Chinchillas make lively and interesting pets. In order to keep your chinchilla happy and healthy, it's important that you care for his teeth properly. But how do you know when your chinchilla needs a visit to a pet dentist and what potential problems should you look out for? Read on to find out more.
Common dental problems in chinchillas
- Tooth elongation
Tooth elongation is an easily preventable condition that prevents the animal from eating properly. The chinchilla's front teeth grow continually. Ordinarily, the animal will grind the teeth down itself through chewing and gnawing on its food. However, if an opposing tooth is knocked out, meaning that there is nothing for its partner to grind against, or if the animal is not provided with the correct diet, such as hay, the teeth will become overgrown.
A veterinary surgeon or pet dentist should clip and file your pet's teeth every six weeks or so to prevent elongation occurring.
- Root elongation
This is a very painful condition where the roots of the chinchilla's bottom teeth grown into his jawbone, or the roots of the upper teeth grow into the eye socket or nasal duct. This condition is usually caused by misalignment of the teeth. Ensuring that your chinchilla has his teeth regularly checked and trimmed by your vet can help to prevent root elongation.
This is a serious condition for your pet and is usually the main cause of root elongation. Where malocclusion occurs, the teeth become misaligned and, as a result, don't meet when the animal is chewing. If the chinchilla is unable to eat properly, he may become seriously malnourished and could even die.
Make sure that your pet has a diet of coarse hay and chinchilla pellets. In order to eat the food, the chinchilla will have to use a side-to-side chewing motion that will help to grind down the back teeth evenly. Remember to provide your pet with lots of hard items he can use to file his front teeth. Good pet stores stock a wide range of suitable products for this.
- Tooth loss
Just like people, chinchillas can suffer from tooth decay due to eating a diet that is too high in sugar. Tooth decay can cause the teeth to fall out, leading to problems with chewing and consequent overgrowth of the other teeth. Trauma can also cause a tooth to be knocked out.
To prevent tooth loss, provide your chinchilla with a balanced diet of hay and pellets, and make sure that any 'furniture' he has in his home is sturdy and secure, so that he won't fall and hurt himself.
- Tooth spurs
Tooth spurs are sharp projections from a tooth that can injure the chinchilla's tongue and mouth. As a result of this pain, your pet may have trouble eating, and the cuts could even become infected.
Tooth spurs are usually caused by misalignment and consequent uneven wear of the teeth and should be treated urgently by a pet dentist or vet.
Signs of tooth problems
Dental problems in chinchillas are usually indicated by any of the following symptoms:
- problems eating
- watery eyes
- pawing at the mouth
- loss of interest in gnawing
- problems drinking from a water bottle
- grinding teeth
- appearance of lumps under the eye sockets
If your pet shows any of these symptoms, you should seek veterinary advice immediately.
It's extremely important to ensure that your chinchilla has plenty of roughage, such as hay or pellets to chew on. These help to wear down the teeth, preventing overgrowth. To prevent trauma, make sure that all the toys and fixtures in your chinchilla's home are safe and sturdy; a common cause of tooth loss or damage is trauma.
Your chinchilla should be checked over by a qualified pet dentist every few months, and a head X-ray should be performed annually to ensure that developing tooth disorders don't go unnoticed and untreated.