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Chomping Away

Pet Age Staff//July 15, 2013//

Chomping Away

Pet Age Staff //July 15, 2013//

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Ever heard the phrase, “long in the tooth?” It’s not just another unflattering idiom that compares people to rodents. It can be a serious issue for small-pet owners.

“When rodents gnaw on things, it keeps the teeth from overgrowing and creating problems,” Ron Reid, Vitakraft Sunseed’s zoologist and nutritionist, said. “Sometimes you’ll see the lower teeth growing up and wearing down the upper, possibly causing severe damage to the animal.”

Just like their wild ancestors’ impressive chompers, small pets’ incisors grow constantly, so small-animal owners must offer their captive pets the opportunity to chew.

“The types of food they eat in the wild allow them to keep their teeth in proper shape, but when they’re in captivity they don’t have the opportunity to forage,” Reid said. “That makes it more difficult to maintain their teeth.”

Living World Colorful Cardboard Chew-Nels can be connected to make long, chewable tunnels. They are filled with bedding material so small animals can play, chew and burrow happily.

Chew Time

All types of pocket pets including rabbits, degus, chinchillas, gerbils, hamsters, rats and mice need to chew, though they chew for varying reasons.

Rodents like hamsters, gerbils, rats and mice need to gnaw. Reid likens gnawing to the way a dog scratches an itch, using just its front teeth.

“Chew sticks like Vitakraft Sunseed’s Crunch Stick line are designed not only for nutritional value and vitamin fortification; it gives them an opportunity to chew things that are hard,” Reid said. “Also, these animals need psychological props: toys, wheels and things to chew on all satisfy psychological needs.”

Vitakraft Sunseed’s Yogurt Glazed Crunch Sticks are designed to last, with a natural wood stick in the center. They come in packages of two that include a cage clip. Their All Small Animals Chew Treats come in several forms including Tooth Sticks, Denta Blocks and Chew Twigs.

Marshall Pet Products offers 3-packs of natural pine cones that bear the tag line, “Nature’s Tooth Brush.” Pine cones help satisfy rabbits’ urge to gnaw.

Rabbits, degus and chinchillas don’t gnaw as much as the rodents, but it’s also important for them to have things to chew on to keep their teeth in good shape. When they chew, or masticate, their food, their mouths move from side to side, so they also need to work their molars.

While chew sticks help them shape their front teeth properly, they also need crunchy foods like pellets, and grasses like hay, alfalfa and timothy. These varying textures help maintain healthy tooth structure.

Toy Time

Marshall Pet Products offers several toys made from timothy hay with no dyes, colors or preservatives. The Woven Grass Play Ball and Bunny Chew Ring are healthy, interactive toys that encourage chewing. The Hay Tumbler is a completely edible cardboard toy filled with timothy hay.

Living World Alfalfa Chew-Nels are durable tubes made from alfalfa or cornhusks. They provide interactive play, long-lasting chewing and hiding places for treats.

Many small-animal chews are fortified with vitamins and minerals, so they also contribute to pets’ nutritional needs. Hartz Salt and Mineral Wheels attach to the cage with an included hanger and provide needed nutrition while actively engaging pets.

Hartz Nibble Sticks for gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs and mice come in packages of twelve.

Chewing and gnawing products also contribute to small animals’ psychological well being.

“All small pets need stimulation: things to chew on, toys to play with,” Reid said. “That’s a very important part of their development, so the more things you can do to stimulate them in that environment, the more beneficial it’ll be to the animal.”

Without appropriate chew toys, animals may chew their fur or cage bars.

Marshall’s all-natural Chew Toy With Apple combines psychological enrichment and chewing. Rabbits can roll the wooden toy around their habitat as they chew.

The Living World Teach N Treat Toy is an interactive toy that challenges pets to observe, listen and learn and can be configured for three varying levels of difficulty.

Drs. Foster and Smith offers many interactive chewing toys for small pets.

Carousel Chew Toys are wooden cages shaped like a carrot or an apple. Inside are pieces of colorful, natural loofah. The toys roll while pets attempt to get to the chewy bits. The Knot Nibbler is a colorful tangle of wooden dowels tied around a wooden ball. The brand is committed to providing healthy, affordable pet products.

-Kristen Ryan