Our Veterinarian Dentist Will Take Care Of Your Small Pets
Gizmo is being syringe-fed after his dental treatment.
Your pets veterinarian is also your pets dentist, and it comes as a surprise for some pet owners that their small pets require dental care. While ferret dental care is similar to that of dogs and cats (since they are carnivores), rabbits, rats, chinchillas and guinea pigs are small herbivores and have very unique dental care requirements. At the Kennedy Heights animal and Bird Hospital in Surrey, BC we have the specialized equipment and experience to look after your small pet’s dental care.
Dental Disease in one of the Most Common Problems seen in Small Herbivores by Veterinary Dentists
An annual or twice yearly dental checkup is necessary for your rabbit, guinea pig or chinchilla to keep his teeth in the best condition.
These small herbivores are designed to eat a diet of a wide variety of soft and tough vegetation. All of their teeth grow continuously to compensate for the pronounced wear caused by continual chewing of abrasive foods. All the teeth grow at a rate of approximately 3mm per week. The teeth also have a natural curve as they grow. As the teeth overgrow, the sharp points can come into contact with the inside of the cheek or the tongue causing painful ulcers.
Causes of dental disease in the small herbivores
- GENETICS – Unfortunately human interference in the breeding of rabbits especially has often resulted in anatomical changes that can lead to disease. In the case of dental problems, changing the shape of the skull can drastically change how the teeth contact and wear on each other. The most obvious example is the lop-eared rabbit, in which the length of the jaw has been shortened. The changed the jaw structure results in malocclusion of the teeth and ultimately elongated teeth (because they are not being worn down) that must be trimmed on a regular basis or removed.
- DIET - Next to genetics, this is probably the most common cause of dental disease in the pet rabbit, guinea pig or chinchilla. In our modern world, we have been trained to believe that a commercial pelleted diet is the best diet for these pets. These pelleted diets were originally developed for the “production rabbit,” meant for a short life ending in the meat or fur market, or for laboratory rabbits which also experiences a shorter life span. For these purposes it is an efficient means of growing the animal quickly, but is a poor diet for rabbits or chinchillas kept as pets for the full span of their life. The pellets require little effort to chew since they are essentially already “pulverized”, and little time to chew since they are high in calories and low in volume. This leads to inadequate wear on the teeth and overgrowth is drastically reduced. Both the small volume and texture of an exclusively pelleted diet adversely affect proper tooth wear. We do not recommend commercial pellets as a main source of food for any pet rabbit, chinchilla or guinea pig for this reason. A diet that consists primarily of timothy hay and greens is recommended.
- TRAUMA – Trauma to the face can result in changes in the jaw or malocclusion of the teeth. If the teeth are broken (most typically the incisors) and they grow in at an improper angle, it will throw off the anatomy of the mouth and lead to multiple tooth problems. One of the most common incisor traumas is caused when a tooth breaks off below the gum line as a result of trimming the incisors with dog nail trimmers. However, accidents do occur and it is essential to get immediate care for your small pet should facial trauma occur to provide the best possible chance for a normal recovery
- SYSTEMIC DISEASE – Some systemic diseases can result in a change in dental health. Diseases that alter calcium levels in the body can cause a change in the bone surrounding the tooth, which will cause the tooth to shift its position and lead to malocclusion. Rabbits too weakened by disease to chew on solid food can develop overgrown teeth due to improper wear.
Signs of dental Disease in Small Herbivores
- loss of appetite - due to the teeth being out of alignment and inability to chew or due to overgrown teeth causing painful ulcers on the tongue or inside of the cheeks.
- being more selective about foods they will eat
- salivating excessively - occurs because of pain or the inability of the small pet to close its mouth due to overgrown molars.
- dropping food out of the mouth – still tries to eat, but can’t chew properly so some of the food falls back out of the mouth.
- tooth grinding
- nasal or eye discharge because the roots of the teeth are in close range of the tear ducts and nasal cavity, overgrown roots can obstruct the tear ducts and create irritation of the nasal passages.
- bulging of the eye – abscesses of the cheek teeth can lead to pressure behind the eye causing it to bulge.
- any swelling of the face – dental abscesses are the most common cause of facial swellings in small herbivores.
Since the teeth of small herbivores continually grow, proper veterinary care is crucial for their wellbeing. Bring your small pet to our animal hospital to see our veterinarian dentist for preventive dental examinations and treatment of dental problems.
Dental Examination and Treatment in Small Herbivores
At the Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital, every examination of a small pet includes a dental examination since we believe prevention is best.
Once your small pet has been diagnosed with dental disease, treatment involves:
- GRINDING/CUTTING OVERGROWN TEETH - Incisors (the teeth at the front of the mouth) should not be cut with dog nail trimmers. Although there are individuals who have employed these methods for years, it only takes one occurrence of breaking off an incisor below the gum line that leads to a lifetime of dental problems. It is not worth the risk. Overgrown incisors are best cut under sedation with a professional dental burr. In this way teeth can be trimmed without fear of breakage.Overgrown cheek teeth cannot be trimmed or ground while the pet is awake. Rabbit, chinchillas etc have a narrow mouth opening making it difficult to access all teeth in the conscious pet. It is necessary to anesthetize your pet to properly manage all the cheek teeth that are overgrown. A special rabbit dental burr that has a protective sleeve to prevent damage to the tissues of the mouth is used. Also, we use an endoscopic camera to magnify the teeth and allow full visualization. In this way we grind and reshape all the cheek teeth at the same time to encourage proper alignment.
- EXTRACTING TEETH - x-rays are routinely taken when doing dental procedures and should any teeth be abscessed they can be removed using specialized instruments.
- TREATING ABSCESSES – There are many options now available for the treatment of dental abscesses including complete surgical excision, antibiotic bead impregnation, and various injections into the wall of the abscess. Our experienced veterinarian will discuss these with you.
At the Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital in Surrey, BC we have a special interest in the dental care of these small pets. We have all the specialized dental equipment needed for small herbivores such as an endoscope, special small herbivore safety burrs for grinding, and small extractors. Our veterinarians are experienced and knowledgeable in dealing with small pet dental disease. Call us at (604)591-5304 to make an appointment or for more information.
Oral Disease in Pet Reptiles
While reptiles are less prone to dental problems, they are vulnerable to mouth rot, also called ulcerative stomatitis. It’s an infection which settles into the gum tissue, tongue and roof of the mouth. If left untreated, the infection can be fatal for your pet. Snakes and lizards are most vulnerable to mouth rot.
Find time to regularly check your reptile’s mouth. Watch out for any cuts or scrapes inside the mouth.
Symptoms of this condition include:
- Decrease in water intake
- Loss of appetite
- Thickening of saliva
- Yellow plaques in soft oral tissue
- Yellow pus inside and around the mouth
- Gum inflammation
If you have spotted any of these signs, please contact our animal hospital right away. An infection like mouth rot can your pet reptile very sick and uncomfortable. Once proper diagnosis is made, our veterinarians will clean away the worst of the infection and prescribe antibiotics for your pet. Our veterinarians will also advise you on the proper diet and environmental requirements for your reptile.
To Prevent mouth rot and other dental problems:
- Ensure correct temperature and humidity in your reptile’s living area
- Provide your reptile with a hiding box or shelter
- Proper diet (vitamin C and proper Calcium phosphorus levels)
- Be gentle when opening your pet reptile’s mouth to avoid breaking and damaging the jaws
Find out more about small pet dental care and the best way to take care of your little pet. Call us at 604 591 5304.