Symptoms of Overgrowth
If a chinchilla’s front teeth are overgrown, they may appear excessively long when the upper and lower lips are gently lifted, and you may be able to feel bumps along their jaw. Before these obvious signs emerge, however, your chinchilla may be experiencing overgrowth if they are:
Choosing softer or easier to chew food
Eating less overall
What Causes Overgrowth?
Chinchillas’ teeth, as with many other rodents, grow continuously throughout their lives. This is because in nature, wild chinchillas are often chewing on rough shrubbery and vegetation in the Andes mountains where they live. Because their diet is so abrasive, their teeth constantly grow to compensate. Their front teeth can grow as much as 2-3 inches per year!
Pet chinchillas typically are not fed the same type foods as they do in the wild. Instead of eating coarse vegetation, they are generally fed dry pellets and hay, which are much easier to chew. Hay consumption encourages chewing but not at the same frequency as seen in the wild. Because of this, pet chinchillas may experience tooth overgrowth.
Treatment and Prevention
If your chinchilla is exhibiting any of these symptoms, you should take them to the vet immediately. The vet can determine whether overgrowth is occurring and perform tooth trims to get your pet back to a healthy state. If done correctly, tooth trims are not painful. Most likely, the veterinarian will administer anesthesia and use a handheld rotary tool to trim the front teeth.This method causes no trauma to the tooth. Trimming the back teeth is a bit more difficult than trimming the front teeth because of their location, but is done by using a handheld dental file while the animal is under anesthesia.
To prevent overgrown teeth, make sure your chinchilla has plenty of fibrous materials to chew on. Timothy hay and wooden chew toys are easy materials to add to the habitat in order to encourage chewing, and you can also occasionally give them chew treats to promote their dental health.