Small Mammal Dental Care at Cats & Critters
Small mammals can experience dental disease as in other species with malocclusions, oral trauma, periodontal disease, and tooth root infections.
Symptoms of Dental Disease
It is important that owners are aware of symptoms to watch for with dental disease including:
- Decreased appetite
- Selective eating, preference for softer foods
- Weight loss
- Drooling and wet haircoat on chin
- Matted fur
- Eye or nasal discharge
- Facial swelling or discharge
- Tooth elongation/overgrowth
- Mild head tilt or change in facial expression
Each small mammal species has a unique oral structure and position of the teeth. Rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas have continuously growing (erupting) teeth—both incisors and cheek teeth (premolars and molars). Tooth growth can be influenced by age, health, gender, and nutrition. There is a balance between tooth growth/eruption and tooth attrition/wear from normal occlusion. Anything that disrupts this may lead to malocclusion and secondary dental disease. Hay promotes side-to-side grinding to help control dental overgrowth. Therefore, hay should be available at all times for rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. Rodent (including hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats, and others) only have incisors that continuously grow while the cheek teeth do not. However, rodents can still certainly have problems with incisor overgrowth and trauma.
When to Schedule an Exam
Small mammals that demonstrate the above symptoms should be evaluated immediately by a veterinarian. A complete physical exam and oral exam should be completed. A thorough oral exam may require anesthesia. Then the most appropriate treatment plan and/or further diagnostic evaluation can be determined including molar trimming, skull/dental radiographs, culture if abscess present, tooth extractions, or referral for CT scan. Please call with any questions or concerns and to schedule an appointment for your small mammal friend.