Guinea pigs do not store food in their cheeks. Rodents that store food have pouches in their cheeks, which they use to carry the food. Since Guinea pigs spend most of their time grazing, they do not have a need for cheek pouches.
The scientific order ‘rodentia,’ or rodents, might be more diverse than you might expect. After all, when you think of rodents, you probably think of rats and mice, right? Not guinea pigs.
But it’s true, guinea pigs live in the rodentia order with several others that might not come immediately to mind–hamsters, squirrels, and rabbits, to name a few.
Even though these animals all share an order, they are all still unique and interesting creatures with their own traits. Take their mouths and cheeks, for example…
What You'll Learn
Inside a Guinea Pig’s Mouth
The Bones That Make a Mouth
Quite a few bones make up the structure of a guinea pig’s mouth. At the top, you find the nasal cavity, which connects the nose and mouth more closely than you might think, just like in most mammals.
Around the cheeks, you’ll see the tympanic bulla. What’s that? It’s the lower part of the temporal bone, one of the bones found in a guinea pig’s skull. The temporal bone surrounds a guinea pig’s ears and mouth.
Don’t Forget Their Teeth
Then come your guinea pig’s pearly whites. A guinea pig has 20 teeth. They have two upper incisors and two lower incisors right at the front of their mouth.
They have two upper premolars and two lower premolars just past their incisors. And finally, they have six upper molars and six lower molars. That’s a lot of teeth!
Like many rodents, guinea pigs are also known for their open-rooted teeth. Open-rooted teeth are teeth that grow continuously throughout their life. Like you imagine, that can sometimes get uncomfortable for a guinea pig. Just think of Pinnochio’s long nose!
Keep an eye on your guinea pig’s teeth growth by watching their eating habits. If your guinea pig hesitates to eat or even stops eating altogether, that could be a sign that their teeth are too long and causing discomfort when eating.
Speaking of a guinea pig’s eating habits…that brings us to an evergreen question for the ages: do guinea pigs store food in their cheeks? After all, some of our favorite rodents famously do this. Think hamsters and chipmunks.
Do Guinea Pigs Store Food in Their Cheeks?
Guinea pigs do not store food in their cheeks. Rodents that store food in their cheeks have special pouches to save food for later. This is because the food might not come easily to them in the wild.
However, guinea pigs don’t have these cheek pouches. Naturally, they are animals that spend their time grazing and grinding plant matter before eating.
Then Why Are My Guinea Pig’s Cheeks Puffy?
Since guinea pigs don’t have cheek pouches and don’t store food in their cheeks, their cheeks should appear flat from the outside. If their cheeks are puffy, it could be a sign that they need medical attention for problems like dental issues, cysts, tumors, abscesses, or lumps.
Remember when we talked about guinea pigs’ open-rooted teeth that grow throughout their life? The way to make sure their teeth don’t grow too long is to regularly give them the right foods that wear down their teeth.
If your guinea pig doesn’t evenly wear down their teeth over time, their teeth can get sharp points that scrape their cheeks. This can lead to mouth infections, ulcerations, or even difficulty eating.
If this happens to your guinea pig regularly, even when you give them the right foods, they might have malocclusion. A vet can trim your guinea pig’s teeth if this is the case, since malocclusion is genetic and can’t be prevented.
Cysts and Tumors
Like many other species, Guinea pigs can develop benign or malignant tumors and cysts. Even though they may be less common in guinea pigs, it’s still something to check for if your guinea pig has swollen cheeks.
This is another reason to take your guinea pig to the vet if you notice their cheeks are puffy. It’s not food in there!
These swollen patches of body tissue are common to mammals and guinea pigs. They are accumulations of pus that form when part of the body becomes infected. White blood cells fight the infection and eventually build up with the damaged tissues and germs.
It is usually caused by an infection that enters through the open-rooted teeth or jaws of guinea pigs.
Your guinea pig’s cheeks might swell if it has abscesses, and the abscesses could prevent it from eating.
Lymph Node Lumps
A lymph node lump is a specific type of abscess. Known scientifically as lymphadenitis, lymph node lumps can cause several issues for guinea pigs. Lymph nodes are more prone to spreading the infection to more places in the body.
Puffy cheeks are a sign of lymphadenitis. Other signs of lymphadenitis include head tilting, inflamed sinuses and eyes, difficulty breathing, pale skin, bloody urine, and fevers.
Beware of these lymph node infections and bring your guinea pig to a vet if you see them with puffy cheeks or any of the other symptoms!
The Vet Knows Best
In any scenario, if your guinea pig has puffy cheeks, it is not food stored in their mouth! You should bring them to a veterinarian to make sure puffy cheeks aren’t a sign of a more serious problem that could cause your guinea pig discomfort or harm in the future.