How to look after your rodent’s teeth

Looking after your rodent’s teeth will ensure they live happy and healthy lives without any problems.

Diet, lifestyle and environment are all important factors to consider when it comes to keeping your rodent’s teeth healthy.

Many small pets including chinchillas and degus are prone to dental problems. Unless they have inherited a disease from their parents, dental problems are usually down to poor diet or unsuitable environment.

Chinchillas and degus

You will only be able to visibly see chinchillas and degu’s front set of teeth, known as the incisors. These should be dark orange in colour. And the top and bottom set should meet nicely at a good level and not angled.

If you spot any of the following signs, your chinchilla or degu could have dental problems.

  • One or both eyes weeping
  • Drooling
  • Playing with food but not eating it completely
  • Teeth become lighter in colour
  • Teeth appear to be growing apart or at an angle
  • Face appears swollen or abscess appears along jawline
  • Reduced faeces or size reduced
  • Matted fur on the inside of their front legs
  • Sudden weight loss

Make sure you contact your vet if you have any concerns.

Reducing the risk of dental disease

One of the best ways of keeping your chinchilla and degu’s teeth healthy and reducing the risk of dental disease is by providing a varied and natural diet with plenty to gnaw on.

In fact, around 85% of their diet should be made up of good quality hay, 5% should be pellet feed and 10% healthy forage.

Chinchillas and degus should be housed in a spacious enclosure. Chinchillas need plenty of room for their everyday activities including perching, dust bathing, foraging for food, gnawing on safe wood and running. Degus need space for climbing, digging, chewing and running. If a degu is seen regularly chewing on their bars, it could be an indication that the environment is not suitable.

Hamsters and gerbils

Hamsters’ and gerbils’ teeth grow continuously through their lives and their diet should be as varied as possible with plenty of things for them to gnaw on, including safe fruit tree twigs.

Occasionally, hamsters and gerbils can suffer with overgrown incisors (the front teeth). This is more common in pets that have been bred poorly or have been involved in an accident where they may have fallen with an impact.

You should check their teeth regularly to make sure they remain a good length. They should be a light yellow colour, although they can be white when they’re very young.

Hamsters who chew their cage bars regularly can risk damaging their teeth, so you should try to prevent this behaviour. The best way is to provide a very spacious cage with lots of exciting activities including tunnels, fruit tree twigs and toys to chew, suitably sized wheels and scatter feeding. Changing their environment regularly will also help to keep them interested.

Rats and mice

Rats and mice also have front teeth that will continuously grow. Mice should have yellow teeth while rats have orange-yellow teeth, which may get darker as they age.

Mice and rats will wear their teeth down naturally by grinding their teeth together, this is known as ‘bruxing’. Occasionally, both mice and rats can suffer with dental issues including overgrown incisors, like hamsters and gerbils. Again, this can be down to poor breeding or an accident.

Keeping an eye on your mice

If you spot any of these signs, your mouse could have dental problems:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Eating less than they usually do
  • Unable to chew hard foods and only eating softer foods they’re given
  • Incisors are not symmetrical

What to look out for in rats

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Eating less than they usually do
  • Unable to chew hard foods and only eating softer foods they’re given
  • Lumps along the lower jaw

For mice and rats, the following signs can indicate a number of things including damaged teeth, or food getting stuck, but often the cause can be unknown:

  • Lumps along the lower jaw
  • Abscesses on the side of their face
  • Swelling in or around the mouth

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