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Proper Care for Your Pet Rat’s Teeth

Like all rodents, rats’ teeth continuously grow throughout their lives and will need maintenance for proper dental health. Unlike dogs or cats, a rat’s teeth begin to grow in at less than 2 weeks of age and do not get replaced with another set as they age. While their molars will reach proper size and stop growing, the incisors in the front will continue to grow throughout the rat’s life and can cause problems for the rat if they are not maintained at an acceptable length.

The first step to maintaining proper dental health for your rat is to regularly examine your rat’s mouth and teeth to check for any abnormalities or concerns. Your rat’s mouth should be symmetrical and clear of any swelling, ulcers, discharge or accumulations. Rats have a total of sixteen teeth with 4 of those at the front of the mouth being incisors. The incisors of a rat are naturally a yellow color and should be approximately 4mm long for the top and 7mm long for the bottom.

Although a rat’s incisors continue to grow throughout their life, a healthy rat on an appropriate diet with properly aligned teeth should not need to have its teeth trimmed by a veterinarian. Rats should naturally grind their incisors when eating and when chewing appropriate items, such as hay, chew sticks, lava stones and toys meant for teeth maintenance. Sometimes however, a rat may have a misalignment of teeth, or a malocclusion, where the teeth do not match up and naturally grind each other down. This can cause the teeth to grow into and put pressure on the gums, cheek, or other parts of the mouth and cause the rat pain if not trimmed. Since the teeth in rats with a malocclusion do not naturally touch to wear themselves down, they may need to be trimmed or even removed by a veterinarian to maintain the health of your rat. Trimming of the teeth is a painless procedure done under anesthesia by your veterinarian. The teeth can be clipped or filed to the appropriate length to enable your rat to eat and reduce the risk of injury.

Regular examination of the teeth and the eating habits of your rat, along with proper chew toys or treats will help ensure proper dental health for your pet rat. Any abnormalities in the way your rat eats, unusual growth of the teeth, or wounds in the mouth should be discussed with your veterinarian.

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Reviewed by Petco’s Animal Care, Education and Compliance (ACE) Team

Petco’s ACE team is a passionate group of experienced pet care experts dedicated to supporting the overall health & wellness of pets. The ACE team works to develop animal care operations and standards across the organization and promote proper animal care and education for Pet Care Center partners and pet parents, while also ensuring regulatory compliance.