Hungry Butters the guinea pig
Butters’ mum noticed that he had started to have issues eating. This lovely little pig had a big problem!
Rabbits and guinea pigs have an unusual set up in their mouths with teeth that continually grow throughout their lives (a rabbit's teeth can grow up to 20cm a year!) They are designed to be worn down as they chew grass and hay. They can chew for the vast majority of the day in the wild in order to get the nutrition out of grass.
Pet guinea pigs and rabbits have different diets and different stresses compared to wild ones. We have a tendency to use a large amount of pellets and ‘concentrates’ when feeding them, using a minimum of hay or grass. Although this is very nutritious, it means that these creatures don’t end up chewing as much of the hay because they are already full. Because they don’t chew, the teeth continue to grow and aren’t worn down. Ideally approximately 90% of their diet should be hay, 5% greens, 5% pellets/ concentrates
The lack of direct sunlight is another problem for indoor guinea pigs and rabbits. The lack of vitamin D can cause weakness in the ligaments around the teeth. If the teeth become loose, when they chew, the teeth get pushed to the side and don’t wear evenly. Guinea pigs and rabbits should get 4 to 6 hours of daylight every day.
Butters' mouth presented quite a spectacular sight as seen in the photograph here. His lower right molar had grown across the mouth and into his cheek on the left (you can see it coming from the left to the right of the image behind the incisors at the front). It had trapped his tongue and prevented him from eating.
After a bit of dental work, we cut back the tooth and reshaped the others to get a good occlusion, allowing him to eat properly again. He is now a bright and happy and no longer hungry Butters.
If you see that your guinea pig or rabbit is eating less than normal, dribbling, has some eye discharge or prefers one type of food rather than another, then get him/ her checked as soon as possible by a veterinarian. The earlier we get onto these problems, the easier it is to treat them.