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Guinea Pigs As Pets

General information

Guinea pigsGuinea pigs are docile creatures by nature. They are easier to handle for children than most other rodents, and tend not to bite. They do however show their emotions by letting out the odd squeak.

Feeding

Guinea pigs are herbivores, so their diet consists mainly of plant materials like hay, leafy greens and vegetables. They are notoriously picky feeders, so it’s important they are fed on a complete pellet diet. This ensures they ingest all the healthy elements of their diet and not just the tasty parts! Their diet can be supplemented with fresh vegetables.

Provide your guinea pig with fresh water daily via a water bowl (one smaller than the size of their body) or a water bottle.

Vitamin C is an essential part of your guinea pigs diet as they can’t synthesise it. The only Vitamin C they relieve comes directly from their diet. Vitamin C can be ingested from their food or in Vitamin C tainted water.

Each one of their teeth is in a constant state of growth, so need to be regularly worn down to prevent them from overgrowing. Overgrowth at the tooth edges causes the development of ‘dental spurs’. These can cause enough pain to put your guinea pig off eating and drinking. They can often be prevented through proper diet and regular dental checks by your vet.

Husbandry

Guinea pigs are usually housed in hutches. Their hutch should be of an adequate size for running around in. Similar to rabbits, in the wild, guinea pigs are a prey species. Because of this, they can become anxious if they are housed in large spaces. Larger spaces can be packed out with bedding materials and toys.

An ideal substrate for your guinea pig’s home includes things like sawdust, wood shavings and shredded newspaper. Hay can also be used, though it should be reserved as an important part of their high fibre diet instead.

Handling

Guinea pigs rarely bite, unless they feel threatened or scared. They often squeak, this is an inherited character trait which would alert other guinea pigs within the same colony in the wild of a possible threat. However, they can also squeak with joy! Guinea pigs can be handled in much the same way as rabbits and larger rodents. With one hand, gently grasp the chest, and with your other hand, secure their back end. Alternatively, wrap your index finger and thumb around their neck below their lower jaw (be careful not to strangle them), and support their back end with your other hand. Guinea pigs are nimble, fast creatures, so always handle with care.

Common conditions

Guinea pigs are a prey species, so have developed the need to hide signs of illness from approaching predators in the wild. This can make it difficult to recognise when your guinea pig has become ill. Common tell-tale signs include: off their food, off their water, crusty eyes, diarrhoea, teeth grinding and hypersalivation. Common conditions of the guinea pig include:

  • dental disease (usually from the development of ‘spurs’, malalignment of teeth or tooth root abscesses)
  • respiratory disease (pneumonia)
  • gastrointestinal disease (diarrhoea, ileus/ gut stasis and blockages)
  • urogenital disease (blocked bladders and mammary tumours)
  • skin disease (mites, lice and fleas)
  • nutritional deficiencies (lack of Vitamin C aka ‘scurvy’))

Fun facts

Unlike most rodents, guinea pigs are born with their eyes open and covered in a coat of fur. Similar to cats, when guinea pigs are happy they can often purr like a cat.

 

For further information on your pet guinea pig, or if you’re concerned about them having any of the conditions/ symptoms mentioned above, come in and see us at your nearest Pets‘n’Vets surgery.

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