Health tips and advice on Caring for your guinea pig

St Annes Vets

 

Are you looking for advice on Guinea pig care? If you just want to make sure your guinea pig remains healthy and recieves the care it deserves, then this is the page for you. It is full of tips and advice on caring for guinea pigs - read on!


What are guinea pigs like as pets?

Guinea pigs make good pets for children since they are quiet and clean when well kept, relatively docile and easy to handle. They are small sociable animals and as such guinea pigs should be kept in pairs or small groups.

Can guinea pigs be kept with Rabbits or Cats?

Guinea pigs should not be kept with rabbits as rabbits can pass on diseases to guinea pigs.

How long do guinea pigs live for?

Typically, guinea pigs can live 5-6 years, but may sometimes live for longer.


Housing

How much space does a guinea pig need?

Guinea pigs require space, ideally a hutch with at least 2sq ft of floor area in size with an extra 1sq ft for each additional animal. In other words, not too big a space is required for their cage or hutch. They can live inside or outside but are sensitive to extreme temperature changes. Temperatures above 26°C can cause heat stroke and below 15°C can cause them to become chilled. Guinea pigs are active animals both during the day and night and require room to exercise, stretch out and stand up on their back legs. In the UK it is ideal to keep them outside in the summer and it is convenient to use mobile runs with a small hutch for shelter, which can be moved about the lawn. It is important to make the runs secure from escape and also from predators like cats. In the winter guinea pigs should be brought inside and given plenty of bedding and a well insulated hutch. Bedding can either be woodshavings, straw or shredded paper. Hay is ideal and should be fresh, dry and of good quality.


Feeding

What should I feed my guinea pig?

Guinea pigs are grazers and naturally eat grass, herbs and some plants such as dandelion. Their digestive system requires lots of grass or hay as guinea pig food in order to function properly. Guinea pigs also require vitamin C in their diet as their bodies are unable to make it, they can get this from grass and leafy greens such as kale and broccoli or grass based commercial guinea pig pellets. The vitamin C in these pellets is broken down quickly so it is important to replace them daily. Guinea pigs also require clean fresh water to be available at all times. Guinea pigs should be fed with care as sudden changes in the type or quantity of food offered can result in a poor appetite or digestive disturbances.

Guinea pigs’ teeth grow continuously throughout their life and need to be worn down and kept at the correct length and shape by eating grass, hay and leafy green plants. Failure to eat the right diet can result in uneven wear of teeth, leading to an uneven bite and further abnormalities of the teeth and jaw develop.

Guinea pigs produce two types of droppings – hard dry pellets, and softer moist pellets that they eat directly from their bottom and which are an essential part of their diet.


Reproduction

Mating or breeding guinea pigs

Males are called boars and females are called sows. Sows are usually sexually mature at about six weeks of age, but mating guinea pigs is best delayed until at least 12 weeks-old. Boars become sexually mature at about 10 weeks-old. Unless you are breeding guinea pigs, males and females should therefore be separated or they can be neutered from 12 weeks of age. This procedure requires the guinea pig to come into the vets for a day and normally they can go home the same evening. The procedure happens under general anesthetic and all animals receive pain relief to make them as comfortable as possible.

If guinea pigs do mate, the gestation period varies from 59-72 days with larger litters having a shorter gestation. Litter size can vary from 1-6 piglets but usually is 3 or 4. The sow will be able to mate again within 1-2 days after birth and it is safer to separate pregnant females from other guineas until the litter is weaned.


What's wrong with my guinea pig?

Mites

These can make your guinea pig very itchy. If you notice your pet scratching themselves excessively please take them to see a vet.

Wounds

These can be caused by other guinea pigs scratching or biting or by damaged items in the hutch. Sometimes these can form abscesses which will require medical attention.

Ringworm

causes areas of patchy hair loss. The affected skin is sometimes scaly and can be itchy. This can be passed onto people so if you suspect your guinea pig may be suffering from ringworm please take them to see a vet and make sure you wash your hands well after handling.

Respiratory problems

Signs include sneezing, nasal discharge, abnormal breathing sounds, weight loss and inappetance. If you notice some of these signs in your pet the sooner they are seen the better.

Dental problems

These can occur because the guinea pigs teeth grow continually and if teeth are not being worm down by grass/hay they can develop small spurs on the teeth with can cause discomfort, pain and damage to the tongue and cheek. If you notice that your guinea pig is not eating normally or if you would like your pets teeth checked please take them to see a vet.

 

Ideal guinea pig health care

A good diet, a clean environment, regular handling and prompt veterinary attention are the mainstays of good guinea pig care.There are no vaccinations available for guinea pigs. We do not routinely use anti-parasite treatments for guinea pigs, but consideration should be given to the routine application of anti-mite spot-ons.

Elderly guineas, or those with soiled hair are at risk from 'flystrike' in warmer weather and should be carefully checked TWICE daily for evidence of fly eggs or larvae on their skin. There are products available that can be applied to the skin to prevent fly larvae developing. Always check the skin is comfortable and there is no itching (mites) watch carefully for a reduced appetite or dribbling (dental problems); make sure the feet are comfortable and the nails are not too long; get used to the feel of the body so you can detect any lumps at an early stage (abscess, tumour).

If you have any concerns about your guinea pig, or just a question regarding their care, always call 01323 640011, or use the contact form on this website. We're here to help!

St Annes Vets


This guinea pig health guide, full of tips and advice on the ideal care of guinea pigs, is provided by St. Anne's veterinary group which serves the pets and owners of East Sussex through it's surgeries in Eastbourne, Langney, Willingdon and East Dean and at their homes with the 'My Visiting Vet' service.