Guinea Pig

HOUSING

Minimum of 2×3.5 feet for each pig. Cage bottom should be solid Plexi-glass, hard plastic or stainless steel. Wire mesh bottoms should NEVER be used for a guinea pig because their feet could get caught and they may be seriously injured. Bedding should consist of a paper pulp product (like Carefresh or Yesterday’s News), newspaper or computer paper. Go towww.guineapigcages.com for some great cage ideas.

HANDLING AND BEHAVIOR

Always use 2 hands and be very gentle. Try to avoid excessive noise, needless excitement and over handling. If children are handling the pig, have them sit on the floor and hold the pig on their lap. Only allow them to handle the pet with adult supervision!

DIET

Timothy hay: “free choice” (as much as they care to eat). Feeding a diet with pleanty of hay will help to work the molar teeth and may decrease the incidence of molar malocclusion.

Pellets: Offer a timothy based pellet like “Cavy Cuisine” by Oxbow Hay. Give about 1/8-1/4 cup daily.

Greens: Some good choices are red and green leaf lettuce, escarole, watercress,Swiss chard, bok choy, endive and romaine lettuce. Small pieces or apple, orange, or carrot can be offered as treats. Avoid kale, dandelion, clover, collard greens, turnip greens/tops, mustard greens, and broccoli due to their high calcium content.

Water: Offer plenty of fresh water daily in either a sipper bottle or a spill proof bowl. Clean them every couple of days in the dishwasher or soak them in a dilute (1:30) bleach to water solution.

Vitamin C: This is an absolutely essential portion of the guinea pig’s diet. Give 0.40 ml by mouth once daily for life (of 500mg/tsp). 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. You can also try the Oxbow brand Vit C tablets that are formulated at the correct daily dose for an adult guinea pig.

PHYSICAL EXAM

Always get an initial physical exam on any newly acquired pet. During the exam the doctor will check the incisor and molar teeth, eyes, ears, heart, lungs and abdomen. The doctor will check the hair and skin for external parasites, such as lice and mites and will do a fecal exam to check for intestinal parasites. It is recommended to have your guinea pig return to the vet once a year for a physical exam.

BREEDING COMPLICATIONS

It is extremely important NOT to let your guinea pig breed after 6 months of age. At around this age the bones of the pelvis fuse (if the animal has not been bred previously) and, if pregnant, the guinea pig most likely will require high risk surgery to remove the babies. We recommend keeping guinea pigs as single pets if they are not neutered or spayed to prevent fighting between pigs of the same sex , and, of course to prevent pregnancy in pigs of the opposite sex.

CONDITIONS REQUIRING VETERINARY ATTENTION

Malocclusion of premolars and molars: Most commonly, these pigs become picky about what they eat or they stop eating and will possibly drool or slobber. You may also notice dried, crusty hair on the insides of the front legs from the pig wiping it’s mouth. Weight loss is also common. Treatment includes sedation with general anesthesia to trim/file the molars. Once your pig has been diagnosed with molar malocclusion, you will likely need to return to the vet every 4-8 weeks for additional trims.

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: 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.