Q: I brought my chinchilla to the veterinarian because she had all the symptoms of malocclusion. My veterinarian put her under to perform surgery and said her teeth were fine. I have no idea what is causing this problem. I feed my chinchillas all the proper, high-quality pellets and hay. Another one of my chinchillas, which I’ve had for three years, suddenly has overgrown incisors of the top front teeth. I have no clue why. I am getting really discouraged, because I love my chinchillas. I have 12 in all. They all have nice-sized cages with wheels, wooden ledges, wooden houses and chew toys. The other 10 chinchillas’ teeth appear fine.
A: No doubt you love your chinchillas, and you are trying your best to make sure they are as healthy as possible. Dental disease in chinchillas is likely caused not just by an improper diet but also genetics. It may be that as we learn more about chinchillas we will find that most dental disease can be prevented and the affects mitigated with a proper diet, but, due to genetics, we may not be able to eliminate all aspects of chinchilla dental disease.
The chinchilla that was examined under anesthesia and had no signs of dental disease could have “hidden” disease that was not apparent when your veterinarian looked in the mouth. In some cases, and this is also true in rabbits, disease cannot be found until radiographs are taken and the veterinarian can see the overgrown and displaced roots of the cheek teeth. These roots can cause pain due to how they overgrow into the upper and lower jaws, but no obvious signs of a problem are seen with the naked eye even with the best views while the chinchilla is sedated.