When a guinea pig stops eating normally, you know there's something wrong. The first warning sign came when Peaches didn't scarf down her blueberry right away. Confused by her uncharacteristic lack of enthusiasm, I peered at her as she took her time chewing, making unusual jaw movements as if she was trying to dislodge food from between her teeth.
I watched her closely through the next several mealtimes with increasing apprehension. On Monday she was gobbling down grass with gleeful gusto. By Wednesday she was struggling to snip even the thinnest blades. A visit to the vet confirmed my suspicions: malocclusion.
WHAT IS MALOCCLUSION?
Guinea pigs have open-rooted dental systems - meaning, their teeth are constantly growing throughout their lifetime. This continuous growth makes them more susceptible to malocclusion, a condition where overgrown teeth and other dental anomalies prevent the cavy from being able to eat and chew food normally.
- Difficulty chewing
- Difficulty ripping food with teeth
- Drooling, present as wet fur around the mouth and chin
- Inability to completely close the mouth
- Incisor overgrowth
- Eating at a slower than normal pace
- Decreased appetite, shows interest in food but is unable to eat
- Preference for soft foods
- Weight loss
- Facial abscesses
- Eye discharge
In Peaches' case symptoms presented as difficulty chewing, difficulty tearing at food, and chewing at a slower pace. She displayed her usual interest in food but had trouble eating it. Being the diva pig that she is, Peaches repeatedly demonstrated her frustration by picking up food in her mouth, waving it about, and pawing the air before dropping it and repeating the process again.
Peaches underwent an oral exam and dental trim under anesthesia. During the procedure our vet discovered that her bottom left incisor was growing in twice as thick as the right. Her incisors were trimmed and her molars were filed down slightly with a dental bur.
Peach was prescribed Metacam for inflammation and pain relief.
To encourage her to eat, we brought out all her favorite foods. While in a drug-induced haze she began to take nibbles here and there. To make it easier for her we trimmed long strands of hay short, cut greens and vegetables into half-centimeter size pieces, curled lettuce leaves into rolls, and provided fresh grass. We hand fed her and supplemented her diet with Oxbow Critical Care.
After the pain meds from the procedure fully wore off Peaches completely lost her appetite. Because of the dental discomfort she was no longer willing to even consider eating on her own. Worried about gastrointestinal hypomotility, the piggy dad and I began syringe feeding her every 4-6 hours to keep her digestive tract moving. After a consultation with our vet, Cisapride was prescribed to aid motility.
We hope Peaches feels better soon. I'm sure she's getting sick of all those syringes.
U.S. National Library of Medicine - Malocclusions in Guinea Pigs, Chinchillas, and Rabbits
Guinea Lynx - Malocclusion
Guinea Lynx - Malocclusion