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Guinea Pigs/Guinea Pig Won't Eat

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Question
I have two young guinea pigs that I keep together (they were left abandoned on a doorstep so I adopted them from a friend who found them) and one of them, a long-haired female named Peanut, is not eating. I leave hay and guinea pig pellets for her and her sister, Cashew, but she is not eating anything. I tried to hand feed her some hay, but she'll sniff at it or just ignore it. She is drinking water, and when I put in a fresh bowl of pellets in the cage, she perked up and ran over, but only pushed it around and then went back to her hut and lied down. She is currently lying down near the food bowl, but wont eat anything. Her teeth are long, but I am not sure what TOO long is. Please help! She is loosing weight and is very thin.

Answer
Front view of cavy teeth
Front view of cavy tee  

Side view of cavy teeth
Side view of cavy teet  
The front teeth on a guinea pig appear much longer than what you would expect them to be.  But it's not the front teeth that are so often the problem, but the back teeth.

The front teeth are used to bite down on their food, but it is ground up by the back teeth. I suspect she has what is called a 'malocclusion' which means the teeth are overlapping because they've overgrown and she is unable to chew.

You might try getting some Critical Care to supplement her diet. It's a liquid much like Ensure is for humans. You can hang another water bottle with the Critical Care and that will help to at least keep her nutritional status up.  She needs to be seen by a vet asap. Their little bodies require constant sustenance, so refusal to eat is a serious issue.

Here are a couple of pictures of properly aligned cavy teeth. The back teeth are almost impossible to see unless you are able to get the mouth open wide enough. The skin from the cheeks folds inward when you try to open the mouth, thus making it impossible to see those molars. It is a good example of what the teeth should look like.

From the side view you can see how the teeth must meet together like a puzzle. If they become overgrown the animal cannot grind the food so it can swallow. Sometimes a tooth will actually cut into the cheek, making it very painful.

This is not something you can do yourself. Front teeth are not so much a problem, but if it is the molars you need a vet. I hope the pictures help you visualize what the anatomical structure of the teeth is like.

I just realized I sent the same picture twice. I am revising this to show the front view that I missed the first time.  

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Pat VanAllen

Expertise

As is sometimes the case, people in urgent need of information have a higher degree of expectation than those of us as experts are able to give. The experts on this site do their best to give the most accurate and responsible answers possible. We ask that you remember that it is not our intention nor place to criticize the professional advice given by your veterinarian, nor is it appropriate for us to comment on the correctness of a diagnosis made by a licensed physician. Our knowledge is experience based. Although many years of breeding and showing cavies gives me a wealth of experience it cannot change the fact that we as experts are not veterinarians and therefore may occasionally have to reject questions that appear to be asking us to criticize advice given by the licensed professional. Having raised and exhibited cavies for many years I have extensive experience in cavy care and husbandry. I currently have an active breeding program for pedigreed show animals but do not encourage backyard breeding for inexperienced owners. Although I don't encourage breeding for fun I'm always happy to answer any questions from an owner who is in sincere need of help. Pet owners wanting to breed should understand that even experienced breeders have litter losses. The mortality rate is high in cavies. The chance for losing both sow and pups is always present, even with experience. Although this is a site for experts to assist owners, there is no expert in any field who has all the answers. The wisest thing a good expert can know is their limitations. Not having an answer does not diminish one's ability or knowledge. It simply shows that we recognize our limitations and operate within them.

Experience

Raised and shown cavies for many years, having aquired my first cavies in the early 1970's as pets. My caviary currently handles 65 + animals in two different breeds and several varieties. Having been in the health care industry as a licensed nurse for 35 years I have hands on experience with care and needs in both humans and cavies. Member of American Rabbit Breeders Association and American Cavy Breeders Association.

Organizations
Awarded Lifetime Membership in of one of the oldest cavy clubs in the United States, on whose Board I served as Sec/Treas for six years and currently serving as President. Also editor/publisher of the club's quarterly newsletter. We are strong supporters of our youth exhibitors, most of whom are 4H members who are working on cavy projects. Through these projects they become good responsible citizens. We deal with all aspects of showing, breeding, caring for and sharing experiences in the fancy. The cavy fancy is not a new one but in some areas is still relatively unknown. Our goal is to inspire interest in high quality, responsible breeding to improve the species, not just the reproduction of guinea pigs. Our job is to educate owners to help them make the right decisions and choices in the care of their cavies.

Education/Credentials
Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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