A helpful basic guide to buying and owning a Guinea Pig, useful knowledge for beginners!
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Guinea Pig Care

Included in Guinea Pig Care...

  • About Guinea Pigs
  • Buying your Guinea Pig
  • Keeping Guinea Pigs and Rabbits
  • Guinea Pig Home
  • How to handle my Guinea Pig
  • Guinea Pig Toys
  • What should I feed my Guinea Pig?
  • Guinea Pig Teeth
  • Guinea Pig Eyes
  • Guinea Pig Nails
  • Guinea Pig Grooming and Bathing
  • Guinea Pig Health
  • About Guinea Pigs

    Guinea Pigs (Cavia porcellus)

    The ancient Incas used to eat them and use them to sacrifice to their Gods, fortunately Guinea Pigs today are mostly kept as pets. Guinea pigs are friendly playful animals, with good temperaments, with their own individual characters making them an appealing choice of pet for children, adults and novice pet owners. They are about 10 inches long, and weigh around 2-3 pounds.

    There are many breeds of Guinea Pig, the three breeds you are most likely to come across are the American a short haired breed, the Abyssinian, whose hair grows in fluffy tufts all over its body, and finally the Peruvian Guinea Pig which has long hair that flows all the way to the ground. Do consider, if you choose a long haired Guinea Pig it will need grooming every day or its hair will become matted.

    Guinea Pigs are well known for their noises, they sound like they are talking in their own language. This noise can be a faint chatter or a very loud conversation, when they are excited.

    Know that male Guinea Pigs are called Boars, female Guinea Pigs are called Sows and baby Guinea pigs are called Piglets.

    Buying your Guinea Pig

    It is advisable to buy your Guinea pig from a reputable pet shop or breeder. Also consider there are many rescue homes that would love to give a guinea pig a new home. Guinea pigs live to the age of 5 - 8 years, so make sure when buying a Guinea Pig you will still be committed to its care in 8 years time. Many Guinea Pigs end up in re-homing centres as owner priorities change a few years down the line.

    Buying from a breeder normally gives you the opportunity to see the mother and check she is in good health, and to see what your pet will grow into. Breeders handle the baby Guinea Pigs and therefore your Guinea Pig will already confident being handled.

    Check your Guinea Pig is in good health before purchasing, and check what guarantees you have should your pet become ill shortly after purchase.

    Signs of good health includeÖ

    • A shiny coat, with no scabby or bald patches.
    • A clean and dry bottom.
    • Eyes are bright and dry with no crusting or inflammation.
    • Ears are clean and dry.
    • The teeth fit snugly over the bottom teeth when its mouth is closed.
    • Nose should be dry without crusting or discharge. Discharge indicates respiratory disease.
    • The anal area should be clear of faeces.
    • A healthy guinea is a lively, and inquisitive.

    If you do not believe the Guinea Pig is in good health, look to another source to find your new pet. If you purchase your Guinea Pig from a pet shop, take it to the vet shortly afterwards for a health check.

    It is recommended owners buy two Guinea Pigs rather than one, as they are sociable animals used to living in-groups. Keep same sex pairs together, unless the male has been neutered. Females live happily together; if you put males together, choose two from the same litter to avoid fighting.

    Once you get your pet home, leave it in the hutch for a few days so it settles in and to become familiar with its surroundings.

    Guinea Pigs and Rabbits

    Rabbits and Guinea Pigs should not be housed together as the presence of a Rabbit can cause a Guinea Pig stress and shock. In many cases a Rabbit will try to mate with a Guinea Pig, which can result in the death of a Guinea Pig. They also have very different dietary requirements, Rabbits cannot digest as many vegetables/greens as a Guinea Pig, and Rabbit food does not contain adequate levels of vitamin C and protein. Finally rabbits may carry a bacterium called Bordetella bronchiseptica which is hazardous to guinea pigs

    There are some exceptions to this rule. But it is generally best to keep Guinea pigs with their own kind.

    Guinea Pig Home

    Have your Guinea Pig Hutch or Guinea Pig Cage ready for your Guinea pig when you arrive home. A general rule is to get a hutch a minimum of four times the length of your pet when fully stretched and grown. If you have more than one Guinea pig you will need an even bigger hutch/cage. Your Guinea Pig is likely to be pretty scared when it arrives in its new pad, it may take time to adjust to new sights and smells. Leave your Guinea Pig in its new home for a few days to settle in before you start to handle it.

    Out Doors
    If keeping your hutch out doors, keep the hutch out of bright sunlight and away from draughts. When Guinea Pigs get too hot, they are prone to heat stroke. When itís too cold for your Guinea pig it could easily catch a cold. Have a sloping roof to avoid water logging and rot. Use extra weather proofing if needed.

    Guinea Pigs need a separate nest box to sleep and hide in. They love to run and play, therefore a run is recommended. This gives your pet more freedom and a safe place to play in and receive exercise.

    Put a few layers of newspaper on the bottom of the hutch or cage to soak up urine, and place some wood shavings 1"-2" deep and a layer of hay on top of that. Avoid fine saw dust as this can irritate your petís eyes.

    Guinea Pigs hate the cold. If you keep your Guinea Pig out doors, it is worth considering bringing them indoors over the winter months, or moving their hutch into a garage or shed (as long as there are no care fumes). If this is not an option, you can add a snuggle safe heat pad to the guinea pigs sleeping area for extra warmth and protection from the cold.

    Indoors
    If you are keeping your Guinea Pig indoors which is the most popular choice, you may consider a plastic cage. Do ensure you purchase the largest one you can that meets your petís requirements. Keep the cage on a table (not on the ground) as this will help your Guinea Pig feel more secure, and you will wonít appear as a huge overhead threat. You will need to handle and play with your pet more often as they will be in a smaller area than a hutch can provide, but having your pet indoors will mean you are more likely to do so. Having better hearing than humans, guinea pigs dislike excessive noise. It will also dislike cigarette smoke and direct sunlight. Your Guinea pig will be happy to roam the house, but do ensure it is not able to nibble on electrical cables or unsuitable plants.

    The home will need to be cleaned at least 2 times a week with disinfectant used once a month to thoroughly clean it.

    Handling

    Once your Guinea pig has settled in, offer your Guinea pig a tasty treat to get it familiar with your hand and to help build up its confidence.

    When you feel your pet is happy with you, its time to pick it up. Face your Guinea pig head on, with one hand under the abdomen and the other to scoop the rear. Keep them close to your chest with their flat feet against you. It is advisable to be sat down while handling your pet, this way if it does fall it has not got far to land. Be firm but gentle. Start talking to your Guinea pig and you will soon find it "chatting" back to you.

    Guinea Pig Toys

    Guinea Pigs enjoy a few toys and items of interest added to their hutch, cage or run to help them exercise and prevent boredom. They also like hides to sneak into. Try adding plastic or terracotta pipes to run through and hide in. Card board boxes are welcomed, especially shoe boxes with a hole cut into it for them.

    Feeding

    Guinea pigs are herbivores and should be fed a basic guinea pig mix or pellets, fresh fruit, vegetables and wild plants. Fruit and Vegetables are a good source of vitamin C. Guinea pigs lack the enzyme that makes vitamin C, so they must intake vitamin C daily in order to remain healthy. Don't feed guinea pigs rabbit food - it contains no Vitamin C and has inadequate levels of protein for a guinea pig. Put your Guinea Pigs food in a sturdy, non tip feeding bowl to ensure the food does not get thrown over and soiled.

    Guinea pigs graze for up to six hours a day, so they will need access to fresh grass which a run can provide, and fresh hay in their cage or hutch. Hay should make up 80% of your Guinea Pigs daily food intake, and is vital to your petís digestion, offering essential roughage, ensure the hay is fresh and not dusty. Provide a hay rack to keep hay clean and free from soiling. Guinea pigs need feeding daily.

    A guinea pig needs fresh water everyday; this is best provided by using a water bottle attached the side of the hutch or cage attached at a height the guinea pig can comfortably reach. Bottles should be cleaned with a bottlebrush regularly to prevent the build up of algae, which is harmful to your petís digestive system. Bottles and tops can be sterilized in baby bottle sterilizing solution every so often for extra cleanliness.

    Do not over feed your Guinea Pig, if there is too much food to hand your pet will eat, eat, eat! A guinea pig will eat out of boredom also. Fruit should be given more sparingly than greens/vegetables as they have a high natural sugar content which can lead to obesity.

    It is vital to your Guinea pigs health and well being that you are aware of what you can and cannot feed them. If there is any doubt, leave it out.

    Suitable for Guinea Pigs

    Broccoli, beetroot, apple, cucumber, carrots and their tops, parsnips, swede, turnips, banana (including skin), celery , cucumber, clover, parsley, peas, spinach, watercress, apples and pears (remove the pips), melons, agrimony, chickweed, clover, coltsfoot, comfrey, dandelion (small amounts only as it is a natural laxative), mallow, meadowsweet, plantains, shepherds purse, spinach, yarrow and lettuce ( but only in small amounts as it is a natural diuretic).

    Plants should not be picked near a roads edge (for fear of lead poisoning), in fields that may have been treated with chemicals, or from parks or lawns where dogs may have gone to the toilet, as this can transmit disease to your Guinea Pig.

    Un Safe for Guinea Pigs

    Exclude any plants that are grown from a bulb, raw beans and potato peelings are poisonous. All evergreen trees and shrubs, bracken, bryony, buttercup, charlock, deadly nightshade, foxglove, hellebore, hemlock, henbane, horsetails, ivy, laburnum, lily of the valley, mayweed, milkweed, monkshood, plum, poppies, privet, ragwort, rhododendron, rhubarb, snowberry, spurges, toadflax, travelerís joy, yew and most docks. Certain docks can be given to Guinea pigs, but it can be difficult to tell them apart, so it is best to avoid them altogether.

    Teeth

    A guinea pig's teeth are not like human teeth, they are more like nails which is why it does not hurt when they are trimmed. Their teeth are constantly growing, to keep them short and manageable they require hard food, gnawing blocks or branches for gnawing (a branch off a pear or apple tree is a good choice). A common problem in guinea pigs is overgrown incisors. A sign of healthy teeth is when the lower and upper teeth just touch, overgrown teeth will not touch. In severe cases the animal will need to be taken to the vet for dental treatment.

    Eyes

    As with most animals, the eyes are a delicate part of the body. If your Guinea Pig develops scabs/crusting or swelling around the eye you should take your pet to the Vet as soon as possible, as this could indicate an infection. Do not try to remove the scabs or crusting yourself, as you could inadvertently harm your pet, leave this to the Vet to address.

    If you see white milky fluid coming out of your Guinea Pigs eye, donít freak out. Guinea Pigs sometimes produce this when they are grooming, especially if they have just had a bath. This milky fluid will soon be re absorbed back into the eye.

    Make sure there is nothing your Guinea Pig can poke itself in the eye with. Use soft bedding not coarse straw.

    Nails

    A Guinea Pigs claws are constantly growing, just like their teeth. These claws need to be kept trimmed; you can trim this yourself or have a vet do it for you. If you chose to cut your Guinea Pigs claws, have a vet show you how to do it first. Do not use regular scissors, instead use small animal clippers, and be careful not to cut to close to the quick (the blood supply).

    Grooming & Bathing

    Brush your Guinea Pig regularly with a soft bristle brush , long haired breeds will require daily grooming to prevent their hair from becoming matted, you will also need to trim your long haired Guinea Pigs coat from time to time to prevent it from dragging across the ground in the dirt and droppings. Brushing helps keep your pets coat in tip top condition, and gives you the chance to check your Guinea Pig over for any signs of poor health.

    Guinea Pigs will do their part to keep themselves clean, but will require a bath every few months. Use a small animal shampoo , as human shampoos contain chemicals that can be harmful for your pet. Put your Guinea Pig in your bath or washing up bowl. Use warm water (not hold, or cold), make sure you do not get your pets head wet, or get any soapy water in the eyes. Do not totally immerse the Guinea Pigs body, instead have a few inches of water in their bath, and use a jug/cup to pour the water over your Guinea Pig. Dry your Guinea Pig with a towel, or if it does not disturb them a hair dryer on the lowest setting. Be careful if using a hairdryer that you do not burn their skin; keep it at a safe distance. Ensure your Guinea Pig is completely dry before returning them to their hutch or cage.

    Health

    • To help prevent your Guinea Pig from becoming sick, ensure your Guinea Pig is in a clean environment. Use dust extracted bedding to prevent eye irritations.
    • If your pet scratches too much, it may be suffering from skin problems and this can be caused by mites or lice. You will need to consult your vet who will provide suitable treatment for these.
    • If bald patches develop on the Guinea pigs face or body, it could indicate that your pet has the fungal disease ringworm. If so, consult vetinary advice straight away.
    • Long-haired guinea pigs in particular may suffer from the potentially fatal disease Fly Strike, caused by flies laying eggs in soiled fur. To help prevent Fly Strike, ensure your pet is in a clean environment, with bedding being changed regularly. Long haired guinea pigs need grooming daily; short haired Guinea pigs do need grooming less frequently. Make sure their fur is free from dirt, especially under the tail.
    • Guinea pigs can suffer from a vitamin C deficiency, which causes scurvy, weight loss, general weakness and swollen joints. Provide your pet with a vitamin C enriched diet to help prevent this.

    This is a very basic guide to caring for your guinea pig, this information is not exhaustive. Please find out as much information as you can regarding guinea pig care to ensure that your guinea pig gets the most out of you and you out of your guinea pig. Always seek vetinary advice if you are concerned with your petís health.



    Guinea Pig Starter Kit - Basic

    Everything you need to get your guinea pigs started.

    Supreme Gerty Guinea Pig Food - 2.5kg

    Supreme are leaders in feeds for small pets, a special balanced blend of guinea pig food.

    *Vitakraft Mixed Snack Box for Guinea Pigs

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