This is the case history:
Koa is a three year old American Satin. While I was away for three weeks in December, she lost almost five ounces and developed a scabby skin condition on her hind quarter. Her pet sitter thought she was eating during this time, but when I got back she had dropped considerable weight.
My vet checked her for kidney failure which turned out negative. Her blood work was normal. At this time, I noticed that her front incisors were worn unevenly. I remembered that she had been grinding her teeth a lot before December and there was a sharp angle in the way her incisors met.
My vet did a minor tooth trim at that time. Unfortunately, Koa continued to drop weight and after 10 days got weaker and she did not chew on wood or anything else I gave her to sharpen her teeth. I took her in for another examination. Under anesthesia, the vet checked her molars which were fine but noticed her jaws were propped open by her incisors.
Another tooth trim resulted in her regaining interest in chewing for about a week. Her appetite seemed to come back. I also ordered Oxbow Critical Care and began syringe feedings.
After a week, she stopped chewing on wood or even cardboard. While her appetite was still very good and she responded well to the Critical Care, her lack of chewing kept her teeth dull and I had to break up hard treats for her to eat and she could not work timothy hay into her mouth. She is able to eat the "leafs" off of Oxbow alfalfa nibbles but she cannot work regular hay into her molars.
We´ve re-examined her -- her incisors are not overgrown yet. Her molars are okay. With the syringe feedings (I now grind up Oxbow Cavy Performance and feed her three times a day at 10 CCs to keep her calorie intake and fiber up) she has gained back a few ounces.
Her scabby skin condition has completely cleared up. We think it might have been malnutrition.
My vet is researching the case now. She is planning on consulting with an exotics expert and thinks I may be correct that Koa has TMJ syndrome, but wants to rule out other possibilities. One symptom that has not showed up is personality change -- she has always been spunky and willful and seems that way now although she does not run around during floor time like she did when she was younger. I am massaging her jaw twice daily which irritates her a little until she settles into it. It seems to stimulate chewing action but nothing that could hone the incisors.
Does this sound like a case of TMJ? Has the chin-sling shown real effectiveness in other cases and are there other therapies? The diary page says it will be patented but can it be purchased?
Right now, I am looking at lifetime syringe feeding and tooth trimming unless we find another solution.
A consult with an exotics vet is a good idea but I would really recommend your pig see an animal dentist. It is very common for a pig to go thru several vets before one can actually recognize a molar problem. So many vets are unfamiliar with pig teeth and completely miss malocclusion.
The Chin-Sling does work for TMJ cases. But it won´t work on overgrown teeth. If the molars are overgrown, they will need to be planed and then the Sling can be used as a maintenance tool. In cases of misaligned teeth, it may help but it depends on how bad the teeth are.
A good animal physical therapist can diagnose TMJ and in some cases can maneuver the jaw back into position. But if the TMJ is due to muscle weakness, the problem will continue. At the moment just recognizing TMJ in guinea pigs is revolutionary so I don´t believe there are any other treatments.
Unfortunately the Sling is in the prototype phase and is not commercially available. The pattern can be emailed out on request and the pig owner can make their own. It is important to use 1/8" thick neoprene for the right degree of tension. (Dive suits are made of neoprene and some athletic accessories like wrist bands and head bands are made from it.)
There is a paper on the Chin-Sling coming out in the Canadian Veterinary Journal soon(don´t know exactly when) written by the animal dentist who consulted on its creation.