Rats trim their own teeth!
The instructions I am about to provide are for those rats....not the 99.9% of the rat population who brux and grind their teeth down like normal ratties...
Do not trim your rat's teeth unless you absolutely have to!
All-purpose (styptic is the purpose in this case) flour.
STEP 1: Look at the teeth.
I have rarely had to trim both top and bottom teeth. Usually it's one bottom tooth (misalignment) or both bottom teeth (rat
gets sick, avoids foods other than sweets and soft foods, teeth grow).
These are normal:
They do look long, don't they? But they're normal:
These are not normal:
Here is where I've judged the teeth need to be trimmed. In this case I am judging the top teeth based on where they start to
curve outward. They are still very yellow and therefore "healthy." Cutting these too high will cause them to bleed...and
bleed a lot.
If you are still unsure, the very best thing I can recommend is to get another rat and look at his teeth. It's a lot easier when you have a comparison guide.
STEP 2: Constrain Rat, Angle Snips -- Trimming the Top Teeth
You can't do this unless you have at least 2 people. One person must hold the rat as still as physically possible else the
rat will be dangling via his teeth from the guillotine trimmers:
If there is any hope that your rat is going to start grinding his own teeth down again, you'll want to cut diagonally so that the clippers are pointing upward. This will create a nice shelf on which to rub the lower teeth.
STEP 3: Check for bleeding and check that the teeth are even.
Here is what the top teeth (albeit blurry) looked like after trimming.
Notice that I did a really poor job (with both photo and trim). Although I snipped both at once, I flinched so the tooth on the right was a bit longer than the one on the left. I evened it up after this photo was taken.
STEP 4: Constrain Rat, Prepare the Snips -- Trimming the Bottom Teeth
Now for the bottom teeth....looking at this photo I see now that I was cutting too low. You want to see a bit of white right below what you are going to cut to be sure that you're not going to hit that vein.
Also, in all reality, I was using the wrong tool. For the top teeth, the guillotine type trimmers (made for cat claws) are a
necessity - those teeth are thick and strong. For the bottom teeth, the average pet (read: cat, rabbit, guinea pig,
not dog) nail-trimming scissors work a lot
nicer (less force=less mess):
You can also, usually, trim the bottom teeth one at a time if you use the standard nail trimmers.
You want to aim for a straight cut. Unlike the top teeth, the bottom teeth do not need to be diagonal as they will use their top teeth to grind them down evenly. The diagonal you see in a rat's healthy mouth is a result of the grinding of the lower teeth.
STEP 5: Check for bleeding and check that the teeth are even.
The teeth are even. On healthy teeth you'll have no problems making a clean cut if you stay sufficiently above the dark. And remember, you can always do this every 2-3 days to avoid cutting so low.
Like I said, I did a pretty bad job on the lowers. The tooth on the left (the very unhealthy one) has split (*) down the inside (again). I had a little blood on the tooth on the right (not a lot) as well. A little bit of flour on those splits stopped the bleeding.
If this is your first time....the thing I found the most disconcerting was the sound of the teeth snapping. It hurt me far more than it hurt the rat - he just wanted the snippers out of his mouth but it didn't seem that he actually felt the tooth split (or at least they don't react to it).
Also, be prepared with a cotton swab. Sometimes the tooth chunks fall inside the mouth rather than out onto the ground, in your hand, etc. You don't want the little furball to choke on it so be prepared to scoop it out if it doesn't go where you want it...
P.S. I was kidding about the raisin thing....They've never raisined on me for trimming their teeth.
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Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not
one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed
and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes: