15 top tips for guinea pig owners

1st January 2018

Guinea pigs are wonderful animals and make excellent pets – they’re sociable, interactive and relatively easy to care for.

At Bollington Veterinary Centre we’re always pleased to share our experiences and offer advice, so this month we’ve got 15 top tips on caring for guinea pigs.

  1. Two’s company – in the wild they live in large social groups. It’s important for their wellbeing to have two or more companions to avoid loneliness. To avoid unwanted babies, get one of our vets to check that they are either both female or both male. If you have a mixed sex pair, please talk to us about neutering.
  2. House pets - guinea pigs fare best when kept inside in the UK, especially during the colder winter months.
  3. Size matters – make sure you provide plenty of space within their accommodation. They’ll need an area to sleep and an area to exercise. The minimum area recommended by some experts is 120cm x 60cm, but at Bollington Veterinary Centre we’d recommend larger. Make sure they have plenty of room to explore, play, exercise and avoid each other if kept in pairs.
  4. Handle them frequently – by doing this they’ll be familiar and comfortable with you and your family.
  5. Environmental enrichment - homemade toys always go down well. You don’t need to spend a fortune to provide entertainment and fun. Old carpet tubes and cardboard boxes are particularly popular, especially if they are stuffed with feeding hay.
  6. Hygiene is important - keep your guinea pig’s environment clean. This means clearing up droppings and urine on a daily basis. Make sure the feeding bowls are cleaned and any old food removed.
  7. Dust free bedding – make sure your pet has plenty of edible dust-free hay to make a warm comfortable bed as well as providing a fibre rich meal.
  8. Water daily – ensure you supply fresh water every day, in a bottle feeder as well as a shallow bowl. Guinea pig’s will often drink from both.
  9. Guinea pig feed – you can offer small quantifies of dried guinea pig food. Make sure you choose a recommended brand which is fortified with Vitamin C.
  • Never feed muesli – some of the older brands of food were based on muesli (rolled cereals). It’s now know that these will cause harm to small fibrevores with continually growing teeth. Talk to our vets at Bollington Veterinary Centre to find out what we recommend.
  • Avoid grass cuttings – in the summer months, it’s fine for your guinea pig to eat the grass as long as there have been no harmful chemicals used. You could even wash and dry the long grass before feeding to ensure there has been no contamination. It's really important to never offer lawn mower cuttings as these can ferment in the gut causing serious illness.
  • Herbs now and again – as a treat you can offer some of the safe garden plants and herbs such as dandelion leaves, rocket, thyme and parsley.
  • Pedicure care – guinea pig’s nails can grow quite long. The front nails grow fast and the back nails tend to curl over. Keep a close eye on these and make sure you bring them in to be clipped at Bollington Veterinary Centre.
  • Monitor – body weight, body condition, teeth length and general behaviour. Guinea pigs health can deteriorate rapidly if they are unwell. Please call us as soon as you notice anything out of the ordinary rather than waiting.
  • Watch out for – a loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhoea, runny eyes, saliva from the mouth, dry or flaky skin, bald patches and breathing problems.