Small Animal Dental Health

Small Animal Dental Health

As responsible small animal owners, it’s our job to educate ourselves on the proper care needed to ensure our pets’ health and well-being, including taking care of their dental health.

Did you know many small mammals, such as rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas, have open-rooted teeth? Meaning that throughout their entire lives, their teeth never stop growing! Because of this, these animals are more at risk of acquiring painful dental issues such as tooth overgrowth, abscesses in the mouth, and malocclusion (misalignment of the teeth).

Early Detection is Key

Because they are prey animals, it’s in the nature of our small pets to hide any signs of pain or illness they may be experiencing. This can make early detection difficult, so taking your small pets to be examined by a veterinarian at least once per year is recommended. A vet specializing in exotic pets will be able to thoroughly examine your pet and identify any issues that should be treated immediately to ensure your pet’s good health.

Between checkups, it is important to familiarize yourself with the normal appearance of your pet’s teeth and know what symptoms or behaviours could indicate possible dental issues.

Symptoms to Watch For:

  • Noticeably overgrown teeth
  • Difficulty chewing or dropping food from the mouth
  • Watery eyes, nasal discharge or drooling from the mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Reluctance or refusal to eat
  • Reduced grooming and/or bald patches of fur
  • Visible signs of pain (i.e., hunching in a corner, grinding teeth, etc.)


Thankfully, most forms of acquired dental disease in small animals are preventable with proper diet and care. For small herbivores like rabbits and guinea pigs, a diet that lacks free-choice hay is arguably the most common cause of these dental issues.

  • Hay vs. Pellets – Because hay is high in fibre and stimulates natural chewing and dental wear patterns, various grass hay options should always be available to your herbivorous animals. While many pet parents still consider hay more of a treat for their small pets, at least 75% of their diet should be made up of it, with fortified pelleted food being fed daily in a measured amount (following the manufacturer’s direction.) We offer a variety of grass hay and pelleted foods to provide your small pets with the proper diet they require.
  • Leafy Greens and Vegetables – Supplementary foods such as dark leafy greens and vegetables have a coarse consistency, which will help your small animals keep their teeth worn down and should be offered to them in a limited amount daily. Ensure that the vegetables or greens you give your pet are safe for their particular species.
  • Chew Toys – Besides providing a proper diet, species-appropriate chew toys should also be available to your small pets. Toys and chews made from woven hay, untreated wood, dried sticks, or cardboard provide excellent opportunities for your pet to wear down their incisors while offering them enrichment and mental stimulation. We have a great selection of safe, natural chews to keep your pet busy while keeping their teeth healthy!

Visit one of our Experts at your local Feeds ‘n Needs store to see our great selection of small animal essentials and ask any questions you may have about proper dental care. We are always eager to help!

Feeds'n Needs Team