Guinea Pig Care
There are eleven breeds and twenty-three varieties (colors) of guinea pigs, which are also known as cvies. The three most common breeds are the Abyssinian (rough, short coat), the American or English (classic shorthair), and the Peruvian (longhair).
Because they feed continuously, healthy guinea pigs make frequent, formed fecal pellets. Guinea pigs also normally produce and ingest softer stools throughout the day, called cecotropes, which provide them with important proteins and vitamins.
Guinea pigs are social and often bonded with one to two other guinea pigs in pairs or trios. However, they can live happily as solo pets.
They are fully haired and able to eat solid foods soon after birth. Guinea pigs live on average about four to five years, but may live up to seven to eight years with proper care.
Guinea pigs are best kept in enclosures with solid floors and dust-free bedding (shredded newspaper or commercially available recycled paper bedding), which should be changed at least once a week. Wire-bottom cages are not recommended because they can lead to foot ulcers and entrapment of toes between the wires. Fresh water should be provided in a sipper bottle on a daily basis.
A high fiber diet is essential for optimal health. Guinea pigs may be reluctant to try new foods; therefore, always add new food items gradually to avoid gastrointestinal upset. Guinea pigs are unusual among rodents in that they have a high dietary requirement for vitamin C. They should receive supplemental vitamin C (tablet or suspension) every day. Give the supplement directly into the guinea pig's mouth, not in the water. Feed vegetables high in vitamin C (i.e. spinach, kale, parsley, red, yellow and green peppers).
A proper diet should include: fresh Timothy hay (50% of diet) and dark, leafy vegetables (twice daily). Alfalfa hay is not recommended for most adult guinea pigs
because it is too high in calcium and calories; however, it can be fed to young or pregnant guinea pigs. Carrots are an acceptable treat. Do not feed rabbit or rodent food. Try to avoid mixtures of pellets with seeds and cereals, as guinea pigs will pick out these foods and ignore the pellets. Buy fresh pellets every 30 days (vitamin C content dissipates quickly). If the guinea pig is not overweight, a small amount of high fiber fruit can be offered for a treat (i.e. blackberry, strawberry, pear, plum, peach, apple, raspberry, pineapple, melon). Avoid sugary fruits such as bananas and grapes. Do not feed cereals, bread, oats, corn, or nuts since these foods may lead to gastrointestinal upset.
Probably the most common problem in guinea pigs is Scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) Young growing animals are the most susceptible. Affected guinea pigs exhibit a rough hair coat and have trouble eating. They often have painful joints and are predisposed to foot sores.
Gastrointestinal (GI) problems are often secondary to dental problems or inappropriate diets. loss of appetite is common. Guinea pigs are very sensitive to changes in diet. They also develop a GI upset from impactions in the stomach and intestine with food and hairballs. Since they cannot vomit, guinea pigs with GI upset will often grind their teeth, appear bloated, and pass small, hard stools or no stools at all. These guinea pigs should have their teeth examined for problems and should be treated with fluids, assisted feeding, and sometimes, GI motility enhancing drugs. rectal impactions in older guinea pigs may occur from build-up of soft stools and loss of anal tone.
Guinea pig teeth grow continuously (about 10 cm. a year). The vegetation in their native environment is tough and fibrous and enables the continual wearing down of the teeth. However, in our homes, diets low in fiber may lead to the development of overgrown teeth, tooth root abscesses, and sharp spurs on teeth that are painful to chew with. Guinea pigs with dental disease will often drool and stop eating. They should be examined immediately by a veterinarian.
Stressed or bored guinea pigs may chew on their own or their cage mate's fur. They may also pull and chew at hair over sites of pain, especially on the abdomen and limbs. other causes of skin problems include mite infestation and ringworm. Both of these conditions may lead to hair loss and itchy, flaky skin. Guinea pigs that develop swellings should be examined for abscesses or tumors. it is important to brush longhaired species regularly to minimize matting and ingestion of hair.
Pressure sores on the bottom of the feet ("bumble foot") are a concern in older guinea pigs. Obesity, vitamin C deficiency, and wire bottom cages often predispose guinea pigs to bumble foot. Affected guinea pigs may be lame, lose their appetites, and become lethargic. Severe bumble foot can lead to bone and joint infections, as well as spread of bacteria through the bloodstream to internal organs such as kidneys.
Obesity is a common problem in guinea pigs and is due to improper diet (too many treats or pellets) and lack of exercise. Obesity can lead to lameness and sores on feet, inability to groom (urine and fecal accumulation on coat), GI upset, and reproductive problems.
Pneumonia is common in guinea pigs. Guinea pigs with respiratory disease exhibit runny nose and eyes, sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, and weight loss. Guinea pigs with these signs should be examined as soon as possible by a veterinarian.
Sexual maturity occurs early in guinea pigs, with females being able to breed at 4 - 6 weeks and males at 9 - 10 weeks of age. if females are going to be allowed to mate, they should be bred prior to 6 months of age to lessen the likelihood of birthing complications. Signs of a pregnant guinea pig in distress include lethargy, depression, straining for more than 30 minutes, and bloody or greenish-brown vaginal discharge.
Urinary stones often develop in guinea pigs as a consequence of too much calcium in the diet. a guinea pig with urinary stones may have bloody urine, a hunched posture, and strain to urinate.
Annual veterinary examinations are recommended for the following: dental examination; weight determination and nail trim; review diet and environment.
This information is not a substitute for a veterinary consultation.
Please contact us to schedule your pet's examination today!
Also, if you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or care, please contact us (480) 893-0533.
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