dental illness in small mammals

dental illness in small mammals
Abigail Edis appears on the construction, prognosis and remedy of this factor in rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas, in addition to the desire for proprietor schooling on suitable meals and recognizing the scientific indicators…
  • This text was once at the beginning printed in LVS Congress Occasions 2022.


Small herbivore pets – corresponding to rabbits and guinea pigs – nonetheless stay company favourites as small pets, particularly for the more youthful era.

For a few years, it’s been widely known that those animals can be afflicted by dental malocclusion. As extra proof and analysis continues, we’re working out this situation isn’t just so simple as at all times being right down to deficient husbandry, even if this does play a task within the construction of the illness.

It will be important that vets and nurses are in a position to know one of the crucial reasons and preventions of this quite not unusual drawback, in addition to conventional remedy and analysis.

This article is going to be a snappy rundown of reasons, scientific indicators and coverings for probably the most usually noticed dental prerequisites.

Herbivore species which might be saved as pets are from more than a few portions of the sector, however the only factor they have got in not unusual is that they have got advanced to devour and digest lengthy‑stem fibres.

A part of this evolution has concerned the presence of persistent rising (hypsodont), open‑rooted enamel. To take care of the well being of those enamel, the animal should regularly reason put on by means of grinding plant fabrics containing phytoliths (silica deposits) – those deposits are without delay connected to the damage of the teeth (Martin et al, 2019).

In recent years, many animal charities and associations have helped teach the general public in this factor, serving to to verify those species have a continuing and persistent provide of hay or grass to lend a hand put on down their enamel.

On the other hand, sadly the improvement of dental illness has extra reasons than loss of hay/grass – and those can also be damaged down into the next.

Congenital illness

Congenital malocclusion is never noticed in guinea pigs or chinchillas, however is a not unusual situation noticed in rabbits.

Malocclusion of the incisors is noticed usually in dwarf rabbit breeds, which can be continuously brachycephalic and lop-eared; those breeds would possibly come with the lionhead, Netherland dwarf (Determine 1) and mini lop (Crossley, 1995).

dental illness in small mammals
Determine 1. Dwarf breeds of rabbit – in particular Netherland dwarfs as pictured – are continuously vulnerable to congenital malocclusion of the incisors.

Elongation of the incisors is continuously noticed in those animals by the point they succeed in the age of 4 months, and remedy for this situation is whole removing of all six incisors.

Congenital illness of the molars could also be imaginable – particularly within the indexed breeds – continuously because of the crowding of the enamel in the mouth.

Sadly, lop-eared rabbits also are at a tremendously greater chance of aural illness, together with abscesses (Johnson and Burn, 2019).

Received illness

Even supposing a big majority of received illness is right down to beside the point nutrition, different reasons of received dental malocclusion exist.


Facial trauma to those animals, involving any fractures, is prone to reason ongoing dental adjustments. The commonest reasons of trauma come with fox/canine assaults, unintended stepping on – or trapping in – doorways, and falls from a top.

Vitamin crisis

Even supposing schooling concerning the significance of the consistent provide of hay/grass has tremendously stepped forward – and plenty of homeowners supply this – the issue arises with amounts of different meals resources. Those species have advanced to devour low‑power, prime‑fibre meals, however will search out the upper‑power, sweeter meals earlier than consuming hays.

Subsequently, when homeowners supply pets with too massive a portion of concentrates (pellets) and recent greens, those animals will replenish on those, and both keep away from hay or devour insufficient amounts to supply dental put on.

Muesli mixes have additionally been without delay connected to dental illness in rabbits (Meredith et al, 2015); sadly, those meals are nonetheless to be had in puppy shops.

Approximate amounts species must be fed can also be noticed in Desk 1.

Desk 1. Suitable feeding amounts for puppy herbivores
Species Hay/grass Pellets Greens/herbs Dried forage/treats
Rabbits Limitless (a ball of hay the scale of the animal as minimal). A tablespoon consistent with rabbit as soon as an afternoon (some would possibly not require). A cup of darkish leafy vegetables/herbs/weeds (roughly 100g) consistent with rabbit as soon as an afternoon. Hay or wild meals‑founded dried forage and treats could make up 5% of day-to-day meals.
Guinea pigs Limitless (a ball of hay the scale of the animal as minimal). A tablespoon consistent with guinea pig as soon as an afternoon (some would possibly not require). Part a cup of darkish leafy vegetables/herbs/weeds (roughly 50g) consistent with guinea pig as soon as an afternoon. A better nutrition C vegetable must be introduced throughout the portion. Hay or wild meals‑founded dried forage and treats could make up 5% of day-to-day meals.
Chinchilla Limitless (a ball of hay the scale of the animal as minimal). A teaspoon consistent with chinchilla as soon as an afternoon. Minimum or no recent meals must be given as treats simplest. Dried forages and barks are continuously given as a substitute of unpolluted greens.

Calcium and nutrition D

Sadly, different reasons of received dental illness in herbivores exist that many house owners can’t save you with suitable husbandry.

Growing older guinea pigs are vulnerable to growing renal illness. This, in flip, reasons secondary renal hyperparathyroidism that, due to this fact, results in osteodystrophy.

The thinning of the bone of the jaw reasons relief of damage of the enamel and motion throughout the sockets, inflicting dental malocclusion. This thinning can be liable for the improvement of illness in rabbits (Jekl and Redrobe, 2013).

Indoor rabbits could also be extra vulnerable to this factor because of decreased publicity to UV mild and, due to this fact, nutrition D, which is very important for calcium absorption.

In older herbivores, it’s most likely that ache from arthritis of the temporomandibular joint and ear illness could cause adjustments to chewing trend, and, due to this fact, malocclusion in those animals.

Scientific indicators

The scientific indicators of dental illness in small herbivores varies between species – and it is very important perceive this when seeing them in apply.


This species will continuously selectively feed when dental illness is noticed. This continuously manner they make a choice meals which might be softer and more straightforward to chunk, corresponding to pellets and greens.

Because of ache from ulceration within the mouth, they are able to transform polydipsic.

Rabbits with incisor malocclusion will continuously seem with an unkempt coat because of being not able to groom successfully.

Abscesses of the jaw are usually noticed as a visual (or palpable) swelling (Harcourt‑Brown, 2007).

Guinea pigs

Because of the mechanism of overgrowth throughout the mouth inflicting molars to bridge over the tongue, guinea pigs will continuously lose the facility to swallow successfully or in any respect (Determine 2). This continuously results in ptyalism.

The affected person is continuously very hungry, and can in most cases select meals up and drop it out in their mouth after making an attempt to chunk.

Guinea pig incisors will begin to put on in a diagonal method – that is indicative of overgrown molars. Dental abscesses in guinea pigs also are rather not unusual.

Figure 2. A typical presentation of overgrown bridging molars in a guinea pig. This impedes their ability to swallow.
Determine 2. A regular presentation of overgrown bridging molars in a guinea pig. This impedes their talent to swallow.


This small species is continuously extra delicate with regards to scientific indicators. Some will paw at their mouths and hypersalivate because of ache for mucosal ulceration; others will display selective feeding, like rabbits, or drop meals out in their mouths.

Many chinchillas are introduced with blepharospasm and tear overflow because of the elongation of the maxillary enamel roots inflicting discomfort to the attention and blockage of the nasolacrimal duct (Prebble, 2011).


Mindful oral exam of those sufferers is the primary a part of creating a prognosis of dental illness; this can also be accomplished by means of the use of an otoscope.

Mindful exam will display obtrusive and critical adjustments within the oral hollow space.

An intensive, complete oral exam can simplest be accomplished whilst a affected person is deeply sedated or anaesthetised, and the use of a mouth gag and cheek dilators (Lennox, 2008; Determine 3).

Figure 3. Full thorough oral examination can be achieved under anaesthesia using either a tabletop, as pictured, or handheld gag and cheek dilators.
Determine 3. Complete thorough oral exam can also be accomplished beneath anaesthesia the use of both a tabletop, as pictured, or hand held gag and cheek dilators.

This can be very essential that vets and nurses transform conversant in what’s commonplace for various species, as all have other dental anatomy. It’s not atypical, as an example, for green veterinarians to diagnose spurs at the lingual side of the mandibular cheek enamel of a rabbit – those spurs are commonplace anatomy, offering they don’t seem to be overlong or inflicting comfortable tissue trauma (Determine 4).

Figure 4. Normal lingual spurs in a rabbit’s mandibular molars. These are often mistaken for dental disease, but are normal anatomy for these species.
Determine 4. Standard lingual spurs in a rabbit’s mandibular molars. Those are continuously incorrect for dental illness, however are commonplace anatomy for those species.

Imaging must additionally at all times be carried out to evaluate the roots of the enamel and for any indicators of an infection. Abscesses and adjustments to the roots could cause vital ache within the affected person, and, in some instances, can also be the reason for the presenting scientific indicators – even if intraoral exam is commonplace.

Essentially the most awesome imaging to be had for dental adjustments is CT as this avoids any superimposition of pictures (Capello, 2016). On the other hand, no longer all practices have get admission to to this modality and no longer all homeowners may have to be had budget for complicated imaging.

Then again, radiography can also be carried out to evaluate the dental roots. At least 4 perspectives of the cranium must be taken to totally symbol the dental structure and bone density – those are lateral, dorsoventral and two indirect perspectives. A rostral-caudal view can be carried out to evaluate the temporomandibular joint.

Some other helpful imaging way is using an endoscope to supply direct visualisation of the oral hollow space intimately. This can also be particularly essential – and continuously crucial – within the smaller species, corresponding to chinchillas and degus, the place it’s prone to be more difficult to visualize small spurs and comfortable tissue trauma (Mans and Jekl, 2016).

Metabolic illness and renal illness could also be tricky to diagnose. Those are continuously made as a presumptive prognosis in accordance with ruling out different reasons.


Remedy for dental illness in herbivores is determined by the underlying reason and severity of the illness.

Additionally it is extremely essential that any animal affected by malnutrition, dehydration and weight reduction because of dental illness is given a time of supportive nursing care previous to anaesthesia (Determine 5).

Figure 5. Debilitated patients should always be given nursing support prior to anaesthesia for dental correction. This will often involve analgesia, and nutritional support in the form of syringe feeding and fluids.
Determine 5. Debilitated sufferers must at all times be given nursing beef up previous to anaesthesia for dental correction. This may continuously contain analgesia, and dietary beef up within the type of syringe feeding and fluids.

Any adjustments throughout the oral hollow space should be corrected beneath anaesthesia. This comes to using a low‑pace diamond burr to scale back top and form the enamel again to a regular look.

Clipping and using hand rasps are contraindicated because of the chance of iatrogenic trauma, together with fractures of the enamel (Jekl et al, 2008), loosening of periodontal ligaments and unintended comfortable tissue trauma.

Free and fractured crowns or enamel which might be inflamed could also be got rid of, and sufferers with congenital malocclusion of the incisors must have whole removing of those enamel.

For sufferers affected by root illness, lengthy‑time period analgesia could be essential for the affected person so to devour with out vital ache. For the ones affected by abscesses of the roots and jaw, a extra drastic method is wanted for any probability of answer.

Abscesses inside those species can’t be lanced and tired, as they’d with our pussycat or dog sufferers, because of those animals generating a thick tablet and caseous puss. For answer, the abscess should be got rid of in its entirety.

When this isn’t imaginable, as a lot inflamed tissue should be got rid of. This will contain burring of the mandible or maxilla, removing of enamel, enucleation in retrobulbar an infection and intensive invasive surgical operation. The realm should then be marsupialised open for ongoing competitive wound flushing for a number of weeks to months (Meredith, 2007; Determine 6).

Figure 6. A rabbit’s mandibular dental abscess after extensive debridement, incisor removal and marsupialisation. These cases carry a guarded prognosis and require dedication from owners to carry on wound care at home for several weeks to months.
Determine 6. A rabbit’s mandibular dental abscess after intensive debridement, incisor removing and marsupialisation. Those instances raise a guarded analysis and require willpower from homeowners to hold on wound care at house for a number of weeks to months.

Tradition and sensitivity of the tablet tissue must even be analysed to verify right kind antibiotics are used for plenty of weeks to months. For plenty of rabbit sufferers, this may increasingly contain injectable penicillin, which homeowners could also be taught to manage at house.

Unsurprisingly, those sufferers have a extra guarded to deficient analysis – and in some instances, the abscess would possibly reform.

In critical instances of abscessation or people much less tolerant to remedy, euthanasia could also be a kinder choice.

For sufferers struggling extra metabolic illness, corresponding to renal illness, those sufferers usually are put on extra palliative care. Lengthy‑time period analgesia could be essential, in addition to common burring of overgrown enamel.

Sufferers affected by osteodystrophy would possibly have the benefit of an build up of UVB publicity for nutrition D.

You will need to no longer overload those sufferers with massive volumes of calcium because of the chance of growing uroliths throughout the urinary tract.


Prevention isn’t at all times imaginable in all kinds of dental illness, and a genetic part to a few sufferers growing the illness is prone to exist.

Teaching the general public to keep away from purchasing brachycephalic breeds of rabbits – corresponding to mini lops and Netherland dwarfs – would possibly lend a hand cut back the call for for those breeds, which can be much more likely to increase congenital incisor malocclusion.

Just right schooling to homeowners on suitable meals and amounts in those sufferers is essential to keep away from received illness from deficient nutrition.


Sadly, no longer all dental illness is received from a deficient nutrition. It will be important that vets and nurses are in a position to recognise this, and perceive the scientific indicators related to the illness in numerous species.

Through being up-to-the-minute with present analysis, execs can teach homeowners and select up scientific indicators previous – and this may simplest lend a hand to take care of higher welfare in our small bushy pets.


  • Capello V (2016). Diagnostic imaging of dental illness in puppy rabbits and rodents, Vet Clin North Am Exot Anim Pract 19(3): 757-782.
  • Crossley DA (1995). Scientific sides of lagomorph dental anatomy: the rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), J Vet Dent 12(4): 137-140.
  • Harcourt-Brown FM (2007). The innovative syndrome of received dental illness in rabbits, J Exot Puppy Med 16(3): 146-157.
  • Jekl V and Redrobe S (2013). Rabbit dental illness and calcium metabolism – the science in the back of divided evaluations, J Small Anim Pract 54(9): 481-490.
  • Jekl V, Hauptman Okay and Knotek Z (2008). Quantitative and qualitative tests of intraoral lesions in 180 small herbivorous mammals, Vet Rec 162(14): 442-449.
  • Johnson JC and Burn CC (2019). Lop‑eared rabbits have extra aural and dental issues than erect‑eared rabbits: a rescue inhabitants find out about, Vet Rec 185(24): 758.
  • Lennox AM (2008). Analysis and remedy of dental illness in puppy rabbits, J Exot Puppy Med 17(2): 107-113.
  • Mans C and Jekl V (2016). Anatomy and issues of the oral hollow space of chinchillas and degus, Vet Clin North Am Exot Anim Pract 19(3): 843-869.
  • Martin LF, Winkler D, Tütken T et al (2019). The approach put on is going: phytolith-based put on at the dentine‑teeth device in guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus), Proc Royal Soc B 286(1,912): 20191921.
  • Meredith A (2007). Rabbit dentistry, Eur J Compan Anim Pract 17(1): 55-62.
  • Meredith AL, Prebble JL and Shaw DJ (2015). Have an effect on of nutrition on incisor enlargement and attrition and the improvement of dental illness in puppy rabbits, J Small Anim Pract 56(6): 377-382.
  • Prebble J (2011). Chinchilla husbandry: an summary of right kind care, Vet Nurse 2(8): 452-458.
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