Monday, March 5, 2018

Guinea Pig Nutrition and Dental Health

Time for some guinea pig talk! These fuzzy little guys (or not so fuzzy in the case of skinny pigs) can make great pets and are very endearing.  For those who are new to the world of guinea pigs I wanted to share some information on their ideal diet and their dental health. Dental problems are one of the main concerns we see guinea pigs in the clinic for.


Diet is an essential component of keeping your pig healthy. Guinea pigs should eat a diet that consists of a combination of fresh Timothy Hay, a well balanced pellet such as Oxbow's Essential Adult Guinea Pig diet, and a mix of fresh greens.  For pigs over 6 month of age we recommend feeding 1/8 to 1/4  cup of pellets per day in addition to unlimited grass hay. Fresh foods should not make up more than 10-15% of the daily food. Changes to the diet should be made gradually as they have very sensitive digestive tracts.  Leafy green veggies such as spinach, turnip greens, parsley and dandelion greens are good options for fresh foods. Leafy greens should be the main component of the fresh foods with other vegetables and fruits being offered in moderation.  These can include things like apple, carrots, cilantro, cucumber and berries.  Some foods to avoid include raw beans, iceberg lettuce, and shelled nuts or seeds, rhubarb and long celery stalks. 

Guinea pigs also require a vitamin C supplement because they do not produce their own vitamin C (just like people). The best way to do this is by giving a 1/4 to 1/2 of a human 100mg vitamin C tablet once daily. 

Keep in mind that hay is essential to keeping your guinea pigs digestive tract working and for keeping the teeth from overgrowing and developing problems.

Dental Health

Guinea pigs have twenty teeth in total. They are all open rooted teeth and this means that are continuously growing. They rely on their food to help wear them down and keep the teeth from overgrowing.   You will see four incisors at the front of the mouth, two on top and two on the bottom. The other teeth are premolars and molars and are difficult to see due to the guinea pigs large cheeks. In the clinic we use a special tool call a speculum to help us to look in the back of the mouth and check the teeth for problems. Sometimes sedation may be required to get a proper look in the mouth. The most common problem we see is the molars and premolars becoming overgrown. This can occur if the pig is born with a malocclusion or if the do not eat a proper diet. The teeth can grow very quickly and if a pig stops eating due to an illness they may also develop overgrown teeth that need to be trimmed.

If teeth grow too long they can rub on the cheeks or tongue causing painful sores and infection. Some pigs may require regular dental checks and tooth trims.  In extreme cases the lower teeth can grow towards the middle of the tongue from both sides, trapping the tongue under the teeth. This requires an emergency tooth trim to free the tongue to allow the guinea pig to eat.

this picture shows how overgrown teeth can rub on the tongue and cheeks

Guinea pigs can also develop other dental health problems such as elongated tooth roots, tooth root infections and overgrown incisors. It is important to have your guinea pig checked yearly to ensure their teeth are looking good and to identify any potential problems early on.

A side view of a guinea pigs jaw and teeth on X-ray
I hope this has been a helpful and informative blog post. If you want more information on guinea pig care call or stop by the clinic for our guinea pig care package.
As always thanks for reading!
Dr Ingrid

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