils

These pets have constantly growing incisors, and occasionally develop overgrown front teeth. Chewing on hard objects such as wood or metal may twist and damage the teeth and increase the risk of overgrowth, visible as long, crooked, tusk-like projections from the mouth.

Treatment involves trimming the overgrown teeth back to normal length, and/or extracting any infected teeth. Offer soft chew toys such as ink-free cardboard instead of wood to chew on; this may minimize damage to the incisors. If the incisors overgrow severely, the animal may be unable to eat and will require immediate veterinary care.

Published: February 6, 2012;    Updated: February 15, 2013

Filed Under: Dental, Companion Animals

Source: Dr. Mark Burgess, Southwest Animal Hospital, Beaverton, OR

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