Guinea pigs – your questions answered1st March 2017
Are they good pets for children?
The simple answer to this is yes. They are sociable, easy to handle and interact well with humans. They rarely bite and you don’t need a lot of experience. At Bollington Veterinary Centre we would always recommend you talk to us first for advice especially if you’ve never had a pet. We can talk you through some of the pros and cons.
Do they need to live in groups?
In the wild, guinea pigs live in very large groups, interacting and socialising together all the time, so at Bollington Veterinary Centre we would always suggest you keep them in twos or more. It’s generally better to have either all males or all females. Don’t be tempted however to keep a pet rabbit and guinea pig together, as this could cause some problems. Some rabbits for example could become aggressive.
What type of housing should I get?
Guinea pigs can’t climb but they do like exercise, so it’s good to have a safe run for them to use in the garden. They don’t like it when it’s very hot or very cold. In the winter they need to be kept dry, warm and draught free, whilst in the summer they need shade and somewhere cool. The ideal temperature range is somewhere between 12 and 20 degrees Celsius.
What should I feed them?
Guinea pigs need lots of fibre, so should be offered plenty of hay, grass, herbs and plants. They need a diet high in Vitamin C. When choosing a pelleted food, make sure it is specifically produced for guinea pigs as these are always fortified with Vitamin C. At Bollington Veterinary Centre we can give you some nutritional advice and order the food for you, so please ask. Don’t forget to make sure your guinea pig always has fresh clean water to drink.
Is breeding a good idea?
Guinea pigs become sexually mature from around 3 months of age, so for some unlucky owners they become breeders without planning. It’s so easy to take on two young guinea pigs from a pet shop thinking they are both male or both female, only to find they are a breeding pair. If you need help determining the sex of your pets, make an appointment to see one of our vets and we can try to help you.
Never consider breeding after 8 months of age without asking for advice. As a species they are unusual in that their pelvic canal can become fused and narrow if a female hasn’t had a litter before this age. The consequences can be devastating.
What health problems do they have?
At Bollington Veterinary Centre we regularly see all sorts of problems. Some of the more common conditions include;
- Vitamin C deficiency
- Foot problems - sore hocks (pododermatitis)
- Cystic ovaries
- Overgrown teeth
- Skin problems (eg. burrowing mites)
- Overgrown nails
How do I know if my guinea pig is healthy?
You can check your guinea pig every day to make sure he/she is eating well, urinating, defecating normally and walking around easily.
Signs of good health include;
- Healthy coat – the hair should be full and glossy. If you see clumps of dandruff, areas of hair loss or feel scabs on the skin, please let us know.
- Clear eyes – there should be no redness, inflammation, discharge or closed eyelids. They are also prone to getting cataracts, so make sure there is no cloudiness in the lens.
- Nose free of discharges – if you notice unusual breathing sounds such as squeaks or rattles or you see a watery, cloudy or milky looking discharge from the nostrils, we need to take a look.
- Normal length nails – guinea pig nails tend to grow quickly and can curl around in tight loops, potentially causing pain and pad infections. Their nails need regular attention, so call us on 01625 573375 to make a nurse appointment.
- Normal healthy footpads – infections in the footpads, known as pododermatitis, are common and need managing carefully.
- Healthy appetite – your guinea pig is a fibrevore, and will eat lots of hay or grass every day. If you notice a problem, it’s imperative that you arrange a health check with one of our vets.
- Healthy droppings – normal guinea pig droppings look like slightly elongated baked beans, with a smooth, shiny outside. If the dropping become very hard and dry, or perhaps more voluminous and wet, urgent action needs to be taken.
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