Chocolate Polish Lop

Cavies and Malocclusion
Judy Ritchie
3/29/2008 4:00:00 AM


by Judy Ritchie

         It started when I noticed that ‘Amber’ was losing weight - she was ‘in pig’ and about 3/4 of the way into her pregnancy. She looked like she had a large family due, as she was bigger than usual. I thought maybe this was partly the cause of her losing condition. I increased her ration and gave her a booster vitamin liquid as well. Her condition didn’t worsen after this although she had some hair loss. Four days before the babies were born she started bleeding. I thought she was about to deliver and kept an eye on her.  After three days I started worrying and called some of my fancier friends in the area. It boiled down to ‘if shes not distressed (i.e. nose in the corner), then dont you be. (Easier to say then do)!

    The next day the babies were born. The first was very weak, the second was a little better, but the last three were all born dead and in different stages of decomposition. One of the dead babys bones had not calcified. Mother pig was quite listless and showed little interest in her babies. I had to warm and dry them for her. Over the next few days the sow seemed exhausted all the time. I noticed she seemed wet under the chin so I took her out to check her. I noticed her front teeth were longer than they should be so I clipped them down. The sow could still not close her jaw so I examined her further, and found large swellings on both sides of the lower jaw. At this point it was off to the vet.

    We found out there that Amber had overgrown molars (malocclusion) and it is a fairly common occurrence in cavies and also in rabbits. One rarely sees the molars, as they are back in the jaw way behind the front incisors. The molars for some reason are out of alignment which means they are not being worn down when the cavy eats and therefore they end up growing over the tongue and eventually abscessing (causing the swelling) and causing much suffering for the animal. She was also unable to eat in this advanced stage and therefore the weight loss. We ended up keeping her with her babies for two weeks - shredding lettuce in small pieces for her to eat and continuing the vitamin supplements. I felt the babies would have a better chance with mom’s milk for as long as she seemed relatively comfortable. After this time we had her put to sleep.

    The vet did say that she had seen numerous cases in rabbits and a few G.P.s. She said also that it was probably hereditary. There is little permanent one can do about it (as opposed to malocclusion of the front incisors which can be clipped easily). In cases of the ‘special pet’, she had tried to help by filing down the molars every so often, but she felt that this was not fair to the animal as she also felt that it is a very painful condition. In the case of a G.P. it is almost impossible because of the small mouth.


Note: Judy Ritchie, husband Garnet, and daughter Lisa, bred and showed long hair cavies and were active club members in the 1980’s. This article was first printed in the DRCBA summer/85 bulletin.

 -Liz Voigt 

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