Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are very popular as pets with both children and adults. They are highly interactive, vocal and love physical contact once they have been handled regularly. Guinea pigs are very active and inquisitive and like to keep themselves busy, spending the majority of time running around, foraging and investigating their surroundings. For this reason they should be provided with large hutches to rest and sleep in and a large, secure open run placed on grass for exercise and play.

Try to create an interesting environment for your pet to limit their boredom. You can help do this by changing its routine on a regular basis, as it will provide your pet with additional stimulation. This can be done by scattering and hiding food, allowing regular exercise time, providing things for them to hide in (such as tunnels and boxes) and giving them things to gnaw and chew on. 

Socialise with your pet everyday as they will enjoy the contact and also allows you to check them over for injury or illness at the same time.

Ensure you take your guinea pig to a vets to have them properly sexed, as can sometimes be very difficult especially when they are not yet fully developed. This will help avoid any unwanted litters, as they can breed at an early age.

Langford vets will be happy to check this for you, and we can check their overall health for you at the same time. Just call us at the Small Animal Practice to make an appointment on 01934 852422.

A group of Guinea Pigs snuggle together, sniffing happily

Guinea pigs are very popular as pets and as such are often seen in veterinary surgeries for a number of frequently presenting conditions.

Vets need to be able to treat conditions through surgery and drug intervention so at Langford Vets Small Animal Practice we are able to advise owners with sound nutritional advice and tips on feeding during routine check ups, as this can prevent many of these conditions occurring.

This is also an important factor in assisting the recovery of a convalescing animals from illness or surgery. A good understanding of the nutritional requirements and also the very specific requirements of vitamin C is vital for our vets treating guinea pigs.

Common problems with guinea pigs are often down to poor nutrition. Guinea pigs require around 20% fibre content in their diets and should be provided with complete diets that include vitamin C as well. Hay is especially useful to keep up their fibre needs and ensure healthy dental wear as well.

Guinea pigs are rodents and  have open rooted, continuously growing teeth, made from cells within the pulp cavity and to maintain adequate and even wear they chew on fibre. This prevents dental overgrowth, also known as  malocclusion, which may require clipping by a vet to prevent injury, discomfort and other dental issues.

If you would like a health check for your guinea pigs teeth and overall condition, or any nutritional advice or dietary review,  please do not hesitate to contact Langford Vets for an appointment. Never change you pets diet overnight this needs to be done gradually to avoid any dietary upset, this can also be discussed in your appointment at Langford Small Animal Practice.

Guinea pigs have a daily requirement for vitamin C in their diet, just as humans do. Most animals are able to manufacture their own vitamin C, however Guinea pigs are unable to do so as they lack a crucial enzyme in the absorption pathway.

It is absorbed in the jejunum, part of the small intestine, as appose to being synthesised in the body. The main role of vitamin C in the body is the synthesis and repair of collagen which forms the basis of skin, tendons, ligaments, muscles and blood vessels. It is also essential for many other process such as blood sugar regulation, reproduction and the fight flight response (vital to a small mammals survival). It acts as an antioxidant and can assist with the immune system protecting the body against disease.

They are able to retain in the body tissue for a maximum of 4 days and if not topped up the store becomes quickly depleted,  leading to vitamin C deficiency, commonly known a scurvy. Scurvy can lead to many problems including weakness and lethargy, weight loss, anaemia, loose or broken teeth, bleeding gums, pain on movement, hair loss and other symptoms as well. If left untreated it can lead to convulsion or death with 3-4 weeks.

Ensure guinea pigs have daily vitamin C in the diet such as leafy vegetables and some fruit, also ensure the food you use is a complete diet and contain vitamin C. If you would like advise on diets please call Langford Vets or visit the Small Animal Practice to discuss our range of suitable products.

Guinea pigs are vey active and inquisitive animals and have a relatively low boredom threshold and as such benefit from stimulation and enrichment in their habit or enclosure. They need access to stimulation in their housing with areas of space to play and investigate. Hiding food around the cage  and hanging them around the enclosure can increase activity and enhance mental stimulation for them. Working for their food also encourages natural foraging behaviour, increasing activity, reducing boredom and preventing obesity and related health issues.

Providing your guinea pig with less energy dense food, such as access to grass, during the day can increase the feeding time and activity period. However, Guinea pigs are very sensitive to their surroundings so always introduces any change this gradually. Also, when outside, as prey animals’ large open spaces make them vulnerable and will have natural fear of predators around or even above the enclosure. and as such may not use them . Place various tunnels and boxes to hide in around the run to break up the open space and encourage activity over the whole area.

Socialise with your Guinea pig every day, as handling and grooming is a pleasurable experience for both you and your pet. It is also the ideal opportunity to check the health of them and something for the Guinea pig to look forward to every day. Check for lumps, bumps, cuts, hair loss, a dirty bottom or overgrown teeth. The earlier you spot the problem the easier it is for us to treat them for you.

If  you would like advise about suitable housing and how to enrich your pets environment or activity please call Langford Vets for advise and visit the shop for suitable toys/accessories for your guinea pig.

Guinea pigs are unusual for small furries when it comes to breeding. The gestation period is quire long from 60-72 days and the young (piglets) are born fully formed and independent – this is called precocial. Most small animal give birth to underdeveloped litters that are fully dependent on the parent for nutrition, warmth, and care – this is called altricial. During pregnancy, the sow will need high levels of adequate nutrition, as producing fully formed and furred young will increase demands on her compared to a animals producing naked underdeveloped young such as rabbits, rats and mice. However, be careful to avoid obesity. The piglets can eat solid food from day one but will suckle on the adult as well.

Pregnant sows can develop eclampsia and pregnancy toxaemia so if you notice any change in the behaviour or condition of your pet seek veterinary advise.

If you have a pregnant sow and would like a health check during the pregnancy, please contact Langford Vets for an appointment.

Guinea pigs absorb calcium from their diet and absorb it through the gut, their calcium metabolism is similar to rabbits . Any excess calcium in the diet is excreted through the urine. This can, if excessive, cause sludgy urine in the bladder which can over time cause the formation of calcium oxalate crystals or bladder stones, also called Uroliths. This can cause pain and discomfort and also cause problems with urine excretion, cystitis and in the worst cause blockage on urination. Other factors that may cause problems with Urolithiasis are a high calcium diets, low water intake, infection obesity and limited exercise.

If you are concerned that your Guinea pig may have dietary problems or health issues with bladder issues,  such as straining and difficulty passing urine, blood in the urine or change in urine content or colour, please call Langford Vets. We will then be able to see your pet and check that there are no underlying issues and allow us to review your pets overall nutritional intake and diet for you to prevent problems arising in the future.            

Guinea pigs are naturally sociable and live in groups in the wild and as such should not be kept on their own, they are happier kept in pairs or small groups, so this should be considered when purchasing them as a pet.

Keeping Guinea pigs with rabbits is not suitable for a couple of reasons. Keeping rabbits and guinea pigs in one hutch can pose problems as they have slightly different dietary requirements and guinea pigs may become deficient if not provided with the correct levels within their diet, e.g. vitamin C. Rabbits can also be quite dominant over the guinea pigs and may result in fearful, withdrawn pets or harm from aggression. If you do currently have them together always provide an area the guinea pig can retreat to for privacy that the rabbits can’t access.

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