Guinea Pig Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare

Guinea Pig Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare

Guinea Pig Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare


Cage – Minimum of 2×4 feet for each guinea pig. Cage bottom should be solid Plexi-glass, hard plastic, or stainless steel. Wire mesh bottoms should NEVER be used for guinea pigs due to the risk of feet becoming trapped and subsequent injury. Cages can be purchased online or in pet stores. Popular and functional chloroplast/cube cages can be seen at

Substrate – Bedding should consist of a paper pulp product (e.g. Carefresh, Yesterday’s News), newspaper, computer paper or fleece. We DO NOT recommend using natural substrates (i.e. wood shavings) or granular litters.


Behavior – Guinea pigs generally have social and vivacious personalities. They can be kept in pairs or small groups or singly with adequate human socialization.  When pairing guinea pigs, take into consideration that unneutered males will often fight, once sexual maturity is reached. We recommend keeping unaltered male/female groups separate to prevent unwanted births.

Handling – Always use two hands and be very gentle, supporting the body so your pet feels secure. Avoid excessive noise, needless excitement, and over handling as they are easily stressed. Only allow children to handle with adult supervision. Have children sit on the floor with the pig in their laps to avoid accidental falls.


Timothy Hay – Offer as much as your pet can eat (free choice). Orchard grass, oat hay, or meadow grass can be offered as alternatives for pickier animals. Avoid alfalfa and other hays high in calcium in animals over 6 months, as these may predispose to development of urinary bladder stones.

Pellets – While not strictly necessary, pellets may be offered to supplement the diet of hay. Use a timothy hay-based pellet, such as Cavy Cuisine by Oxbow ( or Supreme Selective brand pellets. Avoid pellets mixed with seeds, as many pigs eat the high fat seeds and leave the pellets. Offer no more than about 1/8-1/4 cup pellets total daily.

Fresh greens – Can be offered daily. Good choices include the following: romaine lettuce, red/green leaf lettuce, escarole, watercress, clover, Swiss chard, bok choy, endive, and turnip tops. Avoid dandelion, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, and broccoli due to their high calcium content, which may predispose to development of bladder stones. A good rule of thumb is that darker greens tend to have higher calcium levels and should be avoided. Small pieces of carrot, bell pepper and other high vitamin C foods can be offered as occasional treats in small amounts. We do not recommend supplementing vitamin C in the diet solely though vegetables (i.e. large amount of bell peppers) as it does not provide enough and in large amounts, may cause GI upset.

Vitamin C Supplement – This is a necessary part of every guinea pig’s diet as they require approximately 50 mg of vitamin C daily, which often cannot be provided through diet alone. This can be satisfied by giving a liquid oral Vitamin C supplement or a high quality chewable supplement. Do not add the vitamin C to the water, as this promotes bacterial growth and is not a consistent way to dose your pig. Vitamin C also breaks down quickly when exposed to light. Vegetables high in Vitamin C, such as red, orange and green bell peppers, can be offered as an additional source of Vitamin C, but are not recommended as the sole source.

Water – Offer access to fresh water at all times in either a bottle or spill-proof dish/bowl. Change the water daily. Water bottles should be checked often for continued function, as they can easily become jammed and stop working, especially if they are dirty.

HEALTH AND PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE: It is recommended that all newly acquired guinea pigs receive a complete physical examination by an exotic animal veterinarian. Thereafter, you should have your pet examined by a veterinarian at least once a year. If you notice any changes in appetite, behavior, etc., please contact SEAVS immediately. Early detection and treatment of disease processes is essential to promoting a long and healthy life.

BREEDING COMPLICATIONS: We sometimes see complications during birth in guinea pigs older than 6 months, if they have not previously had babies.  If having complications, the guinea pig may need a C-Section.  

Common Diseases:

Malocclusion of premolars and molars:  This is very common in guinea pigs and can be genetically caused.  Most commonly these pigs become picky about what they eat or stop eating and may drool or slobber.  They may also have drool on their front paws from wiping their mouths.  Weight loss is also common.  Treatment includes sedation to trim the molars when it is determined they are stable for anesthesia; a veterinarian will discuss this if applicable to the patient.  This is often a recurrent problem, but a long term plan is determined based on the individual.

Vitamin C deficiency:  Guinea pigs require vitamin C every day to survive. Symptoms of deficiency may include inappetence, swollen or painful joints and ribs, reluctance to move, poor bone and tooth development, spontaneous bleeding from the gums, crustiness around the eyes and respiratory disease.

Upper respiratory infection/Pneumonia:  This is one of the most common bacterial diseases of pet guinea pigs.  Symptoms may include labored and/or rapid breathing, discharge from eyes and nostrils, lethargy, inappetence and sometimes sneezing and/or coughing.  It is commonly seen in newly acquired guinea pigs.  If your pig is exhibiting any of these symptoms, have a vet examine it immediately.  Pneumonia develops very quickly and can rapidly lead to death.

Lice and mites:  Lice and mites are common skin parasites in newly acquired animals.  Symptoms may include itchy and/or red skin, hair loss, and irritability.  Treatment for both lice and mites include a monthly topical medication.

Specific Requirements
Unlimited hay (timothy, meadow, and/or orchard grass) and daily vitamin C supplementation
Reasons To
Visit A Veterinarian
Healthy annual examinations, not eating/defecating (>8 hrs), sneezing, drooling, trouble urinating, appears painful, bloated, itchiness and/or hairloss, lethargy