Dental care in exotic pets



Dental care in exotic pets is a broad subject, the term "exotic pet" now covers a very wide range of animals. Many of them do not have teeth and others you wouldn't want to put your hands anywhere near their mouths!

So I am going to restrict my comments here to a few of the more "conventional' exotic pets that people keep and their most common dental failings. As you will shortly see, the terms "malocclusion" and "inherited abnormality' are a recurring theme.

Rabbits

Excessive growth of some teeth can be the result of molar or incisor teeth wearing abnormally. This can result in abnormal jaw movements, excessive salivation and difficulty in eating. The only solution is to clip the teeth back to their normal length - usually under sedation. Unfortunately the condition is likely to be ongoing and thus require regular attention. It may well be inherited and thus rabbits suffering from this condition should not be used for breeding purposes.

Hamsters

As their teeth keep on growing, repeated clipping of the teeth is required unless they are given something to gnaw on that causes the growth to be continually kept in check by wear and tear.

Hamsters can also suffer from dental caries if an inappropriate diet is fed.

Guinea Pigs

Their teeth also grow throughout their lifetime. As with rabbits, any malocclusion will tend to cause unopposed teeth to overgrow. This leads to difficulty in eating and drooling of saliva. The teeth need to be clipped back to their normal length, again usually under light sedation.

The condition tends to recur and needs regular clipping to enable the animal to eat properly.

Rats and Mice

A poor appetite and weight loss can result from overgrown incisors. However, drooling is not often seen in these pets. The overgrown teeth can be clipped but the condition usually recurs and requires frequent attention.

Chinchillas

Malocclusions, also known by the wonderfully descriptive name "slobbers", is caused by overgrowth of the molars and incisors. Drooling can be excessive leading to obvious wet fur around on the chin, chest and paws.

Prevention is better than treatment (clipping is not very effective) and involves getting the mineral balance in the diet correct and supplying sufficient material for them to gnaw on.

This condition may well be inherited and so breeding from affected animals should be avoided.

Gerbils

Abnormal teeth growth occurs when they do not have enough suitable material to chew on. Clipping the teeth and correcting the diet usually solves the problem.

Dental care in the "common" exotics therefore often revolves around genetics and diet and the pet owner needs to ensure that these aspects are taken into account when deciding to own one of these pets.