If you notice your guinea pig grinding his teeth, it could be a warning sign of a potentially serious problem. Guinea pigs may grind their teeth in response to pain, or it could indicate a dental problem that could lead to an infection or difficulty eating. Guinea pigs also grind and chatter their teeth to indicate annoyance, so it could mean there is a problem with a cage mate. In either case, identifying the source of the problem quickly can help you return your cavy to his former healthy, happy state.
One reason a guinea pig might grind his teeth is a reaction to pain. In the wild, ill or injured guinea pigs are easy prey, so they tend to try to hide obvious symptoms as much as possible. Oftentimes, the only signs a guinea pig is seriously ill are subtle cues like teeth grinding and weight loss. In order to spot illness as early as possible, weigh your guinea pig every week, and if you notice tooth grinding accompanied by a sustained drop in body weight, get your pet to the veterinarian immediately.
If your guinea pig grinds his teeth and seems to have difficulty eating, it could be a dental problem. Guinea pig teeth grow constantly and they require a regular supply of grass hay to wear down the molars. If a guinea pig's teeth become overgrown, he may have difficulty biting vegetables or pellets, and may grind his teeth in an attempt to wear them back down. Any problem that affects your cavy's ability to eat is extremely serious, and your vet can examine his teeth and determine whether a dental procedure is necessary to restore his ability to chew properly.
A guinea pig may also grind his teeth if he has an upset stomach. A cavy cannot regurgitate food in the case of gastrointestinal upset, so if your pet eats something that disagrees with him, he may appear listless and bloated and express his discomfort with teeth grinding. Vegetables like broccoli can cause an excess of gas, and may give your guinea pig a stomachache if you feed him too much at once. If teeth grinding occurs with difficulty eliminating, however, it could be a sign of a potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal impaction and you should contact your vet.
If your guinea pig grinds and chatters his teeth audibly, then chances are he is expressing annoyance. In most cases, teeth chattering serves as the last warning before two guinea pigs launch into a fight, so you should always pay attention if you hear this distinctive noise coming from the cage. If you have recently introduced a new member to the herd, it could be related to their attempts to establish a proper pecking order, but even long-term guinea pig relationships can break down when the animals age or become ill. If you notice two of your pigs chattering their teeth at one another, you may need to separate the two animals to allow them to cool down.
Milton Kazmeyer has worked in the insurance, financial and manufacturing fields and also served as a federal contractor. He began his writing career in 2007 and now works full-time as a writer and transcriptionist. His primary fields of expertise include computers, astronomy, alternative energy sources and the environment.