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Thread: Can Chewing the Bars Hurt their Teeth?

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    Can Chewing the Bars Hurt their Teeth?

    Hello! I do hope I'm posting this in the proper forum.

    I have two boars (Maple and Steve) living in a 2x6 C&C with a grid barrier down the middle, because they didn't get along well enough to be together (or rather, because I panicked over possibly minor squabbles and was afraid to reintroduce them with a better setup. But right now would be a terrible time to reintroduce them anyway, so that's another matter for another time).

    Recently I've been worrying a lot about about Maple's teeth (again, that's another matter), and so I've been noticing just how much they chew on the bars. Of course, Maple has been chewing on the bars of all of the cages I've had him in for the whole 4 years I've had him, and I assume it is--to an extent--just a normal behavior. But thanks to my barrier setup, they now chew on the bars A LOT.

    Steve started it. He wasn't so happy about being separated from Maple, so in the first few weeks he gnawed on the barrier almost constantly (or that's what it felt like, at least). Eventually he became more used to the setup, and Maple became more used to him, and the bar-chewing became a form of communication. When one of the pigs wants the other's attention, he'll come to the barrier and chew the bars. It's usually the first thing Maple does after he's out of the cage for awhile, and Steve does it whenever he wants to show Maple how big he is (usually Maple ignores him). They also use the behavior to communicate with me when I'm taking too long to give them their treats.

    So, my question is this: Could too much chewing of the bars damage their teeth? After all, it is metal, and they're chewing it a lot: Steve chewed the barrier so much right after the separation that it has dark marks where he wore all the paint off. I know that they can crack their incisors and stuff like that--though I think they actually chew the bars with their molars--and I just want to make sure my pigs aren't going to hurt themselves, now that biting metal is how they talk to each other. Is there something I can do about this, or am I just worrying over nothing?

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    Cavy Slave LittleSqueakers's Avatar
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    Re: Can Chewing the Bars Hurt their Teeth?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maplepig View Post
    Hello! I do hope I'm posting this in the proper forum.

    I have two boars (Maple and Steve) living in a 2x6 C&C with a grid barrier down the middle, because they didn't get along well enough to be together (or rather, because I panicked over possibly minor squabbles and was afraid to reintroduce them with a better setup. But right now would be a terrible time to reintroduce them anyway, so that's another matter for another time).

    Recently I've been worrying a lot about about Maple's teeth (again, that's another matter), and so I've been noticing just how much they chew on the bars. Of course, Maple has been chewing on the bars of all of the cages I've had him in for the whole 4 years I've had him, and I assume it is--to an extent--just a normal behavior. But thanks to my barrier setup, they now chew on the bars A LOT.

    Steve started it. He wasn't so happy about being separated from Maple, so in the first few weeks he gnawed on the barrier almost constantly (or that's what it felt like, at least). Eventually he became more used to the setup, and Maple became more used to him, and the bar-chewing became a form of communication. When one of the pigs wants the other's attention, he'll come to the barrier and chew the bars. It's usually the first thing Maple does after he's out of the cage for awhile, and Steve does it whenever he wants to show Maple how big he is (usually Maple ignores him). They also use the behavior to communicate with me when I'm taking too long to give them their treats.

    So, my question is this: Could too much chewing of the bars damage their teeth? After all, it is metal, and they're chewing it a lot: Steve chewed the barrier so much right after the separation that it has dark marks where he wore all the paint off. I know that they can crack their incisors and stuff like that--though I think they actually chew the bars with their molars--and I just want to make sure my pigs aren't going to hurt themselves, now that biting metal is how they talk to each other. Is there something I can do about this, or am I just worrying over nothing?
    Bar biting is never a good thing, and it can absolutely damage their teeth. Doesn't matter at all whether they're using their incisors or their molars (although I doubt they're using their molars -- those are pretty far back in their mouths and their mouths are much deeper than you think). Any vet or rodent dentist's advice would be the same: don't chew on metal.

    But the more worrisome problem is the fact that bar biting is a classic stress behavior. The fact that you have two males separated who used to live together and used to squabble and now they live right next door to one another with bars separating them leads me to believe that what you are seeing is not so much "communication" in the sense of them saying "hello, neighbor!" but rather frustration and territorial behavior.

    I think you should reconsider your pigs' living arrangement. I would suggest trying one (or possibly each) of the following: 1.) reintroduce them if you have a large enough setup to do so, 2.) separating the cage with an opaque divider so that one does't have to see the other one right there next him all the time and isn't continuously feeling that his space is being threatened, or 3.) separate the pigs into two separate cages so that you can place them at different ends of the room or in different rooms altogether.

    At this point, the bar biting may have become a learned habit, and the pigs may not stop even if you separate them more adequately. But changing their living arrangements may help with the bar biting, and would strongly suggest doing it anyway, just because it sounds like your current arrangement has the pigs very stressed.

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    Cavy Slave MerryFriarTuck's Avatar
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    Re: Can Chewing the Bars Hurt their Teeth?

    My boys only bite the bars when it's veggie time and they're demanding their meal! But something I've done that's helped is wrap something around the bars that they can chew. I've used seagrass rope unwound off a seagrass ball, wicker from a wicker ball, Oxbow timothy twists, or
    a hanging or wedged wood or popsicle stick toy ( small bird toys are great as long you make sure there's nothing dangerous/inedible on them ). Mine focus on chewing these things instead of the metal bars. It doesn't always work but definitely helps!

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    Re: Can Chewing the Bars Hurt their Teeth?

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleSqueakers View Post
    Bar biting is never a good thing, and it can absolutely damage their teeth. Doesn't matter at all whether they're using their incisors or their molars (although I doubt they're using their molars -- those are pretty far back in their mouths and their mouths are much deeper than you think). Any vet or rodent dentist's advice would be the same: don't chew on metal.

    But the more worrisome problem is the fact that bar biting is a classic stress behavior. The fact that you have two males separated who used to live together and used to squabble and now they live right next door to one another with bars separating them leads me to believe that what you are seeing is not so much "communication" in the sense of them saying "hello, neighbor!" but rather frustration and territorial behavior.

    I think you should reconsider your pigs' living arrangement. I would suggest trying one (or possibly each) of the following: 1.) reintroduce them if you have a large enough setup to do so, 2.) separating the cage with an opaque divider so that one does't have to see the other one right there next him all the time and isn't continuously feeling that his space is being threatened, or 3.) separate the pigs into two separate cages so that you can place them at different ends of the room or in different rooms altogether.

    At this point, the bar biting may have become a learned habit, and the pigs may not stop even if you separate them more adequately. But changing their living arrangements may help with the bar biting, and would strongly suggest doing it anyway, just because it sounds like your current arrangement has the pigs very stressed.
    I think you're wrong about the frustration and territorial behavior. When we put Maple back into his cage after holding him for a while, the first thing he does is go and chew the bars of the divider to call Steve out of his igloo. And when I gave Maple his new house because the igloo was causing him problems, I made sure the solid wall was facing Steve's cage so they didn't have to see each other. He quickly rearranged it so that he could lie right next to the bars while still in his house.

    Of course, I won't deny that Steve does it as a stress behavior. Steve is rather high strung (like his owner) and he wishes he could be around Maple more. However, he, being a pet store pig, has never lived anywhere where he didn't have companions, so I'm convinced that separating them further would make him even more stressed. So it may be that the best answer is reintroducing them (a 2x6 is plenty of space), but that is not an option until further notice. Maple is currently paralyzed, and he's having trouble eating. If we put them back together right now, not only will Maple have no defense, but I have no doubt Steve will eat all of his pellets (and likely his special orchard grass hay as well).

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    Re: Can Chewing the Bars Hurt their Teeth?

    Quote Originally Posted by MerryFriarTuck View Post
    My boys only bite the bars when it's veggie time and they're demanding their meal! But something I've done that's helped is wrap something around the bars that they can chew. I've used seagrass rope unwound off a seagrass ball, wicker from a wicker ball, Oxbow timothy twists, or
    a hanging or wedged wood or popsicle stick toy ( small bird toys are great as long you make sure there's nothing dangerous/inedible on them ). Mine focus on chewing these things instead of the metal bars. It doesn't always work but definitely helps!
    I'll put my head together with my mom and we'll see if we can do some of those things! They're pretty set in their ways (and Maple hates chewing wood), so I don't know if it'll work. But we'll see.

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    Re: Can Chewing the Bars Hurt their Teeth?

    We have these on the store or you can fashion your own version, but once they break the habit, that's pretty much it.
    https://www.guineapigcagesstore.com/pig-a-boo-window

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	FDSC-0051.jpg 
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ID:	86390

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    Re: Can Chewing the Bars Hurt their Teeth?

    Quote Originally Posted by CavySpirit View Post
    We have these on the store or you can fashion your own version, but once they break the habit, that's pretty much it.
    https://www.guineapigcagesstore.com/pig-a-boo-window

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	FDSC-0051.jpg 
Views:	9 
Size:	128.2 KB 
ID:	86390
    Ooo, clever! I've got to get/make me one of those.

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    Cavy Slave MerryFriarTuck's Avatar
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    Re: Can Chewing the Bars Hurt their Teeth?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maplepig View Post
    Ooo, clever! I've got to get/make me one of those.
    That way Steve and Maple can still see each other, too! It's definitely the best option you can do.

    One of my piggies doesn't chew on wood either, but he still likes seagrass and/or timothy twists

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