Guinea pigs make an ideal pet.They are friendly,easy to tame and delight everybody with their inquisitive behaviour and constant squeaking. As with any pet, guinea pigs need a serious commitment and regular attention from their owner and remember they may live for up to nine years.
GUINEA PIGS live in the wild in South America and generally form groups of ten or more adults. Some people call them cavies due to their latin name Cavia porcellus. They are very sociable creatures and when kept as pets need to be in pairs at least. The common practice of keeping guinea pigs with rabbits is not generally recommended – as lovely as rabbits are they may bully and even injure the guinea pig. There are many different types of guinea pigs which divide roughly into two groups: smooth coated and rough coated. The rough coated types require a lot more grooming than the shorter-haired ones – for example the long-flowing coat of the Peruvian can grow to a length of 50cms.
Guinea pigs need to be fed twice a day with a mixture of meadow hay, fruit,
vegetables and pellets. It is important that they have a daily intake of vitamin C which they will receive from the fresh fruit and vegetables – carrots and broccoli are particularly high in vitamin C. Do not feed potato peelings to your pet or use fruit and vegetables straight from the fridge as these may cause digestive problems – food should always be at room temperature. Hay is an important part of the guinea pig’s diet. Make sure that it is fresh and not dusty or mouldy. Straw is not suitable as it has no nutritional value and the sharpness of its stalks can injure the animal’s eyes when burrowing into it. In addition there must be a constant supply of fresh water preferably using a drip-feed bottle with a metal spout.
You will need a large weather-proof hutch raised off the ground. It should be positioned out of direct sunlight and away from strong winds.In very cold weather it should be moved to an enclosed area. Guinea pigs prefer separate sleeping areas inside the hutch. Cover the floor with a clean
layer of wood shavings and provide plenty of clean hay (not straw) for burrowing and bedding. The hay and wood shavings need to be cleaned out and replaced regularly. They need a grassy area for grazing and exercise.
Guinea pigs with long or rough-haired coats need to be brushed every day. During grooming check the hair for dirt, especially at the rear end – flies may lay eggs in soiled fur which can cause potentially fatal diseases.The animals also need to be checked regularly for overgrown teeth and claws. A gnawing block will help to keep the teeth in trim and a concrete area to run on will do the same for the claws.If the claws or teeth become overgrown we at Burgess Boys Pet Care Centre are happy to trim them.
Female guinea pigs can reproduce from a very young age and can have up to five litters a year. It is best to keep males and females separate to prevent this. Alternatively, ask your vet to neuter the males.
Guinea pigs are fairly robust creatures and if they are kept and fed correctly they rarely become sick. Your pet should be checked daily and if you notice any changes the animal should be taken to the vet to be examined.If you do need to take your guinea pig to the vet, a small cat carrying case is much better than a cardboard box. EYES should be clear and bright with no cloudiness or discharge. Cloudiness often means that a piece of hay has become lodged in the eye and will need the attention of a vet.NOSE.This should be clean and not runny. Discharge may indicate the animal has a cold especially if it is sneezing as well.A cold may also result in a rattly noise when breathing.A guinea pig with a cold needs to visit the vet. COAT. When you groom your pet each day, check that the coat is clean and dense.If you spot areas of hair loss and the skin is red your pet probably has mites. This condition is treated by drops to kill the mites which have burrowed under the skin. Sometimes you may see hay nits on the surface of the fur;these are harmless and a simple shampoo will get rid of them. FEET. Check that the nails are not overgrown. Also look at the bottom of the feet for redness and soreness.Plenty of soft hay and wood shavings for them to walk on will help.
REAR END. The whole area should be clean and dry. If it is wet and/or smelly you should seek advice from the vet. Older animals are more prone to these problems. OFF THEIR FOOD. If your guinea pig goes off its food, even for a day, this needs to be investigated. It may indicate a tooth problem or possibly a symptom of illness.Either way,you will need to consult a vet. GENERAL APPEARANCE. A guinea pig that holds its head to one side and moves around in circles – unable to maintain a straight line – may be suffering from a middle ear disease and should be taken to the vet.
Times of the year
In summer you will probably be going on holiday so make sure that you have somebody reliable lined
up to look after your guinea pigs.Teach them all that you know about caring for your pet and remember to give them your vet’s phone number. Burgess Boys Pet Care Centre provides a holiday boarding service. In winter you should move your hutch and run to an enclosed or sheltered position. Make sure that the guinea pigs have plenty of clean and dry hay for them to burrow into and keep warm.Don’t let them run around on frosty grass as this may cause digestive problems. During winter your pet may require an additional vitamin C – a soluble vitamin C tablet added to the water bottle is suitable for this purpose. The 5th of November is a frightening night for all pets. Bring your guinea pigs indoors,they’ll thank you for it!