Keep your guinea pigs happy and healthy
A healthy guinea pig is alert and chatty, with bright eyes and a good coat. As with all healthcare, prevention is better than cure. Understanding the signs of ill health and knowing what to look out can make all the difference between your pet enjoying a speedy recovery or becoming very poorly.
The average lifespan of a guinea pig is between 4 – 8 years. You can help your piggies into their golden years by looking after their health. Make sure to find a guinea pig vet near you and take them for yearly check ups. By taking out guinea pig insurance you can help cover against future illnesses or injuries. If you are ever in doubt or have any concerns about your guinea pigs’ health, always seek the advice of your vet.
Common guinea pig health problems
Guinea pigs’ teeth grow constantly and to keep them in check they need a high fibre diet to chew on throughout the day, for example plenty of good quality feeding hay. However, when they are fed the wrong food or don’t have anything to chew on they will develop dental problems, causing pain and issues with eating.
Also known as bumblefoot, this occurs when pressure sores develop on the soles of guinea pigs’ feet. This is often caused by them walking on hard surfaces or wire mesh cages. To help prevent pododermatitis, always make sure their flooring is covered with soft, comfortable Timothy hay.
VITAMIN C DEFICIENCY
Guinea pigs cannot make their own vitamin C, so they need to get this from their diet. If your guinea pig doesn’t get enough they are very vulnerable to scurvy, a nasty disease that can cause your guinea pig to become lethargic and tired, make it hard for them to walk, and cause small wounds to develop. Feeding them a balanced diet and following the Excel Feeding Plan can help to reduce the risks of Vitamin C deficiency.
FLEAS AND MITES
Guinea pigs can suffer from fleas and lice and are particularly susceptible to developing mite infestations. Symptoms include itchy skin that your piggies will scratch constantly, which can lead to your guinea pig losing their hair and developing sore patches.
Guinea pigs can suffer from ringworm. The symptoms include hair loss, crusty lesions on their skin and excessive itching. Take your guinea pig to their vet as soon as you notice the signs of ringworm, and they can prescribe an anti-fungal medication to get rid of the infection.
Flystrike is a potentially fatal condition which occurs when flies lay their eggs around a guinea pig’s bottom. The eggs then hatch into maggots which mature and eat away at the surrounding flesh. It sounds horrible and it is. In the summer months it is advisable to check your guinea pigs twice a day for flystrike. Call your vet immediately if you see any of the symptoms.
Neutering your guinea pigs
Neutering female guinea pigs can result in lots of complications. Most vets will only neuter a female guinea pig if it’s to help with another health condition.
Different to other small animals, neutering male guinea pigs doesn’t change their behaviour. This means neutering won’t stop two males from fighting. If your male guinea pig needs to live with female guinea pigs, or won’t pair with their male housemate, you should neuter them.
Make sure you choose a vet that is specialised in small animals if you do choose to neuter your guinea pigs.
Grooming your guinea pigs
While long-haired guinea pigs require a daily brush to keep their coats tangle and matt-free, shorthaired varieties only need a weekly once over as part of their regular grooming routine. Guinea pigs tend to clean themselves. Bathing them causes unnecessary stress so it’s not recommended to give your guineas a bath unless it is absolutely necessary. If you do need to bathe your guinea pigs, use a specially formulated guinea pig shampoo and keep them warm and cosy after their bath.
Your guinea pigs’ nails grow quickly so will need trimming every couple of weeks or so. Ask your vet to show you the correct and safe way to cut your guinea pigs’ nails. You can then pick up some guinea pig nail clippers from most pet shops.
Guinea pig health check
Guinea pigs often hide any signs that they’re feeling unwell because they are naturally prey animals. It’s important you regularly check your guinea pigs, and take them to the vet at least once a year for a check-up. You know your guinea pigs best, if anything seems unusual or you feel worried, take your guinea pig to the vet as soon as you can.
While you’re grooming your guinea pigs, you can do a quick health check at home. Check their whole body and look for any lumps or bumps, especially around their chin, back and armpits, or any open wounds. Make sure their eyes are bright and that there’s no discharge coming from their eyes or nose. Check their teeth when you can for any signs that they are misaligned or overgrown.
Always keep an eye on your guinea pigs’ weight and how they are eating. If you notice your guinea pig is not eating normally or if your guinea pig has diarrhoea, seek the advice of your vet.