Did you know that there may be times when guinea pig teeth need to be cut? Sounds crazy I know, and painful, but their teeth are different than human teeth. We have had the joy of having guinea pigs as pets at our house for over nine years now. We have had three different guinea pigs, our oldest one living to be eight and a half years old! But, in the last year or so of his life, we had to keep getting his teeth cut. It’s a doable procedure, but there are two aspects for how a vet will go about it. One is easy, the other is hard.
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Disclaimer: I am not a veterinary professional, but I am an experienced guinea pig owner, rabbit owner, and other small pet owner. I also used to work in a veterinary clinic at one point. This discussion is not meant to be advice, but purely a rendering of my experiences to help guide you. Please consult your vet with all pet concerns.
Cutting Guinea Pig Teeth Sounds Scary
Cutting teeth! Yeah! It does sound scary! It sounds painful too. But rodent type teeth are different than a human’s teeth. The front teeth can be easily cut, but the back teeth will need the guinea pig to be under anesthesia. Our vet cut Butterscotch’s teeth for us for about a year before he passed away, starting at when he was around 7 and a half years old. He wasn’t gnawing properly on hay, vegetables, and other hard surfaces to keep his teeth trimmed down naturally. When a guinea pig chews/gnaws as they should, the teeth don’t grow. But as soon as they don’t do this properly, the teeth can start to grow. And they can grow fast!
But don’t be scared. Your vet will know how to do this. When it was his front teeth that needed a trim, she could do it in the back room with veterinary dental tools while he was awake. This was not painful for him. But, when he needed the back teeth cut, he had to be put under anesthesia and be put under for the whole procedure.
Why does it matter if guinea pig teeth grow?
The two reasons I know of are related to eating and comfort.
When the teeth grow, it makes it harder for the guinea pig to eat. They also have a harder time picking up food so they can eat it. It can be a dangerous situation if your guinea pig doesn’t eat. They need to be eating pretty much steadily throughout their waking hours, not constantly of course, but steadily. If they don’t eat, their gut can stop moving. You don’t want their gut to become stagnant, this is very dangerous and potentially fatal. This is the same case for rabbits, I’ve had four different pet rabbits. An abnormal phase of not eating is dangerous for small mammals. Consult your vet immediately if your small mammal pet is not eating as they normally do.
The picture above is Butterscotch “Scotch” and our new guinea pig Maggie.
It’s also likely uncomfortable for them when the teeth grow. I can’t attest to this for sure, but it looks as if it might be uncomfortable for them. When their teeth are misaligned, it’s very obvious. If you suspect your guinea pig has teeth that are growing, try to look at them. Get under them or flip them over if they allow that so you can visualize their teeth. When Butterscotch’s teeth grew, at least the front ones, we could see very obviously that they were longer sticking out of his mouth. He often would also chew on his left side more so the right side would grow visibly longer while the left side stayed the proper shortness.
Procedure at the Vet
When Butterscotch got his teeth cut, we took him to the vet and if it was just the front teeth that needed to get cut, our vet could quickly cut them while he was awake, then I’d take him home. If he needed the back teeth cut, which in truth only ended up being twice, he had to stay at the veterinary office all day for the procedure. He’d come home on pain meds and/or other meds and we’d play the wait and see game. It was always hard to get him to start eating again, which always made us nervous because of the risks of not eating I mentioned above. But we always got him back eating, especially when we offered his favorites of parsley, cilantro, apple, or watermelon.
We had to have his front teeth cut far more often than the back teeth, thankfully. His teeth cutting needs started out slow, then progressed to shorter and shorter times. They were okay for 4-6 months at first, then we went to three, then we got down to when he needed his front teeth cut every month. The vet was nervous to put him under anesthesia the older he got, and also nervous to cut his teeth more than every 4-6 weeks because it was stressful for him. And putting stress on a very fragile and weak guinea pig can be very dangerous and not to mention life-threatening.
But we did our best, and he lived to be eight and half years old. We felt very blessed to have him for that long. He was such a good pig, very cuddly, social, and very feisty! Which is likely why he lived so long! My son was in constant contact with him and engaging him when he was home. He was a very happy pig and had a great long life! But we miss him terribly.
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