Monday, November 10, 2014

Do Pet Rats Need Dental Care?

Since we've been discussing dental care for cats and dogs often at the blog lately, I thought it might be interesting to share dental care for pet rats as well. I was recently part of a conversation over dental care for pet rats and realized that a lot of people have questions about it. 

Are you supposed to brush your rat's teeth? What kind of dental care do they require, exactly? All of these are good questions and I will share the answers to these and more in this post. 

Depositphotos/lifeonwhite

Dental Care for Pet Rats

First of all, let's talk about your pet rat's teeth in general. No, you don't have to brush your rat's teeth. Doing so would probably prove to be most challenging anyways. 

Most people are surprised to learn that the front incisors of a rat never stop growing. They will continue to grow throughout their lifetime. It's similar to how your nails and hair continue to grow longer throughout your life. 


Because a rat's teeth never stop growing, caring for them is a little different. In order to keep a pet rat's teeth from growing too long, they need to chew on things to grind them down regularly. What kind of things? 

For one, the food that rats eat is important to grinding down their incisors. Lab blocks for rats are hard and and good for their teeth. Also, giving a hard dog biscuit every now and then can be helpful. 

Pet rats should also be provided with some sort of chew toy. Usually, the toys are made from wood and/or pumice. My rats use a Pumice and Wood toy for small pets. It hangs on the side of their cage so that it does not get dirty on the ground of the cage. It's about time for a new one of these toys as you can probably tell, but it's lasted us for many months so far. 


Rats also love chewing on cardboard boxes. Placing a couple of cardboard boxes in your rat's cage will not only provide them with lots of places to hide, sleep, and play but will also help with their desire to chew. Plus, they'll have a fun time making little nests with the bits of cardboard. 

Dental Health Concerns for Pet Rats

Sometimes, if a rat is not provided with enough items to chew their incisors will grow too long. This can cause a number of health problems including oral trauma, pain, and refusal to eat resulting in weight loss. It's possible that the bottom incisors could grow into the nasal cavity. 

When this happens, the incisors need to be trimmed back. I highly recommend taking your rat to the vet to have this procedure done. While it is a simple procedure, you are going to want someone who knows what they are doing for it. If done incorrectly, it can shatter the teeth and cause more harm than good. 


For an incisor trim, the vet will most likely use a pair of small nail trimmers and cut the teeth back to the appropriate length. Most rats don't need to be anesthetized for this procedure and it's very quick. 

For rats who were born with a malocclusion or poorly aligned incisors, having regular teeth trims is going to be necessary throughout their life. Otherwise, for a normal healthy rat malocclusion should not be an issue and teeth trims should not be needed. 

So in a nutshell, provide your rat with plenty of healthy things to chew on to maintain healthy teeth. If you are concerned that your rat's teeth are too long, ask a veterinarian! They can take a look and determine whether or not an incisor trim is necessary. 

21 comments:

  1. That was interesting and we would never have thought that a dry dog biscuit could be good for rats to gnaw on or boxes for that matter. Have a marvellous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

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  2. that's a good point, I had no clue :o) and speaking of "no clue": I found such a wooden thingy with a piece of pumice in the middle and thought that's for my feet, a funny kind of callus remover :o) I'm so weird hahahahaha

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    1. LOL - well humans do use those pumice stones for their feet too sometimes.

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  3. Many years ago, Mum had a hamster : Pippo. She gave him plenty of things to chew, he had very good teeth, but she was less happy to see that he used his teeth to chew some pieces of curtain to build his nest ! Yes, Pippo's little arm with his little hand was just big enough to grab the curtain ! Purrs

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    1. Ah well I have the same problem :) My rats sit near a curtain also and have chewed it a little bit.

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  4. Oh wow, I could not imagine brushing a rats teeth! It is hard enough with the dogs! LOL!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

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  5. Our rats used to love the cardboard tube from inside a toilet roll or kitchen towel.

    Sheba.

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  6. That was very interesting and we sure didn't know any of that.

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  7. Very interesting post and I learned a lot about rats. You have reminded us to get our annual post ready on animals with stomatitis! Probably run it Thursday, I hope.

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    1. My kitty had some stomatitis as well.

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  8. We knew their front teeth would grow and grow, and have to be naturally filed down. Can't imagine brushing a rat's teeth, so letting them chew is a good option.

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  9. We didn't know this about rats' teefs. Thanks for sharing! We aren't much on having our teefs brushed. Wish we could just chew something. :)

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  10. I did somehow know about rats' teeth never stop growing but I never knew how to care for them. Good, educational post!

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  11. I learned about the importance of good dental care from being a guinea pig aunt. I always buy my nieces and nephews interesting chewies to avoid those scary vet visits.

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    1. You know, I think I've seen a lot more guinea pigs with dental health issues than rats. Seems like a more prevalent issue with rabbits and piggies.

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  12. Who knew!? Seems pretty similar to a hamster in that their teeth never stop growing but I could never imagine trying to clip a rat's teeth with a nail clipper...they're some slippery & squirmy creatures!

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    1. There is an art to holding these small furries still! Yes, it is very similar to a hamster and all other small mammal's teeth. Rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, gerbils, etc. all have teeth that continue to grow throughout their life.

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  13. My rat has very badly aligned teeth since he was a jumper. I take him for teeth clipping every week and a half. The clipping can cause the gums to bleed and be bruised. Usually the bleeding stops in a day. The problem I have is that he won't chew on any toy I give him so I have to take him often to the vet. The only toy he loves is his teddy which he cuddles with

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  14. Once again - I've learned something incredibly interesting that I would have never known if I hadn't met you! Thanks Ann

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