"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."
All types of small 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 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 to satisfy psychological needs."
Small animal chew treats come in several forms including Tooth Sticks, Denta Blocks and Chew Twigs.
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 hay, such as alfalfa and timothy. These varying textures help maintain healthy tooth structure.
Many small animal chews are fortified with vitamins and minerals, so they also contribute to pets' nutritional needs. Salt savors attach to the cage with a hanger and provide needed nutrition while actively engaging pets.
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.
Article Credit: Kristen Ryan http://www.petage.com/chomping-away/